There has been a lot of coverage about the new polygamy essays in the news. If you have not read them, there is one on Kirtland/Nauvoo polygamy/polyandry, one on Utah era polygamy (up to 1890), and one on “post-manifesto” polygamy. There have also been a lot of apologetics blossoming around the essays. They’re easy to find if you’re interested. To highlight the nature and approach of said apologetics, I present the following apologetic letter from a hypothetical future in which the LDS church performs same-sex-sealings.
I’m excited to clarify some things for you about the church and its history surrounding marriage. Some have recently criticized the church for how same-sex couples were treated prior to 2072. Many church members might think that the church has always allowed same-sex sealings in the temple. However, it is important to evaluate the evidence as written. If you’d like to see more info, consult my three volume set. Many say that the Proclamation on the Family in the Pearl of Great Price is clearly anti-gay. That is because they haven’t bothered to read the text closely. Let me go over some of the more controversial parts.
[1. ]…solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. -PoF 1:1
Yes, but that doesn’t say that marriage between a man and women, or a woman and men, or a man and man, or a woman and woman isn’t ordained of God. During this specific time period this is the emphasis God wanted but it doesn’t preclude same-sex sealings and I can’t find anywhere a statement that says that same-sex marriage is always wrong for all eternity. Sure there are some that say it was wrong at that time, but it does not say it is always and eternally wrong. It is in fact ordained of God.
4. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. -PoF 1:4
Yes, and cis-heterosexual is only one type of gender. There are many other variations of gender and they are eternal and essential.
[10. ]…the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. -PoF 1:10
The sacred power of procreation is the power that occurs as egg and sperm unite within the woman’s womb after the sperm was placed there by a man’s penis. The church wants all couples, cis, trans, homo, hetero, to only move forward with the conception of children when married. That said there is a difference between conception and the power of procreation. The power of procreation implies the combination of sperm and egg in the womb of the woman, naturally placed there by a man. By definition this can only occur with husband and wife. Much like the difference between Celestial marriage, Plural marriage, Polygamy, and Spiritual wifery, the definition of powers of procreation matter here. I can’t find any statements from church leaders that say otherwise.
11. WE DECLARE the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. -PoF 1:11
This doesn’t specify the means. Clearly, when a loving married couple (or group) create life via artificial means, those means are divinely appointed. If they are not married, then it is not divinely appointed.
13. HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility… -PoF 1:13
16. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be… -PoF 1:16
This doesn’t specify that the husband and wife are married to each other. This also means husband and husband, wife and wife, husband and wife and wife, this is all simplified by saying husband and wife irrespective of the gender of their spouse or spouses.
18. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. -PoF 1:18
It does not say that other gendered marriages weren’t also essential. This was said before there was easy access to genetic adaptation of enucleating an egg and then implanting the combined DNA of people of the same sex. At that time, it is true that it took a man and woman to create a child. Thus the marriage between man and woman was highlighted.
19. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. -PoF 1:19
That is a true statement. Children are also entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony at to be reared by a father and father, or a mother and mother, or a mother and father and father. Children are entitled to all of these divine options. Again, the father and mother combination was specifically highlighted at that time period because at that time enucleation of eggs wasn’t easily done.
22. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.
23. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.
24. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. -PoF 1:22-24
The key verse is verse 24. Father, mother, regardless of the gender of their spouse, are obligated to work as equal partners. The specifications of fathers’ and mothers’ roles was specific to that western culture and time period of the 20th century.
The text is clear that in the eternal perspective the equal partnership is how marriage should be. You must distinguish between time and eternity. The first part was culturally specific for that time.
The end of the chapter is the most important part and where we find the real message of the proclamation:
27. WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.
28. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
29. WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
This is why our church wants us to promote social programs, economic redistribution, and other protections that enable families to stay together and spend quality time together. This is the heart of the proclamation. The rest is more of a historic footnote.
I hope this helps you better understand the history of the church and marriage equality. So many people cast the church in a bad light by conjecture. I think it is vital that we look at specific statements, from church leaders, deemed to be authoritative to base our opinions. I wish you the best of luck!