September 3, 2014

Essay 3 Co-Habitation Summation

by Pastor David Donoghue

Summary of Why Releasing Priesthood because of Cohabitation is Invalid

1.     No written policy. There is no written policy that states that priesthood members cannot live with their significant others prior to marriage.

2.     No law, no punishment (Standard of Authority). There is a written policy (actually, a higher document, a world church resolution) that states that the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Inspired Version form the “standard of authority” of the church, which is defined as:

“the standard of authority on all matters of church government and doctrine, and final standard of reference on appeal in all controversies arising, or which may arise in this Church of Christ” –World Conference Resolution 215

This issue (of releasing priesthood for this reason) is of course tied to both controversy and doctrine, and therefore, the presidency should differ to the final standard of appeal (our three books of scripture).

With this in mind, it is to be noted that the Book of Mormon states:

“where there is no law given there is no punishment” –2 Nephi, chapter 6, verse 51

As noted in #1, there is no written policy, therefore, as per the verse cited above, there should be no punishment.  To inflict a punishment would therefore place church leadership in conflict with the standard of authority, and therefore be in violation of world church resolution #215 (and sacred canon).

Note: Technically, a church law and church policy need not be considered one and the same, but the principle of not punishing someone in the absence of a law obviously should apply to policies.

Be careful with using this defense, as the church may respond that there are scriptures that state that premarital sex is wrong , and therefore, the “standard of authority” could be used against you.   But, that of course can only be the case if a presumption is made.  What is the reason you were released?  Because of a presumption?

3.     Unwritten policies cannot be valid or tested. World Church holds the position that an unwritten policy exists regarding this issue.  However, an unwritten policy cannot be viewed as being more authoritative than written policies (which will be referenced below), or church law (as laid out in scripture, see #2).

How do you test an unwritten policy?  You can't because it is unwritten.

If an unmarried couple go on vacation together, sharing the same room, are they in violation?  If a couple share a home but have opted or separate bedrooms, are they in violation?  Different people will have different opinions, and no one can say who is strictly correct given that there is nothing written down.

What is the real cause for release?  Is it a presumption?  Can the church take disciplinary action for presumed conduct?

4.     Written Policies that Do Exist.  As noted in #3 an unwritten policy cannot be viewed as more authoritative than written policies, and there are some written policies that need to be take into consideration.

a.     The church's Statement of Sexual Ethics makes no mention of cohabitation being immoral.  We are told in this document, on page 3, section “H”, that: “Sexual ethics should be the same for all people without discrimination” The church now sanctions the ordination of individuals in committed, long term same-sex relationships, even in areas of the world where secular marriage is not available to them.  Shaun and Danica are also in a committed long term relationship, as evident by the fact that they are engaged, and have purchased a house.  The requirement is not marriage, but “committed, long term relationship” – which they are in.  To ignore this create hypocrisy.

b.     Section “A”, on page 4, states: “(In addition, we) Evaluate the morality of sexual activity by the degree of mature love, justice, covenant, and faithfulness present in a relationship.” Again, marriage is not a basis, according to the Statement of Sexual Ethics, for determining if a relationship is moral.  In fact, the statement goes on to describe, in section “C”, just what is immoral sexual activity: this is defined as: “selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive”.To suggest that any of these things apply to Shaun would be absurd.  Therefore, based on the standards of the church, Shaun does not warrant any disciplinary action.

c.     The Theological Foundations essay on Sin and Salvation states: “Doctrine and Covenants 164:6 … stresses that moral behavior and relationships should clearly, consistently, and totally respect the principles of “Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:6a).Section 164:6 describes sinful behaviors as attitudes, actions, and relationships that are “selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive” (164:6b). This is equally true for all types of relationships. From the perspective of Section 164:6, there should not be different standards in sexual ethics.”

d.     Section 164:6a ( ) also states: “As revealed in Christ, God, the Creator of all, ultimately is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable. Such relationships are to be rooted in the principles of Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness, against which there is no law.”

5.     Church Accountability.  The church itself is at fault because the church sanctions the ordination of young adults who are not married.  If we are going to insist that priesthood members not live with their significant others until marriage, than we probably should not ordain anyone until they are married, because the reality is, we will forever be mired in this situation.

6.     Universal Application.  There is also the question of applying such rigid unwritten polices universally.  Currently, they are not. But, if we want to prevent priesthood from cohabitating, then we need to also give consideration to all priesthood members who are married to divorcees.

7.      Real Reason for Release.  What is the real reason that Shaun was released?  Church leadership has taken the position that Shaun is in violation of an unwritten policy that requires priesthood members living with a significant other, prior to marriage, to be released.  But why?  Why is living under the same roof an issue?  What is really being said here?  Is the church stating that Shaun is unethical?  If not, than he should be reinstated.  If yes, why?  Why would living with his finance make him unethical?  Is sexual activity among unmarried people regarded as unethical?  If so, by whom?  Society no longer has such views.  Secular law protects the rights of people in common law relationships.  The law would not protect the rights of a conduct deemed by society as immoral.  Also, is it right to take action against someone based on a presumption?

What about people who are not in the priesthood, but who are living together before marriage?  If that situation is *so* utterly unacceptable that it would require priesthood to be revoked, than it should also be the cause for someone to lose the right to preach, be in a choir, say a prayer, teach Sunday school, etc.  In fact, they should be denied communion.  However, if the church leadership does not feel such restrictions are required, than clearly the leadership would be in violation of the polices cited in 4a.