Family Values: A Response to the LDS Church’s Proclamation 28 February 2006Posted by Todd in Biology, Ethics, Gender, Homosexuality, Mormonism/LDS Church, Sexuality.
This is a response to the Proclamation on the Family, issued by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1995, which lays out a political and theological justification for the church’s anti-gay politics and anti-woman policies. Ten years later, the LDS church continues to perpetuate false ideas about gender, sexuality and family structures, and to support problematic research at Brigham Young University. In rebutting the church’s positions, this proposal takes an agnostic stance as described by Thomas Huxley in the late 19th century, which is literally that there is no knowledge without evidence; from that place of agnosticism, this response directly contradicts the church’s claims of divine plans for gender and family, and its claims of knowledge about pre- and post-life spiritual existence. This proposal rests instead on the current scientific evidence from evolutionary development, anthropology, history, sociology and medicine. My apologies for the seeming disorganization of my response; it rebuts the Proclamation’s arguments paragraph by paragraph, following the illogic of the original (for the Church’s document, you can do a quick google search of the Church’s web site). If you have a current or past affiliation with the LDS church and would like to add your name to the list of signatories at the bottom, send me your name and location.
We, the undersigned former members and New Order members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists among us), solemnly propose that marriage between a man and a woman is a social construct and that the idea of “the family” changes over time and from culture to culture, depending on the needs and values of the people in question.
All human beings–male, female, intersexed and transsexual–are products of the same evolutionary processes. We propose that each already-born human life is valuable and should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of gender identity, as each human has an individual nature and the capacity to choose its own destiny within its context. Gender identity is a complicated interaction of genes, hormones, development, brain structure, social interaction, cultural values, and personal experience.
There is absolutely no scientific evidence of human souls existing either before birth or persisting after death; religious belief in such existences should not be used as a basis to make ethical or legal decisions here and now. Our individuality as we experience it arises out of our individual bodies and our individual experiences within particular social, cultural, and physical environments in the time and place that we live. This fact in no way changes our understanding of the value of each individual, already-born human being. Physical bodies are indeed a gift, providing pleasure and pain and embodied experience of the material and social universe during our lifetimes. Although people are free to believe that familial relationships continue beyond the grave, this should not be the basis for moral decisions about family relationships. This is a vitally important point, undergirding our conviction that we need to build meaningful relationships with people here and now. Religious rituals, including those of the Mormon temple, may provide feelings of connection and transcendence to some and may serve social purposes binding individuals and couples to various religious communities. But as unverifiable religious beliefs, they must have no formally binding power in a democracy.
The “Adam and Eve” story is a myth hobbled together by a series of Hebrew temple priests and scribes before and after Babylonian captivity. While there is a place for myth in creating meaningful lives, it is foolish to base our lives on a (roughly) 2500 year old myth originating from a completely different social context. It is equally foolish to use such myths as justification to command people to reproduce without concern for other human beings or the health of the planet’s other organisms. The pleasure and connection of sexual relationships need not be tied to reproduction; may be enjoyed among people of same, opposite, or indeterminate gender; and should be engaged in among consenting adults and in an ethical manner which accounts for the feelings and needs of all parties involved. Current laws regarding marriage are outdated and unfair and need to be brought into conjunction with the way people actually live in today’s world.
We declare that the means whereby humans reproduce is completely natural, biological, and links us with other sexually-dimorphic organisms. We affirm the sanctity of already-born human life and the importance of that sanctity as a communal value necessary to secure a meaningful human existence and a peaceful society.
Spouses of whatever gender have an ethical obligation to be completely honest with each other about their needs and desires and should commit with each other to meet those needs and desires to the best of their abilities. Spouses should revisit their commitment as often as necessary to make sure that each partner’s needs are being met and that they are happy with each other and their relationship. When children are born or adopted to parents of any gender, they have an ethical responsibility to provide, to the extent possible, an environment where that child can grow to explore their world, develop their own personalities, and learn about life in a safe and loving environment. Whether or not the child is raised with a religion is up to the parents, but care should be taken to allow children to choose their own spiritual path as they grow up. Children should be taught to think critically about the laws of the nation to which they are subject and obey them to the extent that they are not immoral or unjust. Parents should be held accountable to society for any criminal shirking of their responsibilities.
“The Nuclear Family” is a construction of late-capitalist, liberal democratic societies. Certain religions in American (among others) society have latched onto the idealized “nuclear family” as the basic unit of society. Historically, however, human beings have organized families in many different ways; indeed, families have had many different structures even in America’s short history. Marriage is not divine or god-given in any sense, but is a social convention that allows economic, social, and emotional relationships to be controlled by the society at large. We propose a social structure that allows people as much freedom and leeway as possible to form the kinds of marital relationships and families that work for them and their loved ones. We further propose that no national government should either penalize or reward any particular form, as long as the relationship adheres to the minimum standard of the democratic harm principle and that it be between adults who are capable of giving consent. Religious teachings may or may not lead to happiness in a marital relationship, but should never be used to judge the value of a given relationship; instead, a relationship should always be judged by its effect on the partners and, if any, their children. Successful spousal and parental relationships should be founded on compassion, tolerance, patience, forgiveness, openness, respect, and a willingness to work. There is no divine design of gender roles within familial relationships or in society at large. Spouses should work out between them who will have what responsibilities, duties, and privileges within the relationship; this division of labor within the relationship should be revisited as often as necessary to account for changing circumstances, desires, and needs of the partners. All parents are responsible to make sure that the material needs of the family are met and all parents are responsible for the nurturing of children. That spouses should treat each other as equal partners is obvious. Unfortunately in real life, difficult things happen, including death, disability, infidelity, or even simply a growing apart of partners who no longer can meet each others’ needs. Such situations should be handled with compassion and openness, to make the necessary transitions or changes possible, understanding that even in the best of circumstances, they will often be painful, heart-wrenching, and overwhelming, as any major change in relationships can be. Leaning on friends, chosen-families, and blood-families may help ease the transition.
When spouses have decided to be sexually exclusive to each other, they should honor that agreement until they mutually decide to change it; when one violates that agreement, they must understand the pain they cause and the possible outcomes of such a deception. Some couples may elect to not be sexually exclusive; in such relationships, spouses have an obligation to be sensitive to the wishes, needs, feelings and health of their partners. Physical abuse and sexual abuse between spouses or in parent-child relationships are not acceptable and perpetrators should be held accountable to the society at large by law. Spouses and parents must understand that failing to live up to emotional, financial, or material responsibilities may result in great disturbance in the lives of spouses and children alike. Ancient and modern “prophets” speak from their own cultural biases and should have no claim on our actual lives. Rather, individuals and groups should be free to find the answers that work for them, within the ethical bounds discussed above. And we proclaim that changing the shape of individual families to meet the needs of the members of those families is good for society, in creating happy, mature, and responsible adults and children. The continual change and adaptation of family structures is a simple fact of history and is neither good nor bad. It is simply a response to the world we live in here and now.
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of governments everywhere to promote these measures designed to free people from unnecessary religious, traditional, or cultural baggage, and to relate to each other as fully human, responsible adults, in order to organize their personal lives and their most central relationships in the ways that best suit them, their children, and their communities, leaving individuals the freedom and space to do so.
Written by J. Todd Ormsbee, 28 December 2005, San Francisco, California.
Corey J. Kilpack, 29 December 2005, San Francisco, California.
Shannon Weber, 29 December 2005, San Francisco, California.
Elizabeth Udall Thompson, 30 December 2005, Solihull, England.
Hellmut Lotz, 30 December 2005, College Park, Maryland.
Amy Snyder, 30 December 2005, Aberdeen, Maryland.
Todd Brauer, 2 January 2006, St. Louis, Missouri.
Miranda Webster, 2 January 2006, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Justin Rhodehouse, 5 January 2006, Farmington, Utah.
Travis Taysom, 24 February 2006, Holly, Michigan.
Erica Hatch, 25 February 2006, Stansbury Park, Utah.
Brandon Hatch, 25 February 2006, Stansbury Park, Utah.
Adam Hansen, 28 February 2006, Great Meadows, New Jersey.
Caroline Udall, 20 March 2006, Hood River, Oregon.
Chris Connelley, 11 April 2006, West Valley City, Utah.
Christy Putnam, 19 April 2006, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Jeremy Putnam, 19 April 2006, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Russell Martin, 31 January 2007, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Joel Layton, 9 February 2007, Director of Atheists of Utah.
Sean Tibbits, 15 June 2008, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Theresa Sumrall, 23 June 2008, Gainesville, Florida.
Rheana Rogers, 29 November 2008, Arvada, Colorado.