No Place to Stand: A Look at the Shifting Sands of Mormon Ethics and Theology

Author’s note: I wrote the following column in January of this year, but for various reasons it did not get published. Nevertheless, I think it is worth reading. As I will demonstrate at the end, although I am not a prophet, recent events mean it comes as close to out-and-out prophecy as anything I’ve ever written.

Last week the Huffington Post ran an article by Katy Anderson with the Headline: How Attending My First Gay Wedding Changed Me as a Practicing Mormon. Anderson reports how her previous opposition to same-sex relationships disappeared when she saw her sister was “happier and healthier than she ha[d] ever been.” But Anderson didn’t stop there. She went on to philosophize that her sister’s joy was about more than marrying her girlfriend; she had become “someone who [was] finally living her truth.”

God’s teachings … about sex and marriage do not change with the culture or the times.

Anderson’s relativistic subjectivism is well exposed in an article by John Ellis on pjmedia.com. He argues that “living [according to subjective] truth” is destructive to society, and evidence that North Americans no longer recognize any transcendent authority. The result is the ongoing dissolution of society, of course, but Ellis also points out that men and women who live by such subjective standards will someday stand before holy God, facing judgment with no defense for their rebellion against His objective, unchanging truth.

Ellis has much more to say on this theme, but I want to take the story of Anderson’s change of views regarding homosexuality in a different direction. Many people do not realize that as a Mormon she was already pre-disposed to base her views—on sexuality and everything else—on feelings and changing circumstances.

From its beginning Mormonism has always been willing to modify its doctrines in order to maintain credibility with the prevailing culture. For example, in 1890 when adherence to polygamy risked the future existence of Mormonism, Mormon president Wilfred Woodruff announced the LDS church’s abandonment of their supposedly sacred tradition. Just like that, he ended a practice that Mormon founder Joseph Smith had once declared  a “divine prophecy” in the strongest terms possible (“For behold, I [God) reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory….”). Strangely enough, Woodruff’s decision to end the practice did not come as new revelation. In fact, Smith’s original “revelation” is still listed in the church’s official Doctrine and Covenants, and in these days of relaxed attitudes toward all things sexual, polygamy is returning among mainstream Mormons.

Another modern revelation in June 1978 reversed the stand Joseph Smith had taken toward black men. Early Mormonism’s racism was so awful that I find it difficult to report on it. In The Way to Perfection Smith wrote: “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer [for killing Abel], but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race… Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with a black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain.” This was the firm, unshakeable truth of the LDS Church, until the Mormons realized it was making evangelism difficult in Africa and South America. That’s when president Spencer W. Kimball went to his prayer closet and came back with the new revelation that “all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood.” Kimball didn’t say it explicitly, but this was his way of welcoming black people all the way inside. Again, let it be noted that when Katy Anderson changed her mind about same-sex relationships she was following a well-worn path laid out for her by her church.

I am not a prophet, but I will go so far as to say it is very possible that if our culture continues to applaud same-sex marriage, the leaders of the Mormon church may well end up following Ms. Anderson into a full embrace of the LGBTQ agenda. And why not? They have no unchanging, eternal Word of God. Instead, their doctrine flows from the inventive minds of Joseph Smith’s successors, men who have repeatedly proven themselves ready to place political expediency above all.

True Christianity is different. As Ellis says in his article: “We don’t get to decide what’s true. True religion is not a democracy.” No, it isn’t, but God’s sovereignty by itself is not enough. We must remember that our God is fundamentally good. In a world where “anything goes” sexually it is important for Christians to remember that God’s teachings in the Bible about sex and marriage do not change with the culture or the times. Why not? Because He made us and He loves us, and He alone knows the best way for His people to live.

Postscript: As I said at the beginning, I am not a prophet in the Biblical sense. Nevertheless, considering what I wrote in January, the following headline from yesterday (April 4, 2019) is enough to give me goosebumps: “Same-Sex Marriage Isn’t Apostasy, LDS Church Decides.” To read the article, go here. Apparently, the god of the Mormons is a real hipster, ever ready to change with the times.