A Bad Reason for A Good Policy

Let me remind everyone that I support the Church’s position opposing same sex marriage. That said, that doesn’t mean that every argument one could make for opposing SSM is a good argument. The purpose of this post is to explore one argument that I keep hearing being made in opposition to SSM that is not a good one. It goes something like this: “SSM is bad for children because studies show that children do best in families with a mother and father.”

First problem: these studies (almost always) compare “families with a mother and a father” to single-parent families. I think everyone is now clear on the fact that single parents have a much harder row to hoe than two-parent families, so these study results are not surprising. But using these studies to oppose SSM is not appropriate because the real issue is whether families headed by two opposite-sex parents are comperable to families headed by two same-sex parents. My understanding (And I would be happy to be corrected! Link away!) is that these studies are in their infancy but show either similar results or a slight edge for same-sex families. It is not at all surprising that studies would show better parenting outcomes for same-sex couples, and we should expect that the data will continue to skew in their favor.

A good number of opposite-sex couples have children by accident and we should not be surprised that their parenting is sub-par. It’s pretty hard for a same-sex couple to accidentally have a child, and that deliberateness alone will eliminate a lot of bad parenting outcomes. Adoptive gay families have the additional hurdle of requirements that will screen out all sorts of problematic behavior and situations that don’t stop opposite-sex couples from leading families. Lesbian-headed families are likely to benefit from the absence of males and their violent tendencies. Couples using surrogates or artificial insemination must first pass a financial hurdle that suggests a measure of stability. No one should be surprised when the studies come out showing better outcomes for children raised in same-sex-headed households. Even if being parented by a same-sex couple is in fact detrimental to children (and I suspect that it is), that effect will almost certainly disappear beneath the advantages that same-sex families confer and the data will suggest that same-sex couples are better for children.

And then what? Do you want our opponents on this issue quoting our old “we must prohibit marriages that are shown to be harmful to children” arguments to gleefully call for the end of heterosexual marriage? Don’t make arguments now that will embarrass us in ten or twenty years.

Further, do you really want to make the argument that “Group X has bad parenting outcomes therefore they should not be allowed to marry?” Even if it is true–and it is certainly true that one could comb the data and find that certain ethnicities, educational levels, religious groups, what have you, make worse parents than the norm–does it seem consistent with the American commitment to individual rights that we would bar certain groups from marriage because they didn’t meet certain criteria for parenting outcomes?

And, most importantly, is our defense of marriage based on what sociologists find is best for children–or is it based on what God has revealed is best for children? If sociologists find that pre-marital sex creates stronger marriages, should the Church encourage it? If they find that family religious behavior is detrimental to the well-being of children (and it is in my family, where ensuring quiet in family home evening often involves threatening the life and/or limbs of my children), should we stop? These stupid hypotheticals are designed to show that we aren’t in bondage to what the statisticians find improves parenting outcomes. So why are we pretending that we are on this issue?

I want to reiterate: I support the Church’s opposition to SSM. But that does not mean that every argument made against SSM is true or wise. This one certainly isn’t.

110 comments for “A Bad Reason for A Good Policy

  1. August 15, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Thanks for reminding us that the Church’s stance on any given issue is independent of our theories about it. That often gets forgotten in the flurry of whining and opining thrown about the Bloggernacle.

    Tying our Church positions to contemporary anything is likely to leave our religion looking as outdated as a Roberts or Widtsoe book, but in a much shorter period of time.

  2. John Mansfield
    August 15, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Most children in households headed by homosexuals are the natural children of one of the homosexuals by a previous heterosexual relationship. For this reason, most studies of children in such households compare them with children of divorced heterosexual parents. Those studies mostly look only at households headed by females.

    Also, aren’t most child abusers women?

  3. Researcher
    August 15, 2008 at 9:23 am

    It probably depends on how you define child abuse. Looking quickly, I saw one study that said that a significant minority of child sexual abusers were female. I couldn’t find any numbers, so that could theoretically mean something as low as 1 or 2 percent.

  4. Naismith
    August 15, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I think this makes some thoughtful points, and I agree with the overall premise, but this particular statement did not strike me as particularly persuasive.

    “A good number of opposite-sex couples have children by accident and we should not be surprised that their parenting is sub-par.”

    Why is this? Is there actual data linking fertility to bad parenting?

    I kinda figure I was the same parent whether the child was an accident or not. Two of them were accidents. My accident children all served missions, married in the temple, graduated college, have productive careers, etc.

    “It’s pretty hard for a same-sex couple to accidentally have a child, and that deliberateness alone will eliminate a lot of bad parenting outcomes.”

    Again, are there data to support this? I just wonder because some people can want children for pretty unhealthy reasons.

  5. ECS
    August 15, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Julie – I was nodding along in agreement with your post until this:

    “Even if being parented by a same-sex couple is in fact detrimental to children (and I suspect that it is), that effect will almost certainly disappear beneath the advantages that same-sex families confer and the data will suggest that same-sex couples are better for children.”

    Can you tease apart exactly what is detrimental to children raised by a same-sex couple? I know there are many factors involved, but what specific detriment affects children born to/adopted by same-sex couples?

  6. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Naismith, I’m not talking about the surprises that temple married Mormons have, I’m talking about the surprises that drunk teen-agers and unemployed drug addicts have.

    ECS, I have no idea. Really, I don’t. That’s why I said that I “suspect” it. And the reason that I suspect it is partially because it’s never been done on a large scale and so we have no reason the suspect that it works. If that’s an argument from silence, so be it. It’s not the hill I want to die on and I freely admit that I may well be wrong.

  7. Frank McIntyre
    August 15, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Julie, I’d agree that we don’t want to rest too much weight on the sociology research. The family science literature is not exactly rock solid stuff. As you put it, “not the hill I want to die on”.

    I guess it is a little bit like the Book of Mormon apologetic research– it can serve a purpose but isn’t going to be the basis of our beliefs– revelation is.

  8. Naismith
    August 15, 2008 at 10:40 am

    “Naismith, I’m not talking about the surprises that temple married Mormons have, I’m talking about the surprises that drunk teen-agers and unemployed drug addicts have.”

    I was a teenaged unwed mother. I was a good mother, basically the same mom I was after being married.

    I got really tired of people telling me my child was doomed.

    I don’t think we should replace one kind of prejudice with another.

  9. Mark IV
    August 15, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Elder Oaks has explained in some pretty strong terms why it is indavisable to give reasons for policy positions the church might take, noting that in the past many of us, including general authorities, have been “spectacularly wrong”.

    So, this recent document seems to be a departure from the direction set by Elder Oaks. As Julie has noted, some of the arguments in this document are pretty bad, and look good only in comparison to some of the other arguments, which are even worse.

  10. Larry
    August 15, 2008 at 10:50 am

    \”Thanks for reminding us that the Church’s stance on any given issue is independent of our theories about it. That often gets forgotten in the flurry of whining and opining thrown about the Bloggernacle.\”

    Unless I misread \”The Divine Institution of Marriage\” posted on the Church\’s Newsroom site, the Church\’s stance seems totally tied up in the idea that married heterosexual couples are the only good parents for children. If it is a whine or opine of the Bloggernacle, it\’s certainly supported by official Church press releases. It\’s also one of the \”evidences\” used to support this summation at the end of the article: \”This is the course charted by Church leaders, and it is the only course of safety for the Church and for the nation.\” Seems pretty official to me. And pretty embarrassing.

  11. mpb
    August 15, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Mark IV, not only are some of the arguments bad, but a few of the citations made me cringe. FN 16 for example…I was expecting the statement to be tied to a law review article. Instead, it was the Weekly Standard.

    Julie, I appreciate your writing in this vein–especially the post on the WoW Ensign article. Thank you.

  12. August 15, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Fine post, Julie. It shows how quickly the Church can make trouble for itself when it gets directly involved in politics. Politics requires making policy arguments (both principled and pragmatic) to justify and support the policies being advocated. But mixing inspiration and doctrine, the religious approach to guiding the Saints, with pragmatic political justifications, the political way of guiding voters, does not mix very well at all. The LDS Prop 8 initiative could end up establishing an entirely new body of questionable “folk doctrine” around family and gender that will take a generation or more to undo.

  13. August 15, 2008 at 11:12 am

    “I kinda figure I was the same parent whether the child was an accident or not. ”

    Sure, but as Julie points out in her “hurdles” paragraph, gay and lesbian couples aren’t accidentally getting pregnant in high school. The host of documented ill effects from especially young/poor/uneducated mothers is weeded out of the 2-gay-parent homes from the beginning, as they can’t bring a child into the home without considerable effort and expense.
    Don’t compare that to your own “accidents” in a well-established marriage. Compare it to an average high school sophomore.

  14. August 15, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Naismith- before you misunderstand, I’m also not saying your own positive single parenting outcome isn’t valid or whatever- only that if one population completely opts out of accidental teen pregnancy, the group avoids the corresponding drag of lower outcomes in health, education, finances, and family stability down the line.

  15. BM
    August 15, 2008 at 11:30 am

    My wife is a child psychologist Ph. D. candidate and has looked into some of the research comparing parents who are of the same sex or opposite sexes. I wish I had all of the details, but she said that the important factor was having two parents, regardless of the number of sexes. We were both surprised to find that the letter referenced findings comparing two parent v. one parent homes. It’s too bad that the authorship of these LDS News Room articles aren’t indicated. Is the article representing the feelings and understanding of the First Presidency? I would assume so since it is put out by the Church, but it doesn’t have their names attached.

  16. August 15, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I’m reminded of people like Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh. I find myself agreeing with both of them on various issues, but their arguments for supporting those issues can be so shaky and illogical that it makes their entire “side” of the argument appear to be populated by emotional nutjobs.

    We shouldn’t substitute quantity for quality in points of opposition as it can make the entire stance look shaky at best and baseless at worst, independent of what debate we find ourselves in.

  17. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Naismith, I’m not sure how useful anecdotes are here. Do you not think that *in general* a population who (1) cannot accidentally have children and (2) has to jump through some extra hoops to have children is more likely to bring a better parenting package to the table than a population who can get pregnant because they were lazy or drunk or hormonal?

    Mark IV, that’s a very important point and, in reading some of the anti-SSM arguments, I have been very much reminded of the folklore surrounding the priesthood ban. It makes me sad to see some church members heading down that same road, creating another folkloric mess for us to clean up in a generation. (I see Dave made the same point in #12.)

  18. Mark IV
    August 15, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Julie, exactly. Except this time I don’t think it will take a generation. I hope we have enough good sense to be very ashamed of some of this stuff within a very short time.

  19. Matt W.
    August 15, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Yet Doctrine abhors a vacuum…

  20. Gary
    August 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Julie: Regardless of the merits of this particular argument, you seem to be suggesting that our opposition to SSM is grounded in what God has revealed is best for children, and not what sociologists determine is best for children. Fair enough, but if the only reason for the church’s opposition is that God has revealed that SSM is bad, we have nothing to contribute to the political discourse in the country. The Church’s arguments are relevant and persuasive only to those who believe that Church leaders are accurately communicating God’s will. If the Church wants to have an impact on the broader society, isn’t it forced to come up with reasons other than “God told me so”? That does not justify bad reasoning, but you seem to be suggesting that the search for reasons based on empirical evidence is a fool’s errand to begin with. Am I understanding your position correctly?

  21. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Gary, you pose some interesting questions. I’m sure that making *bad* arguments is not going to help the Church contribute to political discourse. Are there good arguments? I think so, but others might disagree. If there are good arguments, we should make them. If there aren’t good arguments, then I think we are better off withdrawing from the political discourse than making bad arguments. The bad arguments make the cause look bad (as people see through them) and leave us with “doctrinal debris.”

  22. nasamomdele
    August 15, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Julie (#17),

    Logically, it makes some sense that such a population would bring a better parenting package, but then one must ask what makes a parenting package any good? What morals, ethics, etc. would be conveyed throughout the child’s life?

    One can only assume that such a population would be more dedicated to the idea of rearing a child than to the actual process. The process takes many good, committed people by surprise and it doesn’t end up as well as they may have prepared their whole lives for.

    On the other hand, the accidental rearing of a child may yield more fruitful results than the most ideal circumstances.

    The argument against saying that the man-woman family is optimal in all circumstances is just as much conjecture as the Church saying it is optimal, except the church provides research. This may not be the best route to take for the church, but it provides at least some validation of the assertion.

  23. Steve Evans
    August 15, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks Julie for some perspicacity.

  24. Frank McIntyre
    August 15, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Julie, suppose the choice is between using evidence about which we are unsure, and we’re pretty sure that at least some of the evidence will be wrong (though we don’t know beforehand which evidence) and thereby convincing enough people to win the issue, or remaining silent and losing. Would you advance the arguments or sit in silence?

    I think you’ve accurately laid out the costs of engaging in political discourse, but it isn’t clear you’ve put much weight on the potential benefits. This sort of evidence based arguing is what engaging in political discourse means.

  25. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    nasamomdele, you sketch some interesting hypotheticals. If you have data to support them, I’d like to see it. What is the research that the church provides to which you refer?

    Frank, if the situation were as you suggest in your first paragraph, we could have an interesting conversation about the ethics of making that argument. (I would not be comfortable making poor arguments to win a point, although I can see where some people might find that justifiable.)

    But I don’t think that that is an accurate reflection of the situation. As I outlined in the post, I fully expect that when the data comes in, it will either favor SSM parents or be neutral to them. Hence, I think basing arguments on the child outcome evidence now available is a really bad road to head down. It isn’t like SSM will go away; in ten or twenty years when there is another piece of legislation, do we really want pro-SSM forces quoting us saying “we should not permit marriages that are detrimental to children” when it is _heterosexual_ marriages that are statistically more detrimental to children?

  26. wondering
    August 15, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Many people (including Julie and Frank) say that “revelation” is our basis for beliefs about SSM.

    Has there been a revelation about that? I’m not aware of one. It seems to me the church leaders are simply using their best judgment on this issue. I haven’t seen any claims of revelations…am I missing something?

  27. Frank McIntyre
    August 15, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Wondering, President Hinckley has said on repeated occasions that the Church is lead by revelation and the guidance of the Spirit. Take it how you will.

    Julie, OK so your argument is that this argument is not good for tactical reasons. That could well be true, I don’t know.

  28. Beatrice
    August 15, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I am said wife mentioned in comment #15 and thought I would throw in my two cents:). About a month ago my sister started asking me questions about research on same sex couples raising children. I did a quick pursal of the literature and this is what I found. 1)When they compare children raised by SS couples vs. oppisite sex couples they try to make the groups as similar as possible. For example, they compare adopted children of SS couples to adopted children of oppoiste sex couples. 2)There are no striking differences between children raised by SS couples vs. opposite sex couples. It seems like there are a lot of factors (such as parenting style, stability of marital relationship, etc) that have a bigger impact on child development than the gender of the parents 3)One difference that is found is that children of SS couples adhere to less traditional gender roles. I can understand why the church would feel that this is a bad thing. I would have to look at the research again but this could be a good or bad thing based on what aspects of traditional gender roles you are looking at and how you define traditional gender roles.

    I was surprised that the church statement cited research based on children of single parents. I was also surprised by the example they quoted of mothers interested in the child’s immediate development and fathers interested in the child’s long-term development. This example doesn’t seem very inheriant and genetically based to me. This appears to be a result of socialization and how women are more likely to be the primary caregivers. Doesn’t it make sense that the person who is taking care of the child on a daily basis whould be more focused on the immediate development regardless of that person’s gender?

  29. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    That, Frank, and a commitment to honesty. If we genuinely believe that marriages should be banned based on childrearing outcomes, then we should be prepared to change our position opposing SSM should the data indicate that. If we aren’t willing to do that, we shouldn’t be making the argument.

  30. Matt Evans
    August 15, 2008 at 1:41 pm


    For those future studies to be valid contra the church’s position, they’d have to control for all of the selection biases you’re citing, such as accidental pregnancies. The church opposes pre-marital sex, drunken sex, drug-addict sex, and so on, and does not claim that parenting outcomes of SSM are worse than heterosexual reproductive acts the church also opposes. The church’s preference that unwed teen parents place their children for adoption is a case in point (parental rights cut against writing a hard and fast rule).

    The difference for the church (and society) is that SSM will be decided collectively, in the voting booth, while pre-marital sex and reproduction are primarily decided individually, in the backseat. Were there a similarly easy way to collectively prevent the scenarios the church also opposes, they would likely be involved there, too. For example, I suspect the church would oppose a bill allowing unwed teens to adopt children.

  31. Jonovitch
    August 15, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    wondering (26), we see the ideal family model throughout all of scripture, with a few polygamous families thrown in for good measure.

    In addition, we have a document that is about as near official doctrine as we can get, without it being put for a vote by the general body of the Church. That is the Proclamation to the World on the family. The first line reads, “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim…”

    In other words, it has the unanimous backing of the top three positions/offices of the Church: the president, the First Presidency, and the Twelve, all united in one voice and of one mind an opinion. If that ain’t authoritative, I don’t know what is.

    So this is not technically a revelation (but, on the other hand, this was published more than a decade ago and it appears to be more relevant then ever, so whose hand was in it, really?), but it’s also a far cry from just some random, solitary General Authority speaking his mind or pushing his own personal agenda. How often do we see this kind of complete agreement from the diverse group of men in the highest Church offices, speaking in the name of the Church?

    Just like Julie stated, I might have a small issue here or there with a flawed argument or shaky logic put out by an unnamed LDS Newsroom writer, but I’ll hang my hat on the unanimous opinion of the President, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve any day. Not a problem.


  32. Naismith
    August 15, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    “The host of documented ill effects from especially young/poor/uneducated mothers is weeded out of the 2-gay-parent homes from the beginning, as they can’t bring a child into the home without considerable effort and expense.”

    Really? I have lesbian friends who gave birth at the same time as my first, and it involved nothing more complicated or expensive than a turkey baster from a male friend who had masturbated.

    And although I haven’t looked at those stats in a while, it seems like the “host of documented effects” mostly boils down to money. In European countries where parenthood is supported irregardless of age or marital status, those effects are not near as pronounced. I’m sure it was a reason why I was able to parent successfully, I had a good job.

    “Compare it to an average high school sophomore.”

    A lot of our grandparents and great-grandparents were married about the same age as today’s sophmores, and they seem to have done just fine. I don’t think age per se makes one a bad parent.

    I agree with Julie’s basic point that this may not be the best reason to oppose SSM. I think she raises a crucial question as to whether some of these reasons about bad parents are consistent with “the American commitment to individual rights that we would bar certain groups from marriage because they didn’t meet certain criteria for parenting outcomes.”

    I was a parent in my teens, and I was a parent the last time at age 38. I think there were real benefits and downsides to each. I had so much more joy and energy as a first-time parent, less likely to say no and more likely to consider possibilities. In later years, I tended to self-censor and say no more often, more than I should have.

    While society considered me a better parent because I was older and financially more secure, I’m not sure I really was a better parent. So I am extremely hesitant to but any limitations or requirements on people to become parents. And I totally try to support young people having children while they are young.

    I think bad parenting is a problem. But bad parenting is the problem, not teens per se or gays per se or whatever other class you want to put a label on.

    Actually, this reminds me somewhat of the recent discussion on whether health benefits of the word of wisdom (as described in a recent Ensign article) are the best reason to follow those teachings. But of course this is different because it involves our influence on society at large.

  33. August 15, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    FWIW, here are some links. Not all the wonderful, but interesting. The American Collge of Pediatrics has some good stuff on their website.

    Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time For Change? -American College of Pediatricians


    Love Isn’t Enough: 5 Reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Children -Trayce Hansen, Ph.D.


    Homosexual Parenting Studies Are Flawed, Report Says -Kelley O. Beaucar


  34. Thomas Parkin
    August 15, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    “Lesbian-headed families are likely to benefit from the absence of males and their violent tendencies. ”

    *cough* Sorry for the threadjack, but I can’t let this slide.

    Here is a list of 219 studies that show women are as likely or more likely to perpetrate violence in relationships than men.


    I seem to recall that there are also studies showing that domestic violence is more prevalent in lesbian relationships than between gay men, but I didn’t take the time to look for them.


  35. nasamomdele
    August 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    # 25 Julie,

    The Church provided a link to research in its release- that is what I was referring to. The research upholds one conclusion- children are better off with both parents in the home, with a lean towards a mom and a dad. The research confirms that the jury is out in terms of what genders parents ought to be to provide the optimal family setting.

    No doubt the assertion that “in an ideal society, children would be raised by a mother and father” is bold. And the support the church provides is 1) the Bible, 2) the proclamation, 3) scientific studies, and 4) hypotheticals/anecdotals. Perhaps the secular/anecdotal could be thrown out, but why?

    Personally, I think the Commentary is well done, though not entirely comprehensive. Matt Evans (#30) makes a very good point as well. The opposite arguments are hardly comprehensive and would have to do a lot to be so. The church’s arguments are decent and relevant, though hardly the ideal.

    I think this is a largely moral position to take, not one that can or ought to be focused on “what circumstances are optimal for children”, unless we want a premature end to the discussion by simply looking at revelation, learning that homosexuality is wrong, therefore the spirit and covenants are not present, therefore a homosexual relationship does not have the spirit, therefore a child raised in that environment may not experience the spirit, therefore it is not an optimal environment to raise a child. Maybe the church should have said that.

    I think you’re right in many ways, though I’ve heard many arguments against this commentary already and I think many people are looking beyond the mark here. This isn’t an official declaration or proclamation. This will most likely not go into the back of our scriptures. The arguments support the assertion enough, so give it a passing grade and move on.

  36. gst
    August 15, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I believe it was Stephen Colbert who noted that the likelihood that kids raised by a gay couple turn out gay themselves is only as high as those that participate in marching band. So bear that in mind, everybody.

  37. wondering
    August 15, 2008 at 2:21 pm


    The proclamation is certainly “official,” but it does not claim to be the result of revelation or inspiration. This page from the church website describes the proclamation like this:

    This proclamation is a declaration and reaffirmation of doctrines and practices that prophets have stated repeatedly throughout the history of the Church.

    It appears to me that both the proclamation and the church’s position on SSM are the result of the leaders’ considered judgments about what the scriptures and the gospel imply about these issues as they understand it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow them, but we shouldn’t go around claiming revelation or inspiration when even those that wrote the documents don’t make that claim.

  38. nasamomdele
    August 15, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Thinking about this more, I do see how the inclusion of rather limited research and anecdotes can stir up the wrong kind of opposition to SSM. I don’t think the Church provided any research to support knee-jerk reactions like “that church says population X shouldn’t have kids!” They have simply said what is optimal, never classifying anything as sub-optimal. The trouble with any of this research, of course, is the definition of a good outcome of rearing.

    I think Jonovitch and Julie put it well that there is one clear thing we should hang our hat on- revelation. The research doesn’t hurt, but it is not the prime mover of the Church’s position and is not the basis of our conversations about the issue.

  39. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Matt #30, You are correct that a study could be designed to eliminate “accidental” hetero parents and therefore give us a better picture. But since that study doesn’t exist, it is not wise right now for anti-SSM people to be making that argument.

    Of course, some day, that study probably will exist. There are only three things it can show:

    (1) SSM families have roughly equal outcomes as hetero families. At this point, pro-SSM forces will be loudly wondering what other argument we made that were bogus.

    (2) SSM families have better outcomes than hetero families. At this point, pro-SSM forces will plaster the world with our old statements to call for the end of hetero-marriage. (Hopefully in jest.)

    (3) SSM families have worse outcomes than hetero families. But this just gets us back to what I mentioned originally; do you want to be in the business of banning marriages for groups who have bad childrearing outcomes? Because I’m guessing that whatever % worse SSM families are, it will still be better than group X (group X being some ethnic or professional or educational or religious or regional group)? You correctly note that if the church could prevent drunken procreation it would, but the Church could easily advocate that members of group X not be allowed to marry. Are we going to do that?

    Naismith, I see a lot more anecdotes in your comment and I’m not convinced that is our best route to truth here. But I agree with you that this argument has a lot in common with the WoW comments I made.

    mmiles, thanks for those links. The ACP one is problematic in that one could look at its list of harms (i.e., “Homosexual partnerships are significantly more prone to dissolution than heterosexual marriages with the average homosexual relationship lasting only two to three years.”) and see SSM as a *solution* to those. Obviously not my viewpoint, but one that fits the data just as well.

    Your second link is problematic because I don’t see any research backing it up; just the author’s opinion. And her opinion strikes me as a little loony in places: “A mother can’t show a son how to control his impulses because she’s not a man and doesn’t have the same urges as one. ”

    The Church must be nuts to recommend that boys spend most of their time with people incapable of teaching them to control their impulses. . . .

    Your third link is certainly correct in pointing out that research on the topic is politicized and not always (usually?) reported accurately, but it nowhere suggests that on the whole, childhood outcomes are worse across the board for children raised by SSM couples. The most telling line is this: “As a result, he said, most of the research conducted until now tells us “squat” and only speaks to battling agendas.” Isn’t that exactly what I said in my post?

    Thomas, that meta-study speaks to partner-to-partner violence. Are you aware of anything on parent-on-child violence?

    nasamomdele, you wrote, “The research confirms that the jury is out in terms of what genders parents ought to be to provide the optimal family setting.” That’s all I’m saying in this post–that SSM opponents should not claim that hetero families have been outcomes because they don’t have the data to support that.

    you wrote, “Perhaps the secular/anecdotal could be thrown out, but why?”

    Why? Because it doesn’t exist. Because we shouldn’t need sociologists to agree with us before we will agree to follow the prophet. Because if that evidence changes in ten years, we don’t want to look like hypocritical idiots.

  40. Frank McIntyre
    August 15, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    “If we genuinely believe that marriages should be banned based on childrearing outcomes, then we should be prepared to change our position opposing SSM should the data indicate that.”

    But suppose we don’t know why we oppose SSM, in the sense that God told us it was a bad idea and we are trying to figure out the reasons. At that point do you want us to abandon the political discourse?

  41. August 15, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    As I warned, not all great reading. I agree the second link is crazy. Unfortunatey, these are amongst the resources being passed around our stake.

  42. Martin Willey
    August 15, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    33: The “American College of Pediatricians” (not to be confused – – or maybe precisely so as to be confused – – with the American College of Pediatrics) appears to be a group of doctors with a pro-family, anti-gay marriage agenda. My guess is that most of the affiliated doctors are evangelicals, but that is pure speculation.

  43. bbell
    August 15, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    So Julie what is your alternative then if you do not like the current approach?

    A reference to Romans 6, a quote from the Proc, and a chapter from SWK’s “Miracle of Forgiveness” ?

    That and other examples from the scriptures and writings from the GA’s is pretty much what I would be hanging my hat on doctrinally in a Sunday school class. You seem to say as much in one of your closing paragraphs.

    “And, most importantly, is our defense of marriage based on what sociologists find is best for children–or is it based on what God has revealed is best for children?” I would say both God and studies can help shape our views. But the doctrinal aspects of our stand against SSM only really works for church members.

  44. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    “At that point do you want us to abandon the political discourse?”

    If there are good arguments (and I think that there are), we should make them. If there are not good arguments, we need to realize that we will end up doing our cause more harm than good if we make crummy arguments. So we should either (1) not pretend to anything more than a religious/moral motivation or (2) abandon political discourse. I’ll leave that decision to the FP if we get to that point but, again, I think there are good arguments.

    “Unfortunatey, these are amongst the resources being passed around our stake.”

    See above on bad arguments doing more harm than good . . .

    “So Julie what is your alternative then if you do not like the current approach?”

    I’m with you on basing my personal opinion on scriptural and GA arguments. Those obviously won’t carry water in the political debate, where we need to make good arguments. I think those arguments are out there; this just isn’t one of them.

  45. August 15, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for this Julie. I hadn’t thought about the inherently more purposeful/intended nature of same-sex parents, and I think you’re right on with that point. I had heard of studies showing same-sex parent families having as good or better outcomes, so that helps me better understand the context there. As always, a pleasure reading your stuff.

  46. Martin Willey
    August 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    More regarding 33: The American College of Pediatricians is also, apparently, pro-spanking. Which is nice.

  47. Jonovitch
    August 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    wondering (37),

    1. A prophet — when he speaks as a prophet, in his official capacity as a prophet — is led by revelation and inspiration.
    2. We have fifteen modern prophets, seers, and revelators in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who occasionally speak with one, united voice.
    3. These fifteen prophets (speaking unanimously) issued a declaration (in their official capacities as prophets) based on their own revelation and inspiration, as well as official statements from prophets before them, who were also led by revelation and inspiration (e.g., the “reaffirmation of doctrines”).
    4. Therefore, we can conclude that the Proclamation to the World on the family, issued in one unanimous voice by prophets in their official capacity (as well as being based in part on doctrines that were taught by previous prophets), is and can be reasonably seen as being based on revelation and inspiration.

    Bonus: 5. They never said they were not led by revelation or inspiration, nor did they say the document was not the result of the same. Just because an lds.org Web page doesn’t come right out and say it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen that way. Besides, I already found another lds.org Web page that says it was “an inspired proclamation.” I’ll pit my Web page against your Web page any day. :)

    Whatever happened to “the prophet does not have to always say, ‘Thus saith the Lord'”? Or, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same”? What more do we need than the published declaration of fifteen prophets, acting in their official capacity, speaking as one voice (presumably in the name of the Lord), uttering the words, “We…solemnly proclaim”?

    Again, I’ll hang my hat on that (and believe it is divinely led) any day.


  48. Ray
    August 15, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    No policy of any kind ever should be based on or supported by bad reasoning.

    Wish I could contribute more, but that’s about it for me.

  49. August 15, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Point taken. I have not explored their site as you have. I did find their articles on SSA fairly balanced, underlining the point that SSA most likely does have a genetic component.

  50. Beatrice
    August 15, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    It seems that we are talking about two different issues here. 1)How do I decide what I personally believe? With regards to this question we can think about what prophets have said on the topic, doctrine, revelation, etc. What science has said about this topic may or may not affect what you personally believe. It is interesting and important to consider current scientific evidence, but we don’t need to base our personal beliefs on science. 2)How do we defend our beliefs in the public sphere? It is nice to be able to cite scientific evidence that backs up your personal beliefs because it gives your argument more weight in the public sphere. However, it is very difficult to cite scientific evidence to support your personal belief in an unbiased way. Of course, you are going to cite the evidence that supports your views and not site the evidence that doesn’t. Also, findings in the social sciences are messy. It is hard to talk about findings without overgeneralizing or oversimplifying. As an LDS psychology student I feel strongly that members of the church need to become well versed in the research so they can talk intelligently about the research in these public discussions.

  51. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 15, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Thought-provoking reading. Thanks, Julie, as ever.

    This may require a separate post, but another anti-SSM argument I have never understood is that it threatens the institution of marriage generally. I understand, from a conservative religious (incl. LDS) perspective, why some would feel that the sanctity of marriage is somehow mocked if that privilege is extended to individuals they do not feel God ever intended to marry. But, religion aside, in political or civil rights terms, how could SSM ever _threaten_ heterosexual marriage, either as an institution or in individual cases? Has anyone ever heard a sane argument for this?

  52. wondering
    August 15, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Jonovitch says: 1. A prophet — when he speaks as a prophet, in his official capacity as a prophet — is led by revelation and inspiration.

    Well, the whole apologetic enterprise, as epitomized by the recent Bushman seminars, and routinely praised by everyone around here, is based on the notion that prophets actually have to use a lot of human judgment and are subject to make mistakes all the time as they learn and grow and try to figure things out.

    Of course you may go ahead and assume the proclamation and SSM policy come through revelation if you want, but that claim is not explicitly made by the church leaders. What is explicitly claimed is that they are interpreting the scriptures and other teachings of past prophets (which is their role).

  53. wondering
    August 15, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    To clarify, I’m not saying the proclamation or the SSM policy is a mistake, nor am I saying that we shouldn’t abide by it. I’m just saying that it is not our role to proclaim things as revelations when those who wrote them don’t claim that.

  54. Thomas Parkin
    August 15, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    “Thomas, that meta-study speaks to partner-to-partner violence. Are you aware of anything on parent-on-child violence?”

    Nope. I was only addressing the statement that a family structure with no man present is likely to be less violent because men have ‘violent tendencies.’ I think it’s enough to point out that a majority of physical abuse within relationships is female on male to do away with that stereotype. There are a number of studies of violence within lesbian relationships, but I failed to find anything from a site that didn’t seem to have a political motivation to highlight the statistics in one way or the other.

    The idea that fathers might be more likely to abuse children than mothers is something of a different question, sure. I did do a quick look around and found studies that would call into question the idea that men are significantly more often the abusers of children than women. (Exception seems to be sexual abuse – but even there the numbers are more like 3 to 1 than 20 to 1.) Some of the stats I found were on father’s rights sites – in case that bias means anything. For instance, this:

    61% of all child abuse is committed by biological mothers
    25% of all child abuse is committed by natural fathers
    Statistical Source: Current DHHS report on nationwide Child Abuse

    Here is an interesting study on murders of children in Australia: http://equalparentingtime.blogspot.com/2007/02/physical-abuse-of-children.html
    What interested me here was that male guardians were twice as likely to murder children in their care than females; but that when the question was only between biological fathers and mothers, the rate was more or less equal.

    Anyway – I don’t have all day. :) The original site I linked was notably to me for its scope and lack of political commentary. And, like I said, was sufficient to make my point. I don’t believe that men are any more likely than women to exhibit ‘violent tendencies’ and the idea that a home headed by two women is likely to be less volatile seems … well, it doesn’t gibe with my experience, anyway.



  55. Thomas Parkin
    August 15, 2008 at 5:58 pm


    Firefox seems to be eating my comments, here and elsewhere. I’m not going to rewrite.

    Short answer is that I did find statistics that intimated that women are as likely or more likely to abuse children than men (except sexually), but these were generally presented on Father’s Rights sites, and I don’t know where that bias fits in. Studies on violence in lesbian relationships was also presented on sites that seemed to me likely to hold strong biases in one direction or another. Finally, that the site I originally linked was sufficient to demonstrate my point that men are not more prone to ‘violent tendencies’ than women, that what impressed me about it was its scope and lack of political commentary. I do understand that looking at violence against children may produce a picture more likely to indicate violent men, but personally wonder if that isn’t also a matter of stereotype, and the narrative that has long foregrounded males as abusers and women and children as victims.


  56. Matt Evans
    August 15, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Julie, if and when studies ever show that parenting outcomes are the same for SSM and church-standard marriages (and the researchers use a definition of “outcome” acceptable to the church), then SSM will effectively be removed as a public policy issue, and become a strictly cultural and religious issue, like tatoos, modesty and pre-marital sex are now.

    It’s not problematic that the church relies on scientific studies (as the ACP does), so long as the church doesn’t indicate that this is the primary reason for their opposition. It’s not, and the church doesn’t indicate it is.

    It would be exactly the same if the ballot issue were the legalization of street drugs, or relaxing liquor laws or allowing smoking in public buildings. The church would oppose the move because of the WoW, but would use empirical research to argue in public. The day that empirical research convincingly shows there’s no harm to using street drugs is the day the church acknowledges using street drugs is a cultural and religious issue, and not a public policy issue.

    (To clarify, however, I believe groups do and should vote and write laws based on cultural and religious considerations. It’s okay to have public decency laws even in the absence of empirical studies showing that indecency is harmful.)

  57. Julie M. Smith
    August 15, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Matt, this is a very narrow post criticizing an argument because (1) the data doesn’t exist to support it and (2) even if it did, it is wrong to bar members of a certain group from marriage just because that group has poorer parenting outcomes.

  58. Kaimi Wenger
    August 15, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Assuming that the data were to show that marriage at age 20 or younger produces much higher incidence of negative parenting outcomes — and I believe that the data does tend to indicate this — should the church be in the business of discouraging, legally or simply though policy statements, marriage among people who are younger than 21?

  59. Juliann
    August 15, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    The only thing I am paying attention to is the pressure being put on Californians to not only give money (our ward was assigned an amount) but also canvass our own neighborhoods and make phone calls. There are instructions not to mention anything negative or talk about homosexuals at all, however.

  60. Lupita
    August 16, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Thank you, Julie, for your wonderful comments. I have read through the arguments posted against SSM and still feel unsettled. I lived in CA when we were asked to support Prop 22. It was a horrible experience for me. We just moved back to CA and, in our first Sunday meeting, were asked to contribute financially to Prop 8. My first assignment in the ward is to call members and invite them to go canvassing and calling. Welcome to the ward!
    So, this is hitting close to home and I’m glad that you are articulating some of my issues with what is being cited as fact. We are being told to find supporters, ask for willing participants in the campaign, and encourage people to vote. We are not being told to tell people that homosexuals make bad parents. I will be especially careful with my words. I am waiting for an argument that shows SSM will be good for society.
    I do not believe that this is a hate-filled proposition. I’m just not hate-filled. No one I’ve talked to is hate-filled. Are there some ignorant arguments being tossed around? Yes. But, don’t you find that in most political discourse?
    Anyway, I’m uncomfortable with a lot of this but I’m going on faith.

  61. Matt Evans
    August 16, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Julie, as I understand your argument, it’s that the church shouldn’t make empirical claims because those claims may be later disproven, ultimately undermining the church’s position. If I understand this argument correctly, I disagree with it.

    When trying to effect public policy, the church has no choice except communicating in the relevant language, a key component of which is empirical claims. The church’s argument against SSM isn’t a deductive syllogism, it’s a persuasive, inferential argument to a jury of citizens. The church’s argument is typical of ALL legal and political arguments — something is good (or bad) because of A and B. AND C. AND X AND Y AND Z. (And even IF C is false, then D. Etc.) These kind of arguments don’t hang on any single claim, and aren’t defeated by disproving any single claim.

    — Obama is the best candidate because of A, B and C. And D. And even if B turns out to be false, then E.
    — The church is true because of A, B and C. And D. And even if B turns out to be false, then E.
    — SSM is bad for America because of A, B and C. And D. And even if B turns out to be false, then E.

    It’s generally considered a poor strategy to insert especially weak claims because it leads people to taint the stronger claims (though this happens, oddly enough, because people fall for the logical fallacy of “guilt by association” — meaning that we write our arguments knowing people respond to them illogically!). Given the research cited on the American College of Pediatrics page, however, the church’s claim appears tenable and, given that, I think it’s probably a smart rhetorical move to include it as one of the reasons to oppose SSM.

  62. MikeInWeHo
    August 16, 2008 at 3:27 am

    The American College of Pediatricians is a right-wing political group that attempts to pass itself off as a legitimate medical organization. It’s has no credibility in the medical community and should not be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org).

    You guys need to check your sources in a discussion like this…..

  63. MikeInWeHo
    August 16, 2008 at 3:29 am

    (And I need to check my grammar! It’s late….)

  64. Julie M. Smith
    August 16, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Lupita wrote, ‘We are being told to find supporters, ask for willing participants in the campaign, and encourage people to vote. We are not being told to tell people that homosexuals make bad parents.”

    You know, I was wondering about that because I was in CA for Prop 22 and the phone script was similar. I think this is VERY significant because Gary above asked about how we participate in political discourse when our position is based in theological beliefs that aren’t going to convince anyone. The answer: the participation is focused on getting like-minded people out to vote, not on getting fence-sitters to change their minds.

    Matt, you appear to be defending using bad arguments. More power to you. But I don’t do that. Further, this isn’t just a “bad argument.” It is:

    (1) an argument without data to support it. (I’m still waiting, people. Link away.)
    (2) an argument that is not only likely to be disproven, but likely to be INVERTED. (What we used to call a “turn” in my debate days.) The problem with this is that you aren’t left with “and since B was wrong, let’s talk about C now.” Your opponents can say, “You said B was critically important. B is in our column now.” If we introduce the idea that marriages should be allowed or barred based on parenting outcomes, we can’t back away from that principle later.
    (3) Even now, it is wrong to argue about outcomes. We don’t dispossess *groups* of certain rights in this country because that group skews toward crummy outcomes.

  65. Velska
    August 16, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Whether or not the Church stance on SSM is based on revelation, I would refer to The Family: A Proclamation to The World. At least I understand that was submitted as being based on revelation?

    Another thing: A very experienced psychotherapist explained to me the basic dynamics of gender identity – not that I claim to fully understand the whole thing. What I do understand about it is that if Heather has two mommies (or daddies), makes for a much fuzzier gender identity for her. Mix that with other implied lifestyle issues, and you have confused kids running around – further eroding the status and number of the few stable two-parent (mom & dad, that is!) homes.

    “…we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

  66. Matt W.
    August 16, 2008 at 10:44 am


    Best I could do on one google search,


  67. Julie M. Smith
    August 16, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Matt, have you been following the conversation on ACP?

    They also play fast and loose with the data. I only checked one example, and here’s what I found:

    They wrote this sentence: “Children reared in homosexual households are more likely to experience sexual confusion, practice homosexual behavior, and engage in sexual experimentation.”

    With a footnote to a study titled “Adults raised as children in lesbian families.” Now here’s the abstract of that study:

    “A longitudinal study of 25 young adults from lesbian families and 21 raised by heterosexual single mothers revealed that those raised by lesbian mothers functioned well in adulthood in terms of psychological well-being and of family identity and relationships. The commonly held assumption that lesbian mothers will have lesbian daughters and gay sons was not supported by the findings.”

    I don’t have time to check their other notes, but I suspect it would be fun. :)

    (I would note that a study of 25 kids and a comparison of lesbian couples to single hetero mothers is a useless study, but my point here was to shed some light on ACP.)

  68. Matt Evans
    August 16, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Julie, the parenting outcomes of same-sex couples is germane, and would be germane for any ballot issue where one consequence would be an increase in children being raised in particular circumstances. If the ballot issue were reducing the marriage age from 18 to 14, it would be the same. I can’t vouch for any of the claims made in the ACP piece (but I have noticed lots of people falling for the logical fallacy of guilt-by-association), but I do note that at least in the case you cite, the information in the abstract doesn’t contradict the claims made by ACP.

  69. mike
    August 16, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I do a lot of camping with a large (80 boys) troop of non-LDS boy scouts. Some have single parents, generally women, raising them. One of the big reasons that single mothers have their sons in boy scouts is because of the male influence they desire for their boys that is reduced in their homes. I don’t know how you measure it in a way that would be published in professional journals, but it is real. They don’t generally take them to quilting bees or their modern equivalent. Those who have spent significant time with boys while they are away from their mothers for a few days knows what I am talking about. I think I could pick out boys who have very little male influence at home with good (but not perfect) accuracy after camping with them for a week.

    The LDS church policy discourages their boy scouts from camping with adult women. I have always assumed this was to prevent unlikely sexual encounters between the male and female adults. But this discussion causes me to wonder if there is something else behind it. Our non-LDS troop allows the mothers to go camping and on the surface the presence of a woman has a definite civilizing influence. The boys keep the potty talk down, are not as aggressive, don’t get as dirty and are easier to manage. We have never gone camping with only women as leaders, that might be really interesting. I expect the older sons of the women leaders would probably have to shoulder the ringing in of the most rowdy boys who would think they could get away with more mayhem.

    I spent 12 days in the northern Minnesota boundary waters with 10 boy scouts and the only other adult leader was an attractive divorced mother. I believe this is a fairly unique experience for an LDS youth leader. Compared to other crews who went, I was impressed with how much more like a big family our crew functioned in contrast to others that functioned more like a military expedition. Everybody had a great time, we didn’t try to set any mileage records but layed around camp talking quite a bit (which really frustrated me at the time), we didn’t follow the itinery closely or all of the rules, we were pretty cautious not taking very many risks (except that 80 foot cliff we males all jumped off of into the lake) and we made sure the food was a good as it could be and it was amazing. Some would describe this as a “chickification” of the camping trip.

    But what would it be like with two women leaders? Our two strongest boys ended up not being able to carry the 80 lb canoes on the half mile portages, one with foot rot and the other with mono. I have a bad back so I had to make the medium strength boys buck up. I don’t know how we got across some of those larger lakes with a stiff cold wind in our faces, 3 foot waves and exhausted boys. And what would a woman have done in my place after my son ditched me on a rock a mile from the lake shore and made me swim back? Would that have been as funny? Throw a few teenage girls and children into the mix and things could get complicated and difficult in a hurry.

    Life is not exactly like a big camping trip. But I think that the strongly differing influences of both men and women is more adaptive in meeting all of the challenges that are thrown in our paths. The proof and articulation of this is difficult; but common sense and experience with youth makes it obvious.

  70. Julie M. Smith
    August 16, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Matt, if you want parenting outcomes to be germane, you’re going to be in a world of hurt when the studies pour in in 10-20 years showing that SSM parents don’t uniformly produce mass murderers. It is currently irresponsible to make a claim about outcomes that evidence simply doesn’t support.

    And I’m surprised that you don’t see any difference between “more likely to experience sexual confusion, practice homosexual behavior, and engage in sexual experimentation” and “The commonly held assumption that lesbian mothers will have lesbian daughters and gay sons was not supported.”

    mike, I stated before that personal anecdotes aren’t real useful here. Further, I’m guessing that the challenges to the modern family have less to do with carrying heavy things than with situations where neither males nor females have natural advantages.

  71. Matt Evans
    August 16, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Julie, it won’t hurt me or the church at all if and when studies show that SSM parenting outcomes equal those of church-standard marriages; it will only remove (or shift) a public argument. We’ll be just as “hurt” by studies showing that second-hand smoke is harmless, and that computer-assisted automobiles allow drunks to drive safely. The only consequence for the church in either case is that one of their public rationales will no longer be a factor in public policy, which is just as it should be.

    Given your self-admitted supericial familiarity with the state of SSM parenting research, your claim that the church’s claim is irresponsible appears to be irresponsible itself. Or at least premature — you’ve apparently read only a single paragraph abstract from a single citation in the ACP footnotes which purport to sustain the church’s argument.

    Regarding the specific claim of ACP’s vs. the abstract’s conclusion: even if children raised by same-sex couples are no more likely to ultimately identify as homosexual, those children may still be more likely to experience sexual confusion, practice homosexual behavior, and engage in sexual experimentation. In other words, the abstract’s conclusion doesn’t contradict the ACP’s claim.

  72. Julie M. Smith
    August 16, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Matt, if you don’t think making arguments later shown to be false will hurt you or the church, I’m not sure if there is anything more I can say to you.

  73. James
    August 16, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Julie wrote:
    “And I’m surprised that you don’t see any difference between ‘more likely to experience sexual confusion, practice homosexual behavior, and engage in sexual experimentation’ and ‘The commonly held assumption that lesbian mothers will have lesbian daughters and gay sons was not supported.'”

    The money line here is “not supported.” There is a huge difference between some hypothesis being not supported in a study and the hypothesis not being true. Research never proves anything in the social sciences, it only suggests that there is information in limited situations that may support a theory. Because of this, there is always a risk that researchers will skew studies to support what they want to support.

    What this means is that researchers can publish whatever they want to support their particular party line. The truth and what is right can and sometimes does reside elsewhere.

  74. Matt Evans
    August 16, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Julie, if the arguments are valid now then it’s acceptable to use them now. You fear that future studies may prove that raising children in an environment consistent with the gospel provides no demonstrable benefits to children, but the church doesn’t believe that.

  75. Julie M. Smith
    August 16, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Matt, I give up. You’ve misrepresented my argument for a dozen comments now.

  76. Timer
    August 16, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Nice post, Julie!

    I know a lesbian couple (both highly educated professionals and extremely devoted parents) with children who are good friends of my children.

    Without waiting for all the data to come in, I can say that it’s pretty obvious that, by just about any standards the world can measure (test scores, income, social responsibility, relationship stability, etc.), these kids are going to be just fine.

    And I don’t think the prophetic statements really contradict this. They mainly stress that marriage between a man and a woman is sacred and part of God’s eternal plan. But could it be that these kids will do just fine in this life and still be missing out on something important to the eternities? It’s perfectly consistent to believe that the answer is yes while remaining skeptical or dismissive of the really bad science that sometimes gets tossed around to support anti-SSM arguments (even if an occasional reference or two to this stuff somehow finds its way into an LDS press release).


    For a hypothetical, imagine that there had been a couple of poorly executed and subsequently discredited studies linking tea consumption to athlete’s foot and that:

    1. Your bishop says, “I’d like to remind you that the Word of Wisdom bans tea.”
    2. The prophet says, “I’m concerned about the number of members who are still drinking tea. The Lord has been very clear on this matter.”
    3. An apostle says, “Tea remains a problem in our society, and I’m particularly worried by some of the things I’ve been reading about athlete’s foot.”
    4. LDS Newsroom says, “The LDS church prohibits drinking tea. Studies have linked tea to athlete’s foot.”

    I suspect that Matt and Julie would agree that it would be dishonest to (based on 1, 2, 3, and 4 alone) climb to your rooftop and shout “Tea causes athlete’s foot!” through a megaphone, especially if all of the (admittedly limited) data you had personal access to seemed to suggest otherwise.

  77. Ryan
    August 17, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Matt, where did that come from? That\’s way out there, dude. Couldn\’t have seen that one coming with a telescope.

  78. Ray
    August 17, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Matt, that was my son, and I’m afraid he inherited my sense of humor. I will talk with him about his comment to you. He is new to the Bloggernacle, and comments like that . . . (although it does illustrate the difficulty of teaching proper behavior to our kids, I guess)

  79. Matt Evans
    August 17, 2008 at 3:01 am

    Julie, I suspect the brethren actually believe that children “do best in families with a mother and father.” This is consistent with the Proclamation on the Family and everything they ever say about the importance of mothers and fathers. This belief would make them very sympathetic to research supporting that claim, like that cited in the ACP footnotes, and resistant to your assertion that future studies will likely show SSM parenting outcomes to match or surpass those of families with a mother and father, after controlling for independent variables and circumstances the church also opposes, such as having children before marriage (in other words, when SSM is compared to the gospel-standard family: mother and father, marriage before carriage).

    If this is the end of the exchange, I’ll sum up my comments: the most likely reason the brethren make the claim that SSM is bad for children is that they believe it, because they believe that children really do do best with both a mother and father. They are right to make reference to studies supporting their claim because they’re engaged in a public policy campaign.

  80. Julie M. Smith
    August 17, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Matt, I guess you didn’t see #74. And you’re still misrepresenting my arguments.

  81. Naismith
    August 17, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    I see a bit of a parallel here with church counsel that mothers of small children be at home with them during those formative years. In my experience, that counsel has NEVER been backed up with sociological studies on how that is better for the children. In fact, some studies show that children are better off in day care.

    Also, I think any argument against gay marriage based on parenting is inherently weak, since such a small percentage of gay couples even choose to become parents (although more are raising children from a previous heterosexual relationship).

  82. Matt W.
    August 17, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I don’t know much about the ACP, I just googled it. Are they a legitimate medical science group or a political cover with an official sounding title?

    The paper may in fact reflect both the prospectus and the sound bite they drew from it, at any rate.

  83. Jonovitch
    August 18, 2008 at 12:16 am

    wondering (52), I’m right there with you that prophets are men and have to work things out, think out loud, make decisions on their own, etc.

    At the same time, I kinda get the feeling that Richard Bushman (since you mentioned him) and most everyone else around here (since you mentioned all of us) would kinda sorta agree that when a prophet is acting/speaking/writing in his official capacity as a prophet, he is doing so under the direction of the Spirit. And that when 15 of the Lord’s prophets, seers, and revelators act/speak/write as one (the significance of this point cannot be overstated), they are most definitely doing so with just a smidgen of inspiration.

    I’m not saying that the heavens opened to them, but I don’t think it’s too much to assume that the Proclamation was inspired. This was not an anonymous correlation committee’s best effort at a compromise that was inserted into some lesson manual; it was a unanimous, consensus opinion, signed by each of them, written as one body (and in the name of the Church), and published to the entire world. I just don’t see how that happens without help or approval from above. In fact, for a group of men to claim to do otherwise would be a rather audacious act.

    So, sure, a prophet puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us, but when every living prophet unites to solemnly proclaim to the world with one voice, it’s more than just a simple rehash. Prophets have been restating and clarifying for millenia without explicitly citing what has been revealed to them. Does every prophetic pronouncement (especially one with such authoritative weight as this one has) really need to come with a legal disclaimer detailing to what extent it was (or was not) done by inspiration or revelation, so that we know how much importance we should assign to it? And are we really going to pit the conjecture of modern apologetics against the unanimous, published, signed, solemn Proclamation of every single one of the living prophets?


  84. MikeInWeHo
    August 18, 2008 at 2:35 am

    re: 80

    Please see my comment #61, Matt. The ACP is a conservative political group with a misleading name to boot. It has no legitimacy. Their footnotes reference Nicolosi, for goodness sake! Do a little research, friends. (Nicolosi makes Dr Phil look like Freud…..)

  85. Velska
    August 18, 2008 at 7:52 am

    The problem with sociological (or psychological) studies is that they can usually be designed to give the desired outcome. Sociology is becoming like religion or politics, where you have your partisans quoting whatever supports their point of view. If you don’t believe me just look at how opposing sides can quote the same studies and make diametrically opposed conclusions.

    The Newsroom post on The Divine Institution of Marriage does not read like a doctrinal statement; it is more of an argument in a campaign, designed to give those, who don’t share our faith, some arguments from a broader perspective.

    All the same, most experienced therapists think that the presence of both mother and father is what it takes for children to develop their gender identity and emotional balance. They may not all have the benefit of quantitative analysis (which has its weaknesses), but they see the results of broken homes, violence, substance abuse etc. and they see which family backgrounds are disproportionately represented. The APA has been hijacked by gay activists.

  86. nasamomdele
    August 18, 2008 at 9:43 am

    The context is being missed. The Church Uses the evidence/research provided in order to show that current traditional defintions of “marriage” are ideal, as far as we know, and most beneficial for children when there are 1) 2 parents, and 2) a male and a female parent. The fact that SSM is not mentioned in the paragraphs, and the fact that the title of the section is “The Divine Institution of Marriage” should steer us from “The Church is talking about SSM” to “This is the part that will sound like the proclamation.”

    The Church has to include this paragraph. If not, the Church doesn’t provide much support for marriage in general: 1) God says so and 2) It’s been this way forever (if you believe the Bible).

    Many of the comments have addressed the idea that it is probably not enough for some people to have the Church say, “God told us so.” That’s fine, unless we’re somehow in a position to criticize testimony. I think defining marriage first and foremost is necessary for such a commentary, and I think the Church sought to do so in this section of the Commentary, no more. The arguments for the amendment only follow after.

    The Church is not saying “SSM is wrong because of this research”, they are saying “marriage is right because of this…” And we can’t say, “well we shouldn’t have to go by some research, we have revelation.” That’s not enough for many people and such a statement comes off as judgmental.

  87. Adam Greenwood
    August 18, 2008 at 10:07 am

    What arguments do you support, Julie S.? Have you ever put forth a positive argument? It seems your support mostly consists of attacking arguments of your “fellow supporters.”

  88. Julie M. Smith
    August 18, 2008 at 10:16 am

    nasamomdele, I’m not sure what context you are talking about; this post isn’t about the recent Newsroom statement; it is about an argument that I’ve seen in numerous places. What you describe (i.e., statistical data as preamble) isn’t what I was addressing in the original post.


    For me personally, the buck starts and stops with “the prophet said so.” Obviously, that won’t carry water in the public sphere. I think it very telling that the only secular “argument” in the FP letter that went out in CA was that the people of CA have made their opinion on this issue clear and that was overturned by a court. So if I were discussing this in the public sphere in CA, that’s the main angle I would take. Also see comment #63 above (second paragraph) for my thoughts on how I would approach this in the public sphere. Third reason: I think a good case could be made that the definition of marriage has been virtually uniform across time and cultures and that any tinkering we do with it may have unanticipated consequences, therefore it makes sense to spend at least a few decades watching what impact SS couples have on society before we completely legitimate those relationships.

  89. Julie M. Smith
    August 18, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Sorry, wasn’t finished.

    Adam, I’m sorry if this post struck you as unduly negative, but I am seriously concerned that because the Saints have decided that SSM is bad for reasons that are primarily theological but they need to defend that stance in CA using reasons that are primarily secular, that we are about to see the emergence of all sorts of ideas that may embarrass the members of the church and/or create folkloric doctrine that will cause problems down the road.

  90. fmhjanet
    August 18, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Interesting stuff, Julie. Thanks. While I don’t “get” the church’s position and thus experience significant cognitive dissonance on the subject, I’m far more uncomfortable with the laymember need to take church counsel and “improve upon it” by providing logic which may or may not have anything to do with the GA’s opinions or with God’s. In other words, exactly what you locate as problematic in comment 87. We saw it happen with the priesthood ban; I was raised with some pretty funktastically racist notions passed along as doctrine. I still don’t know the reason for the ban. Don’t know if I ever entirely will until I meet God. Same goes for the church’s position on SSM. But I’m *really* nervous about embracing secular conjecture regarding a religious stance. Especially when a lot of that conjecture seems to run contrary to other significant church counsel.

  91. Matt Evans
    August 18, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    “we are about to see the emergence of all sorts of ideas that may embarrass the members of the church and/or create folkloric doctrine”

    Such as?

  92. Julie M. Smith
    August 18, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Matt, you’ve read the comments here. You know what I mean. There are more bad anti-SSM arguments out there, of course, but those are posts for another day.

  93. ECS
    August 18, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    I enjoyed this post, Julie. Regardless of how one views homosexuality, it is not the moral responsibility of the child to police her parents’ behavior. As we continue to deny the benefits of marriage to children already being raised in same-sex households, we are continuing to punish children for the “sins” of their parents.

  94. fmhjanet
    August 18, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    “it is not the moral responsibility of the child to police her parents’ behavior. ”


  95. Matt Evans
    August 18, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    The only “bad” anti-SSM argument I saw mentioned here is the church’s position that children do best in families with a mother and father. No matter how much a member is embarrassed by this position of the church, they shouldn’t blame SSM for it because the church’s position is several thousand years old.

  96. Julie M. Smith
    August 18, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    ECS brings up an interesting point: given that no state prohibits SS couples from raising children, the issue isn’t whether SS or hetero couples are better for children; the issue is whether married SS or unmarried SS couples are better for children. And whether SS marriage would encourage more SS couples or fewer SS couples to raise children (or have no impact). And lots of other issues with lots of other possibilities. I think all of these are reasons why we need more info before we constitutionalize SSM over the objection of CA voters, but none of which is warrant for making bad arguments against SSM.

  97. ECS
    August 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    To follow up with one of your arguments – an Indiana court has reasoned that children born to or adopted by same-sex couples are better off than children “accidentally” born to dual-gender couples. In fact, the court makes the argument that same-sex relationships that bear or adopt children are inherently so stable that they do not need the institution of marriage to provide a stable environment for their children.

    I’ll quote the reasoning at length:

    “Those persons who have invested significant time, effort and expense associated with assisted reproduction or adoption may be seen as very likely to be able to provide such an environment, with or without the “protections” of marriage, because of the high leve of financial and emotional commitment exerted in conceiving or adopting a child or children in the first place. By contrast, procreation by “natural” reproduction may occur without any thought for the future. The State, first of all, may legitimately create the institution of opposite-sex marriage, and all the benefits accruing to it, in order to encourage male-female couples to procreate within the legitimacy and stability of a state-sanctioned relationship and to discourage unplanned, out-of-wedlock births resulting from “casual” intercourse.” See Morrison v. Sadler

  98. Julie M. Smith
    August 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Good grief, Matt, why do you persist in misrepresenting my arguments? I never said any such thing, but yet you persist. This is why I tried to bow out of any further conversation with you. I’ll try again.

  99. Adam Greenwood
    August 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    the buck starts and stops with “the prophet said so.”

    This is a long-standing disagreement of ours. I think the Saints not only can but ought to try to reason out the meaning, purpose, and implications of revelations. I would even go further and say that in fact everyone does do this, except for a few hot-button issues like SSM.

  100. Julie M. Smith
    August 18, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    “I think the Saints not only can but ought to try to reason out the meaning, purpose, and implications of revelations.”

    Of course they should. But there’s a big difference between trying to reason things out in your own mind and presenting the results of that reasoning as if it were *the* reason why the church adopted a position. Have we learned nothing from the priesthood ban folklore?

  101. Adam Greenwood
    August 18, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    There is a difference between saying ‘this is *the* reason for doctrine X’ and ‘the Church says that this is *the* reason for doctrine X.” The second is an objectionable, if it misstates the Church’s position. The first is just a truth claim like any other truth claim.

  102. fmhjanet
    August 18, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Adam — since you’re the most anti-ssm person I kindasorta a little bit “know,” here’s a question: why do you suppose, in light of the church officially offering the reason to which you point, so many members do indeedy find a need to extrapolate, explicate, and “improve”? Is it defensiveness or what? I find myself doing it with some issues as well, but am at a loss with the SSM. Everything I’ve heard added has made us sound less loving and not more so. It’s a strategy which, while often also logically specious, seems to be counterproductive. (My personal fave consists of, and this paraphrases hardly at all: “all gays are pedophiles and the church is just too nice to say that. So they keep it with ‘Gays are bad for kids.'” Which, of course, is also not what the church says.) I realize liberals such as me are equally guilty of inventing reasons for things and further muddying the waters, but I’m interested in the opinion of a conservative fellow totally at peace with the church’s stance on this one. Thanks muchly!

  103. Adam Greenwood
    August 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I’m not sure the Church has officially offered a reason, exactly. Even if so, I don’t think that precludes other reasons. My take is that the SSM issue is pretty new and collectively we’re at the “reason it out in your mind” stage. Also, to the extent folks who are conservative religiously are also conservative politically, these folks probably already had reasons for opposing SSM before the Church weighed in and likely have seen no reason in current Church pronouncements to discard their prior thinking.

  104. Matt Evans
    August 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Julie, forgive me for being dense, but given that you wrote this post to highlight the church’s claim that “SSM is bad for children because studies show that children do best in families with a mother and father” as a bad argument, and in comment 87 of this post expressed your concern that SSM will lead to “all sorts of ideas that may embarrass the members of the church and/or create folkloric doctrine,” I understood these two points to be connected, namely, that the church is making bad arguments in the name of defeating SSM that will embarrass members or create folk doctrine, and that the “children do best in families with a mother and father” is example numero uno. What did you mean for me to understand?

  105. Joseph D. Walch
    August 18, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    The church isn’t anti-science (otherwise, I’d have to quit my job). The church isn’t anti-self-evident truth either. I have no problem with the church using scientific examples from agriculture (e.g. the law of the harvest) to lend support to abstract principles of faith and repentance. I have no problem saying that I have recieved inspiration to accept a job, move to a certain city, walk down a certain street and that I know it was God’s will that I did so because x and x.

    I have a problem with the epistemology that says that no spiritual principle has any bearing on natural law or science because 1) it is flat out wrong, and 2) it compartmentalizes the influence of the Holy Ghost to a small box that says “no sociological, political, environmental, scientific truth allowed,” and that is simply wrong in my opinion. I can be inspired in my medical research, and my medical research can inspire my religious devotion. I don’t have to live as a double-minded man.

    I wonder, Julie, if your materialistic sensibilities are offended when Pres. Monson shares stories about being led to a certain floor in a certain hospital in a strange land only to find his boyhood friend who needed a blessing. The fact of the matter is, that all truth can be circumscribed into one universality be it scientifc proof validating marriage or religious proofs of the fundamental free-will of man. To try to separate them shows a tremendously immature ontology.

  106. fmhjanet
    August 18, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Adam, I would agree wholeheartedly with the thinking in your last sentence. That’s why it baffles me so much when such people insist, and quite forcefully, that the CHURCH’s reason is the same as whatever reason(s) they’ve held for a long time. Yet I keep hearing it happen. It’s a tich weird, and not good when those people ascribe claims such as the one I paraphrased above to the General Authorities. From such springs folk doctrines of great and odd proportions.

    Thanks for your response, BTW. Quite kind of you.

  107. Adam Greenwood
    August 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    J.D. Walch,
    I think you’re overreading the post. Julie S.’s sensibilities here aren’t materialistic at all. They are, if anything, pietistic.

  108. Joseph D. Walch
    August 18, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    One must ask oneself these essential questions:
    Are physical manifestations of moral/religious truth possible?
    Are physical manifestations of moral/religious truth relevant?
    Are physical manifestations of moral/religious truth helpful?

    If it is OK for Alma, Nephi, or Joseph Smith to remind people that Moses actually parted the Red Sea, or if it’s OK for the church to publish the accounts of the First Vision, or the Book of Mormon witnesses who claim to have seen, handled, or been shown the gold plates then what objection should we have against the church using statistics to reinforce the legal, and sociopolitical truth claims in the context of legislation and public policy? Really, I think this is pure non-sense. We aren’t the Catholic Church, this isn’t the 15th century, and the Gay Lobby isn’t Galileo.

  109. Joseph D. Walch
    August 18, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    105: Right then, incorrect choice of words. I was trying to use ‘materialist sensibilities’ negatively, as in a negative materialism that rejects physical proof as a support for any metaphysical moral law or principle.

    After looking up pietistic I think you’re word is much more apt.

  110. Julie M. Smith
    August 18, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Adam, yes, but the issue gets muddled here because we are not talking about private opinions expressed by saints but rather what the saints are saying in the public sphere to defend their views.

    Matt, there is a huge difference between the church’s position that children do best in a family with a mother and father (something I wholeheartedly agree with) and the object of this post, which is the rationale that “studies show that children do best in families with a mother and father” therefore SSM should be illegal.

    In the first place, studies don’t show that when you compare SS couples to two-parent hetero families; they show it when you compare the latter with single mothers. So to make this argument is to put a sign on your chest saying “I am willing to misrepresent scientific data to serve my own interests.”

    Secondly, the church’s position isn’t that studies show it; it is that God has commanded it. To use Naismith’s analogy, studies have never shown that children do better with a mother in the home; the church’s position there isn’t about sociology but theology (and I agree with it). The folklore aspect comes in when we start looking to sociology to justify our practices instead of theology. This is so incredibly dangerous because there is a decent chance, on any given issue, that the sociologists will someday disagree with the doctrine.

    Third, studies are very likely to show that children do better (or the same) with SS families, then we’ll look like hypocrites or idiots for having made the argument.

    Fourth, there’s the problem of transferring doctrine to the public sphere. Are you aware of church-supported initiatives to ban iced tea or R-rated movies or obscenities or divorce? We don’t automatically translate our theological beliefs into legal beliefs so the issue here is that our very clear theological belief that two-parent hetero families are best doesn’t automatically translate into saying that SSM should be illegal.

    Joseph D. Walch, Adam has it exactly right. I would also add that if good studies existed proving the claim, we’d be in a different discussion. But they don’t. I’ve asked for them since the OP, and no one has ponied up.

    Well. We are past our usual 100 comment cut-off, so I’ll close comments now. Thanks to all of you.

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