As I was doing research tonight for an article on the law of chastity, I came across something interesting that has to do with same-sex “marriage.” Having been through the temple, I knew that the law of chastity is defined for us there, so I went to ldsendowment.org to get the exact text of the definition of the law of chastity. It was then that I noticed the following:
Pre-1990 definition of the law of chastity
We are instructed to give unto you the law of chastity. This I will explain. To the sisters, it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse (1) except with your husband to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. To the brethren it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse except with your wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. (2) [Taken from this page.]
[Footnotes: (1) 1. The 1990 revision speaks of sexual “relations” rather than sexual “intercourse.” (2) 2. The 1990 revision does not have women and men covenant separately to keep the law of chastity. Instead, women and men simultaneously covenant to have no sexual relations except with their “husband or wife” to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded. This revision was no doubt made to streamline the ceremony. However, the new wording has the presumably unintended consequence of bringing same-sex marriages–if legalized–within the pale of the law of chastity.]
1990 definition of the law of chastity
We are instructed to give unto you the law of chastity, which is that each of you shall have no sexual relations except with your husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. [Taken from this page.]
Now, I have always assumed that the 1990 definition had a way out of permitting same-sex “marriage” in its use of the words “legally and lawfully.” Essentially, I figured that “legally” meant it was permitted by the State and that “lawfully” meant it was according to the laws of God. In other words, that a matrimony could not break the law of chastity with one another as long as their marriage was right with the State and also right with God.
However, I am no lawyer. And I wonder if I am wrong in my assessment of the meaning of “legally” and “lawfully.” I wonder if the temple definition could be used against the Church by church members, who, given the current marriage situation in certain States of the Union, decide to “marry” another church member of the same sex, legally (and lawfully?) If the Church tries to take action against these members, saying that they are openly fornicating (breaking the law of chastity), and attempting to get them disfellowshipped or excommunicated, what would happen if these same members brought up the current temple definition of the law of chastity in their defense, stating that as they are married, they are complying with the law of God? And if the Church disregarded such a defense, could these members take this to the law of the land (the State) and say, “Look at the definition of the law of chastity which we received in the temple and see that we have fully complied with that definition, thus, the Church is in error, not us?”
There is no doubt that the pre-1990 definition excludes same-sex “marriage.” But does the 1990 definition do the same? If it doesn’t, meaning, if the wording is not sufficient to exclude it, and if the temple definition can be used as a defense in a lawsuit, the Church may be in for some legal trouble should any members decide to engage in legalized, same-sex “marriage” or, perhaps, if any non-member, same-sex “matrimony” decides to investigate the Church and desires baptism without first divorcing.
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