Sign the petition to stand for traditional marriage here.

Read the Church’s Instruction to Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage here.

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve issued instructions to leaders on same-sex marriage that reflect both a clear cut, unwavering stand and a sense that this is an issue with critical implications to come.

It is a directive we will have occasion to consult often in the future as we negotiate a world that will become stickier and more difficult for those who hold that God’s laws about marriage are unchanging. “Sticky” and “difficult”, in fact are probably light words for what we may face as we cling to God’s laws in a world that has largely abandoned His word.

It may be about an issue such as this that Elder Robert D. Hales had in mind when he said in the Oct. 2013 conference, “In recent decades the Church has largely been spared the terrible misunderstandings and persecutions experienced by the early Saints. It will not always be so. The world is moving away from the Lord faster and farther than ever before.”

Still, unshaken by pressure or persecution, the Brethren asserted, “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”

There was a blissful time, lost somewhere in nostalgia, where people admired someone who stood by their principles-even if they differed from your own, but today those who uphold traditional marriage are not just backward in the eyes of gay marriage proponents. No, they are bigots and haters, the targets of the deepest disdain.

This is an interesting ploy on the part of same-sex marriage advocates, neutralizing the efforts of those of us who support traditional marriage. Their message: “If you don’t agree with me, you hate me. Agree with me across the board or you are a hater. Submit to my viewpoint or you are a bigot.”

In this way, they don’t have to win their arguments by intelligent discussion or rational debate. Instead, they can silence us by labeling us. It is the lowest form of policy debate, but in this case it has been effective.

Note how in some company it is difficult if not impossible to acknowledge that you do not support same-sex marriage. Still, imply the Brethren, even if we were the last ones standing on this issue, it does not change God’s laws. We cannot amend Him or edit his words to make Him more politically correct. Nor, in fact, would we want to. A God who is unchanging is our source of security.

I might add that those who suppose that they will see the Church softening on this issue some time in the future badly misunderstand how basic and central traditional marriage is to a Latter-day Saint understanding of eternity.

VSC Article_Header_JKPerry_0001_2013Those of us who advocate for marriage now have been advocates for marriage long before same-sex marriage was an issue. Our defense of marriage did not arise because we hated homosexuals, but because we see marriage as foundational for society and for the rearing of children. Hating anyone or basing a policy based on hatred would be the farthest thing from those who truly seek to take Jesus Christ as their guide.

We can be for marriage without being against anyone.

A Call for Civility

Next in the instructions to leaders, there is the call for civility which is neatly put. As the Brethren call on those who defend marriage to be civil, so they call on those who oppose us to return the favor.

They write, “Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it. The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution.”

Here is a line in the sand, an insistence that religious people retain the right to advocate their point of view without shame or fear of being blacklisted or whatever kind of retribution can be conceived. Some might dismiss this as unnecessary caution. After all, aren’t we protected by the First Amendment free speech rights?

If speech is labeled as “hate speech”, it may and has been curtailed. What’s more those who have been on record as opposing same-sex marriage, those who have contributed to campaigns for state marriage amendments, even those who have made entries against same-sex marriage on their own blogs and Facebook pages have been censured by employers, fired from their jobs, or have lost the opportunity for tenure in their universities.

Punishment is a tool for gagging traditional marriage proponents.

In the United States v. Windsor marriage case before the Supreme Court last summer, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion as they overturned a section of the Defense of Marriage Act, claimed that opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in animus or hatred.

In a single stroke, Justice Kennedy gave a negative portrayal of same-sex marriage opponents that is both demeaning and false and ignores our principled view. These are words that will be echoed in other courts and seems to give an official stamp to branding traditional marriage advocates as bigots.

The Brethern insist on the right to speak and the necessity of being civil in that speech-as they always has been. Unfortunately, they can only request, not guarantee, the same courtesy from those who would speak out against them and other traditional marriage advocates. If recent history is a teacher, we probably will not see that courtesy in return. Nevertheless, in a world where anger, name-calling, and demeaning seems to carry the day, civility is the undeviating standard we must hold as we stand for marriage.

Even if we are battered for opening our mouths, speak we must.

Church will Maintain Standards

The Church also claims to be entitled “to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members. Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there.”

The Church has the responsibility to God to maintain its standards, and under the Bill of Rights freedom of religion is asserted as a foundational claim.

Some people may assume that this statement from the LDS leadership is merely instructional.”This is what we will and will not do.”

I see here, however, a statement that is also an assertion. We have the right to maintain our standards of moral conduct and we will.

Those who assume that religious freedom is a sturdy right that can be taken for granted do not understand the nature of law or of recent trends. Much evidence suggests that “our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right.

“As scholars like Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon and Michael Sandel have observed, our courts and government agencies increasingly treat the right to hold and express religious beliefs as only one of many private lifestyle options. And, they observe, this right is often trumped’ in the face of challenges from competing rights or interests deemed to be more important.” (Archbishop Jose H. Gomez in First Things )

So what right could possibly trump our first freedom-the freedom of religion-which means not just the freedom to worship but to act upon your convictions in the public square? It is same-sex marriage. Those scholars and legal minds who have made a study of this issue say it is a train wreck waiting to happen. Same-sex marriage and religious freedom are on a collision course.

Why? “Wherever government is giving you access to something, licensing the power to perform certain acts, government can abuse that position to promote a particular point of view,” says Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. We might add that wherever a government can offer or withhold a tax deduction, a building permit, or a professional license, it can exercise that power against a religion whose views it disdains.

“As one writer said, Why should anyone care about anyone else’s right to marry?

“The answer is that without clear conscience protections, we will see more religious institutions and individual citizens forced to violate their beliefs or be driven off the public square because their moral views have been deemed officially bigoted.”

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve finish the statement: “As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them. We invite you to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths of the gospel, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future.”

The stakes are high. As members of the Church we are responsible to teach the gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16). Ignoring God’s commandments brings “inevitable consequences” for a person and for a society. We are invited as members to pray that hearts are softened and that those who make the decisions regarding these issues will be given wisdom. Those inevitable consequences seem to be hanging out there if we cannot act in wisdom and strength.

I don’t take a request to pray from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve lightly. They have my support.