Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Marriage Question

This post comes in answer to the question, “How can you be a Mormon and a Libertarian, if Mormons want the government to tell people who they can marry?” As always, (but in this post especially,) it is important to remember that what is written here is not a declaration of doctrine or beliefs of members of the LDS Church as a whole. I believe these positions to be in harmony with the Church, but they are not to be taken as Church doctrine.

Having said that, the bulk of the the Church's position on marriage can be found in a document called, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” You can read this document at,4945,161-1-11-1,FF.html. The first paragraph says, “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 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.”

It is the position of the Church that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, and that chastity and fidelity are essential virtues for the protection of the family. It is also the view the Church that the Family is the basic unit of society. The breakdown of this foundation will have dangerous consequences throughout society as a whole.

It is important to note that the Church does not support using government power to interfere with the private actions of private citizens. Regarding a city council anti-discrimination initiative in Salt Lake, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy said, “We are not anti-gay, we are pro-marriage between a man and a woman. And there's a huge difference between those two points.” The article about this can be found here

My view on marriage is as follows: The fact that the government has a role in marriage is flawed and problematic. However, IF marriage is to be defined by the state, it should be defined as being between a man and a woman. This is necessary because, in my view, any other definition could be used in courts to attempt to force a religion to recognize a union that violates their beliefs. This would be a profound breach of freedom of religion.

However, I believe that there is a better solution. Marriage is a religious ceremony. It symbolizes a covenant between two people and God. Like other religious ceremonies, marriage does not lie within the proper function of government. I would prefer to see governments simply no longer deal in marriages. Churches, institutions, and people that define marriage as being between a man and a woman would perform and recognize ceremonies exclusively within the bounds of that belief, while churches, institutions, and people that believe otherwise would be able to recognize anything they like as a marriage . The definition of marriage would be left up to those using the word, and not to any government force.


  1. Good job, but what about people who want to define marriage as something other than between a man and a woman? For instance, two men or a woman and a dog? I think the state government needs to control things so animals don't end up inheriting estates or insurance companies/adoption agencies aren't put in positions where they have to discriminate.

  2. What if people want to define marriage some other way? If there is no State recognition, I don't think it is a big deal. The job of adoption agencies, insurance companies, and lawyers and judges is to discriminate. No right-minded judge would recognize the willing of an estate to an animal. And adoption agencies, in a free society, would have every right to discriminate and ensure that their criteria is met.

  3. What about agencies that are required to recognize a marriage for admittance or other reasons (Universities, govt. institutions etc.)? Would they just have to accept all definitions of marriage that evolve? I am still thinking about what you have written here.

    Also, what do you teach? I will have my English teaching degree in December:-)

  4. I guess I would ask why any of those agencies needs to recognize marriage at all? What does one's marital status have to do with their ability to be a government bureaucrat or a professor? Any entity, if it needs to for any reason, can determine what kind of marriage they will accept. For example, BYU could refuse to hire people who are gay-married, as well as for any other reason. If government has to central plan morality, you do not live in a free society; you live in a theocracy.