More and more states are seeing their voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage overturned. As the legislation continues to fall like dominoes, same-sex marriage advocates are celebrating, and Americans are beginning to wonder why traditional marriage supporters are putting up a fight against the inevitable. But is same-sex marriage really the end goal of this movement? The answer is no, if we listen carefully to some of the activists. Last year at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, gay activist Masha Gessen said:

 

Gay marriage is a lie. Fighting for gay marriage generally involved lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there. It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. [1]

 

And the audience applauded in agreement. So same-sex marriage is apparently a bait-and-switch—as soon as same-sex marriage is legalized across the country, the movement will begin its campaign to abolish marriage altogether in favor of “genderless contracts” between two persons and the state. [1] I don’t think Americans have really stopped to consider the consequences of these drastic actions—which really aren’t that far-fetched. After all, what are genderless marriages but a contract between two genderless individuals and the government? But the social ramifications of this look a lot like the dystopian fantasies of science fiction writers—with government in charge of taking care of the children.

 

Families are significant. They are the foundational unit of society. And those who envision a marriage-less society also envision greater governmental control of what used to be the family unit. As MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry declared: “We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.” [1]

 

Taken together, these tactics are designed to abolish the family as we know it and replace it with the government-sanctioned, government-controlled village. Modern prophets and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church) have been warning us for decades that the family is under attack. The assaults are becoming more subtle and yet more brazen than ever before. We need to take a hard look at what is really going on here, and what we can do to protect the traditional family from those who would destroy it.

 

Traditional Marriage is the Creation of a New Family

 

 

Marriage between a man and a woman creates a new family. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:

 

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. 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. … 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. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

 

Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), taught:

 

The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service. There a husband is to love his wife, a wife is to love her husband, and parents and children are to love one another. Throughout the world, the family is increasingly under attack. If families fail, many of our political, economic, and social systems will also fail. And if families fail, their glorious eternal potential cannot be realized. [2]

 

Elder David A. Bednar, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

 

A home with a loving and loyal husband and wife is the supreme setting in which children can be reared in love and righteousness and in which the spiritual and physical needs of children can be met. Just as the unique characteristics of both males and females contribute to the completeness of a marriage relationship, so those same characteristics are vital to the rearing, nurturing, and teaching of children. [3]

 

Marriage is the loving, protective shelter into which children are born and nurtured. It is within the family that children learn compassion, love, kindness, service, the value of work and the importance of being a good citizen. This is where their foundations are built. And as parents we can set them up for success—or failure. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

 

Children are highly vulnerable. They have little or no power to protect or provide for themselves and little influence on so much that is vital to their well-being. Children need others to speak for them, and they need decision makers who put their well-being ahead of selfish adult interests. …

Of utmost importance to the well-being of children is whether their parents were married, the nature and duration of the marriage, and, more broadly, the culture and expectations of marriage and child care where they live. Two scholars of the family explain: “Throughout history, marriage has first and foremost been an institution for procreation and raising children. It has provided the cultural tie that seeks to connect the father to his children by binding him to the mother of his children. Yet in recent times, children have increasingly been pushed from center stage.”

Few measures of the welfare of our rising generation are more disturbing than the recent report that 41 percent of all births in the United States were to women who were not married. Unmarried mothers have massive challenges, and the evidence is clear that their children are at a significant disadvantage when compared with children raised by married parents…. For children, the relative stability of marriage matters. [4]

 

Marriage, then, is more than just a union of two people who like each other. It is a union of a man and a woman who are making a life together, a home in which they can bring children into the world. It is a safe haven that we cannot allow to be torn apart, degraded or diminished in value.

 

Why is Family Autonomy So Important?

 

There are so many layers and components to the same-sex marriage issues that it’s difficult to know where to begin. But I’m going to begin with family autonomy and why it’s so important. Autonomy is the ability to govern oneself—whether as an individual or a group. Family autonomy is the right and ability for parents to decide what is best for their children—what they learn, where they go, how they are disciplined, and so forth. The government only steps in if parents abuse or neglect their children. This places great responsibility on mothers and fathers to teach their children, and it is the reason that the family—not the government—is the fundamental unit of society. Elder L. Tom Perry, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

 

Times are very different today, but while times may change, a parent’s teaching must never be devalued. Many activities link the values of one generation to the next, but perhaps the most central of these activities is parents teaching children in the home. This is especially true when we consider the teaching of values, moral and ethical standards, and faith.

Teaching in the home is becoming increasingly important in today’s world, where the influence of the adversary is so widespread and he is attacking, attempting to erode and destroy the very foundation of our society, even the family. Parents must resolve that teaching in the home is a most sacred and important responsibility. While other institutions, such as church and school, can assist parents to “train up a child in the way he [or she] should go” (Proverbs 22:6), ultimately this responsibility rests with parents. [5]

 

This means that the family is the first line of defense for our country. The late President Gordon B. Hinckley, until his death the president of The Church of Jesus Christ, said:

 

In my judgment the greatest challenge facing this nation is the problem of the family, brought on by misguided parents and resulting in misguided children. The family is the primary unit of society. I believe it was designed by the Almighty. A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its families. …

As we contemplate the future I see only a small chance of improving our value system unless we can strengthen the sense of responsibility and acceptance of the vital truth that fatherhood and motherhood carry with them tremendous and lifelong obligations. [6]

 

As parents, we cannot abdicate our responsibility and allow the government to step in and take our place. The family is a wall separating the individual from the state—and that’s how it should be. If we are to have a government for the people and by the people, then we must be a people who can govern ourselves. We learn this in our families.

 

Gender in Marriage Matters—Because ‘One Size’ Never Fits All

 

Same-sex marriage advocates have long argued that gender in marriage doesn’t really matter. Prophets and apostles have taught us for millennia that this is not the case—gender matters, and so do gender roles. Elder Bednar, taught:

 

Gender … in large measure defines who we are, why we are here upon the earth, and what we are to do and become. For divine purposes, male and female spirits are different, distinctive, and complementary. …

By divine design, men and women are intended to progress together toward perfection and a fulness of glory. Because of their distinctive temperaments and capacities, males and females each bring to a marriage relationship unique perspectives and experiences. The man and the woman contribute differently but equally to a oneness and a unity that can be achieved in no other way. The man completes and perfects the woman and the woman completes and perfects the man as they learn from and mutually strengthen and bless each other. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11; italics added). [3]

 

Men and women are not interchangeable in their roles. Women, no matter how hard they try, can never be fathers. Men, in the same respect, can never be mothers. Each has a distinct and separate role in the family. Genderless unions seek to even the playing field by declaring that gender is inconsequential. But this only serves to undermine the very definition of marriage. Elder Lance B. Wickman, the general counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ, said:

 

… Marriage is neither a matter of politics, nor is it a matter of social policy. Marriage is defined by the Lord Himself.… This notion that “what happens in your house doesn’t affect what happens in my house” on the subject of the institution of marriage may be the ultimate sophistry of those advocating same-gender marriage.

Some people promote the idea that there can be two marriages, co-existing side by side, one heterosexual and one homosexual, without any adverse consequences. The hard reality is that, as an institution, marriage like all other institutions can only have one definition without changing the very character of the institution. Hence there can be no coexistence of two marriages. Either there is marriage as it is now defined and as defined by the Lord, or there is what could thus be described as genderless marriage. The latter is abhorrent to God, who, as we’ve been discussing, Himself described what marriage is— between a man and a woman.

A redefinition of that institution, therefore, redefines it for everyone— not just those who are seeking to have a so-called same gender marriage. It also ignores the definition that the Lord Himself has given. [7]

 

So-called genderless marriage ignores one of the fundamental reasons for marriage: to provide a safe, stable environment for the bearing and rearing of children. And genderless marriage opens the door for invalidating the very protections that a marriage between a husband and wife provides for children and parents. Marriage is the safety net that binds a mother and father to each other and to their children—it is the institution that creates a family. As governments have taken steps to provide “marriage equality” for all who desire it, they in fact degrade and demote the institution of marriage. Ultimately, marriage will begin to mean nothing—and the protections provided therein will mean nothing. It’s akin to taking a glass of whole milk and adding water to it—the more water you add, the less it tastes like milk. When governments strip away the definition of marriage to include any two people who like each other, the definition of marriage becomes diluted in the same way.

 

Sidestepping the Constitution

 

The biggest red flag for me so far has been how easily and conveniently the same-sex marriage movement has sidestepped our American Constitution. This inspired document was written as a protection against big government’s power over the people. But even as the courts are overturning voter-approved legislation, same-sex marriage advocates are using tactics to silence their critics. Elder Oaks said:

 

The religious community must unite to be sure we are not coerced or deterred into silence by . . . intimidation or threatening rhetoric. Whether or not such actions are anti-religious, they are surely antidemocratic and should be condemned by all who are interested in democratic government. There should be room for all good-faith views in the public square, be they secular, religious, or a mixture of the two. When expressed sincerely and without sanctimoniousness, the religious voice adds much to the text and tenor of public debate. [8]

 

The Constitution is an inspired document written by righteous men who wanted to facilitate a government for the people, by the people, where people were free to think, believe and act according to their own consciences. It was designed to foster an environment free from religious restrictions. Elder Perry said:

 

… The Constitution was and is a miracle. Both Washington and Madison referred to it as such. It was an inspired document, written under the divine guidance of the Lord. … Among other things, the Constitution guarantees the religious freedom that allowed the Reformation to continue and flourish. The great religious reformers began to throw off the rituals and dogmas that had been attached to Christianity during the dark ages and sought to return to the pure and simple truths of the New Testament. [9]

 

As the same-sex marriage issue winds its way through the courts, we need to ask ourselves if this is really democracy in action? Elder Perry taught:

 

I look around me and find some very definite signs of the decay that is beginning to occur. Corruption, crime, dishonesty, immorality, pollution, laziness, devotion only to special interests—these are signs that precede the fall of great civilizations. We see so much evidence of these signs before our eyes. Yet I realize the promise that has been given to us in this great land of America. I also remember the prophecies concerning our great responsibilities to preserve that which we have been blessed with by God. [9]

 

This includes preserving our freedom of religion—our freedom to think, believe, act and vote according to our own conscience. As Americans it’s our job to make sure our political leaders are representing us. And if they aren’t, it’s our job to vote them out.

 

It’s Our Job to Defend the Constitution and the Traditional Family

 

Family Service Nelson

 

There are some troubling trends occurring in America today. First is the silencing or intimidation of critics of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage supporters often accuse those who disagree with them of being biased, bigoted and hateful. But this could not be further from the truth—our defense of traditional marriage is rooted in the laws of God, the millennia of tradition and the protection of the family. Elder Perry taught:

 

The family is the basic unit of a strong society. We are all part of God’s family; and as our Father, he expects us to build strong family units. It is in the family that the basic morality and righteousness should be taught that will keep America free. Each member of every family plays an important role in America. For several thousand years throughout this land the great fathers and mothers, the noble sons, the patriot sons, the choice daughters have forged America into what we have today.

It is America’s conscience that has preserved her. America is beautiful only when she is good, when children are laughing in her streets, and love abounds in her families. Without this conscience, civilization crumbles…. We are all part of America’s future. Our job is to remember the lessons of the past, to patch up the mistakes and the sins of everything that has gone before. [9]

 

We must hold marriage sacred and not allow it to become corrupted, degraded or devalued by altering its definition. Marriage is not a genderless contract between any two people—it is a contract, or a covenant between a man and a woman and God (and in a covenant, the terms of the contract are set by God). It would appear that those who are redefining marriage and family are forgetting what marriage and family really are all about. Elder Nelson said:

 

Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued. Not if you want true joy. God’s marriage pattern protects the sacred power of procreation and the joy of true marital intimacy. [10]

 

The same-sex marriage movement really is a bait-and-switch to abolish a millennia-old institution—and in its wake will crumble the centuries-old Constitution of our nation. We cannot allow this to happen. It’s our job as Americans to stand in defense of traditional marriage.

 

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