With support for marriage equality is surging in Utah, it should come as no surprise that the LDS Church recently issued a memo directing congregational leaders to review “The Family,” which Neil J. Young describes as “a document the church produced in 1995 that has appeared at times of social crisis ever since.” He considers the implications for the fight against same-sex marriage:
“The Family,” issued as the church began these fights, linked the Mormon theology of salvation rooted in the traditional heterosexual family unit to the civil rights question of gay and lesbian Americans without even acknowledging their existence. Mormon salvation—or exaltation to the Celestial Kingdom—requires that male and female Saints enter into a temple-based marriage and enact, as “The Family” describes, the “divine design” of their respective gender roles. Men are to “preside over their families” while women are “primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” Together, they are to fulfill their religious responsibility to reproduce, creating an extensive earthly family that will be joined together eternally in the afterlife.
Same-sex marriage, of course, challenges all of this. While Mormons agree with other opponents of gay marriage that its legalization is “unbiblical” and a threat to the traditional heterosexual family unit, LDS objections also arise from the core of Mormon theology and its particular interconnection of heterosexuality, marriage, and salvation. In short, same-sex marriage threatens the basic foundations of Mormonism.
He also notes that “Mormon acceptance of gay marriage challenges the church’s authority, a core component of LDS belief”:
This is a crisis the LDS Church faced when some of its members became vociferous critics of the church’s efforts against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. The church dealt harshly with those women not because they supported the ERA, church leaders explained, but because they had publically challenged the church president’s prophetic role—a key tenet of Mormonism. Increasing societal support for same-sex marriage suggests another crisis moment for the LDS Church could be coming.