Last week The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a position paper in the online Newsroom entitled, “The Divine Institution of Marriage.” In the section on Tolerance an attempt is made to define the word and contrast it with the way the world uses it today – to condone – acceptance of wrongful behavior as the price of friendship.
Tolerance does not mean condone. As a gospel principle, tolerance means love and forgiveness of one another, not tolerating transgression. Just because someone practices tolerance does not imply that they accept sinful behavior. Acceptance of an individual does not necessarily mean that we approve of their behavior. We do not accept sin.
The definition of tolerance has changed over the years by those who use it in their efforts to change attitudes and prohibit practices that they define as discrimination. It has come to mean acceptance of sexual practices and orientations that are contrary to fundamental beliefs of society. We can be a tolerant people and yet not accept certain behavior.
Prophets have helped define tolerance
Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained, “Tolerance obviously requires a non-contentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “…there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her license to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue.” We do not tolerate wrongdoing.
“An erroneous assumption could be made that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better. Not so! Overdoses of needed medication can be toxic. Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness. The Lord drew boundary lines to define acceptable limits of tolerance.” He made the rules.
Certain behavior is prohibited as sin
Many who advocate tolerance also declare that there is no sin. We as a church believe and teach otherwise. We disagree and speak out against both homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage on moral grounds. We also do not believe that it can be considered “hate speech” to make our position known. We are simply teaching God’s laws.
We have a right to identify and clearly teach what God has defined as sin. God has made it clear that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. We teach that marriage is ordained of God, that it is sacred, with the purpose being to bring children into the world. What God has ordained in marriage, man does not have the right to redefine or change.
We do not condemn those who feel the pull of same-sex attraction. We do not know why some struggle with this temptation. But we do teach that it is just that – a temptation. The Lord clearly identifies adultery and fornication as sin, so too is homosexual behavior. The inclination or temptation itself it not sin. It is only the behavior that becomes sin.
God judges behavior and so do we
In addition to being accused of intolerance and discrimination, we are often accused of judging, as if it is something wrong. God is the judge of all human behavior and has made it clear that he will not accept certain kinds of behavior in his kingdom. We follow his example and make judgments on behavior. There is nothing wrong with doing this.
We all must judge for ourselves what is good and what is evil. In fact, God commanded it. In John 7:24 he told us to judge righteous judgment. Nowhere in scripture does it say, “Thou shalt not judge.” The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 7:1 reads, “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.” What a difference.
“I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ…But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil…” (Moroni 7:16-17)
Opposition to same-sex marriage
The opposition of our church to same-sex marriage is not hostility toward homosexual men and women. Our objective is to protect the definition of marriage as only being between a man and a woman. We do not condone any kind of hostility towards those who identify themselves as homosexual. We love them as sons and daughters of God.
We feel that the recent court decisions in Massachusetts and California to allow same-sex marriage constitutes a serious threat to marriage and the family. Such a trend weakens the institution of marriage and will result in negative consequences for both adults and children. Traditional marriage is essential to society and especially to our children.
It is within the family that traditional moral values are propagated and protected. There is very strong agreement across America on what marriage is. The people in California voted on this issue just eight years ago. Over 61% of the voters decided that marriage should be defined as only between a man and a woman. This is a great moral issue.
Summary and conclusion
The statements in this essay were either taken from the position paper of the church or are derived from teachings of modern day apostles and prophets. We contend that this is a moral issue, which is why the church has taken a position and had asked the membership to become involved in advocating that position. I agree with the position of the church.
We do not accept the definition that some use for the word tolerance to mean approval or acceptance of behavior. We love and accept all individuals as children of God, regardless of their actions, but we do not condone certain kinds of behavior that God has defined as sin. Our opposition to same-sex marriage should not be construed as discrimination.
Despite my authoritative tone in this essay, please remember that I do not speak for the church, but have attempted here to restate the position of the church on this issue as I understand it. This is simply an attempt to use my best efforts to support the coalition of churches and other organizations to preserve and protect traditional marriage – Yes on 8.