The law that God gave to ancient Israel was pretty clear and unambiguous: divorce isn’t part of the program. Then the people sued Moses for a bill of divorcement. I have no idea what that conversation between Moses and God was like. Maybe it had parallels to the one where Moses talked God out of destroying the Israelites and starting over. Whatever the conversation, God granted the petition and gave Moses that bill of divorcement.
Then came Jesus of Nazareth. Divorce was a normal part of society in his day (even if not anything like divorce in our day). And Jesus spoke out in straightforward and unambiguous terms. Divorce was granted because of the people’s unrighteousness. Because they weren’t willing to keep the higher law. But together Moses and God had realized it was better for our people overall to grant the bill.
I personally believe in that original law, reiterated by Christ. I believe that divorce is not part of the Eternal Plan. But I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that our Church is not struggling with this in the same way that the Catholic Church is currently struggling with it. I think we are able to better fulfill the goals of this dispensation and in our personal families not only because we universally grant this exception to the Eternal Law as we understand it, but also because we don’t think we need to look down on or alienate or make uncomfortable or not baptize or not give callings to or otherwise exclude those who have gone through divorce (or their children).[fn1]
If we can grant a universal exception to an Eternal Law that is at the very heart of our doctrine of Eternal Families and that Jesus publicly commented on without ambiguity (i.e., divorce), then can we grant a similar exception to that Eternal Law on a condition that did not exist in Jesus’s day and about which he never made a scriptural comment (i.e., same sex marriage)?
Theologically, it’s clear we can. That is, divorce makes it absolutely clear that we’ve got plenty of room to be completely consistent and maintain full continuity with our past and our eternal doctrines while changing our practical operations — especially since the scriptural record is so explicitly biased against divorce and comparatively silent about same sex marriage.
I don’t believe that the outcry over the last few days has been any less significant a petition to the Lord’s prophet than was that of ancient Israel to Moses. I also don’t believe our current leaders are any less willing to listen. May we all be patient as we wait upon the Lord.
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- Alas, I know this isn’t true in every case, and CES isn’t the only one excluding or treating as second-class citizens those that are divorced. But I don’t think either our leaders or our laws or our general operations or the majority of our people do this. The overwhelming majority of the stories I hear are about ward families putting their arms around and loving and including those who’ve gone through divorce — and this is clearly our rhetoric. We’re not perfect, and I know personally those who’ve really struggled feeling like the church doesn’t do as well as they should in loving divorced families. We still have room for improvement. But I believe that compassion is the norm, even when we’re not terribly good at it, and bigotry on this level is the exception.