Past Changes and Future Changes Some Hope For

Recent events have caused me to evaluate how I feel about certain current issues and how I would feel if these issues were to result in changes in the doctrine or practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  The issues include ordaining women to the priesthood, and same-sex marriage.

In discussions on these issues it is common for those who hope to see the church ordain women and embrace same-sex marriage to point to future revelation.  They seem to think that revelation is some wild card, that could turn the church inside-out, upside-down, and backwards at any moment.  Examples of this phenomenon will usually include polygamy and the priesthood ban.  I would like to express how I feel about these past changes, and why these examples are not very persuasive for me when considering the changes that they hope for.


The polygamy issue has precedence in scripture – much of the who’s who of the Old Testament practiced it.  It seems to have it’s moments when it is allowed and prohibited.  Jacob 2 gives the default condition of monogamy with the potential of polygamy if commanded.  Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, it seems reasonable that the practice could have been commanded and then prohibited – all with a consistency to scripture.  This past change I am at complete peace with, and it would seem to come down to whether or not you believe the revelatory claims of modern prophets.  A belief fairly easy to come to given the scriptural precedence.

Priesthood Ban

The priesthood ban is a bit more troubling, but it is not without its precedence as well.  There have been large chunks of history where the gospel itself was not given to mankind.  Gospel and priesthood access and blessings have been reserved for the chosen few before.  Could it be that this ban was the result of widespread racism rather than revelation?  I hope not, but I suppose it is a possibility.  But again, initial restriction of the gospel and the priesthood, with eventual inclusion, seem consistent with scripture.  So while I am troubled by the racist based explanations of the priesthood ban, I am at peace with this change – particularly given the official declaration of the removal of the ban.

For me, both of the above examples have their scriptural precedent, and their revelatory declarations.  Is this consistent with the changes that some hope for with ordaining women and same-sex marriage?  For me the answer is not-so-much.

Ordaining Women

This hoped for change has some things going for it.  Women do make priesthood like covenants and actions in the temple.  And while that is not quite the same thing as the more day-to-day church priesthood, it is something of a starting point.  Yet the bulk of the scriptures certainly indicate a male-only priesthood – particularly D&C 107.  For me this potential change would need to be accompanied by its own revelatory declaration with spiritual confirmation for me to be at peace with it.  I would be greatly troubled if I felt such a change were the result of complaints and protests.  Yet, there is enough precedent, particularly involving temple practice, that leaves the door open a crack.

Same-Sex Marriage

This is one that is most difficult for me.  While the Book of Mormon and the D&C appear to have little or nothing to say on this issue, the Bible has a few strong statements against homosexual behavior.  And Mormon theology is saturated with purposeful gender and eternal ‘traditional’ families.  Eternal marriage between a man and a woman being an ultimate salvific ordinance of the church.  There seems no precedent here whatsoever.  Such a change would strike right to the heart of Mormonism in my view, and I cannot see this happening at all.

In summary, I do not view revelation as some wild card that can change white to black so to speak.  It seems that revelation builds onto previous revelations in a consistent progression.  While I see ordaining women to the priesthood as something of a stretch, were revelatory claims to accompany such a change it would be something many members could accept.  I do not see same-sex marriage the same way.  Such a change would seem like such a fundamental contradiction, that it would be difficult to accept regardless of what public opinion and marriage law might become.

7 Responses to “Past Changes and Future Changes Some Hope For”

  1. 1 randomhammering December 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Eric, I had a bit of an epiphany about the extension of the priesthood to “all worthy male members” when I listened to a conference talk about a man in South Africa who wanted to join the Church.
    Because of Apartheid, it was illegal for him to do so. He was the one who asked the ward members to leave a window open so he and his friends could “attend”. He did so for years before the laws changed enabling him to go inside join the church.
    I think we often look at the issue from an American standpoint. Civil rights were certainly a huge issue in the 50’s and 60’st and mostly wound down by 1978 in our country.
    Not so elsewhere.
    My eyes were opened to the fact that the Lord is in charge of the whole earth, and the slight complication we had here in the United States over the timing of this extension, pales in comparision to the problems it may have caused for humble seekers of the truth in less developed areas of the world.
    Not sure if that explanation works for everyone, but it certainly rang true to me as I considered it.
    Enjoyed this post.
    Damon Hammer

  2. 2 Bookslinger December 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    In other words;

    The above is a faithful pro-church post, in case anyone is not familiar with

  3. 3 Eric Nielson December 31, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks Damon, glad you left a comment. There can certainly be hidden purposes to how and when things happen.

    Slinger. Thanks for the link, although I am not sure the messages are all that parallel.

  4. 4 DavidH December 31, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Extending formal priesthood ordination to women is not a big deal as far as I am concerned. The church teaches that men and women will become kings and priests and queens and priestesses. We don’t know much about the “priestess”-hood contemplated by the phraseology, and it might be that the priestess-hood is different from priest-hood, but a teaching that they are essentially the same thing, with full authority and power from God, would not trouble me in the least.

    Removing the condemnation from same sex long term committed relationships, or even sanctioning or sealing them by exception from the otherwise applicable requirement that only heterosexuals may be sealed or be sexual with each other would not trouble me either. That is, we already have an implicit waiver from the requirement to marry in mortality for LGBT–i.e., we teach that they can inherit full blessings in celibacy without a need to marry in this life. That is an exception to the rule for heterosexuals. I could see extending that exception to say that it is acceptable for LGBT to live in a committed long term relationship (whether called marriage, civil union or something else)

  5. 5 Eric Nielson December 31, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    I would disagree with your second part. There are no exceptions to any rules going on. Anyone who does not receive all the proper ordinances can have the chance in the afterlife. Thus there is no exception to extend.

  6. 6 el oso January 4, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    In looking at the two instances of changes already past, they both involved an Official Declaration but did not change any other scripture in the slightest. Yes, D&C 132 was interpreted differently by many in the 19th Century than in post-manifesto times, but the scripture itself is completely unchanged. A change to allow female ordination would not radically alter the scriptures, but some mention of the seemingly male exclusive language of places like D&C 107 would need to be made. Unlike the previous times, there is no compelling reason (ie. complete jihad by the federal government, or lack of missionary work in Africa) that female ordination needs to change. I think that the brethren see the main female problem being many local leaders or individual men behaving contrary to clear, repeated directives of the past 25 years or more.

    For homosexual marriage, that would require a radical rewrite of many, many scriptural passages, and a complete change in the understanding of the nature of God, eternal life, etc, etc. There are no hints that this might have been contemplated by Joseph, no prophecies that foretell this, no scriptural passage that imply this, and no major church mission that would be materially advanced by this. The chances of this happening are extremely low.

  7. 7 Eric Nielson January 5, 2014 at 8:55 am

    el oso,

    Thanks for commenting. Seems we are on the same page here.

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