ALERT NEWS Massive! 6 0 EARTHQUAKE just struck MIDDLE EAST, CYPRUS TURKEY
The Hobbit, The Plan, and the Gay Marriage Ban
A short time ago a friend and I watched the latest movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit. I first read The Hobbit as a freshman in college, and more recently I have been reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Just in case you weren’t aware, this Tolkien fellow was neither a slouch nor a pushover. It seems as though he also kept good company. For example, toward the end of his semi-autobiographical work entitled Surprised by Joy, Clive Staples Lewis described Tolkien’s influential role in his own conversion to Christianity. Elsewhere, in a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves, Lewis explained: “I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ, in Christianity… My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a great deal to do with it.”
One portion of The Hobbit 2 depicts the good wizard Gandalf in direct confrontation with the forces of darkness and evil. There is a remarkable scene in which Gandalf enters a dark and cursed castle, thrusts his staff into the ground, and utters an incantation of light to call forth the enemies hidden in darkness. Unafraid, Gandalf is encircled by an orb of light that presses up against the dark powers of Morgoth and Sauron. This encounter is emblematic of something else that Tolkien’s friend C.S. Lewis once wrote: “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.” (Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 11)
Of course, like the great Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, the dwarves and the elves were fighting other forms of evil on other fronts. Bilbo eventually came face to face with the terrible dragon Smaug, in whose scaly armor he perceived a small chink through which a shaft of a skilled archer might pass. Precision, courage, perseverance, strength and skill were needed for each of Tolkien’s protagonists to resist the encroaching evil. As Tolkien’s tales indicate, and as the movie also makes clear, the first step for Bilbo and his band was to identify and to understand the nature of the enemy. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was also a theme in the movie based on Orson Scott Card’s science fiction classic Ender’s Game.
Recently U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby refused to delay his ruling to strike down a voter approved ban on same-sex marriage in the state of Utah, a choice that has resulted in much contention. Unsurprisingly, Shelby’s decision unleashed a torrent of celebrations among LGBT supporters and a backlash from supporters of marriage as defined as the union of one man and one woman. Many on both sides of the debate were surprised to see such a decision made so soon in the highly conservative state of Utah. Homosexual couples scrambled to be the first in line to obtain a new marriage license. Some joined in the festivities, while others expressed their strong disapproval of the judge’s decision. On the surface there appeared to be a contest between those who support the choice of homosexuals to marry, and those who oppose this choice… but the reality of the conflict, just like Tolkien’s tales, goes much deeper than that.
Those who are familiar with the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand that during a pre-mortal council in heaven, God, our Father in Heaven, presented a plan called the Great Plan of Happiness. This plan, also known as the Plan of Salvation, would enable God’s children to come to earth, to obtain a physical body, and to gain earthly experience for the purpose of progressing toward perfection and eternal life. As part of this plan, children of God would be endowed with the gift of moral agency, or in other words, the power to choose between good and evil. Knowing that His children would not always choose good over evil, or in other words, knowing that His children would sometimes sin, Heavenly Father appointed a Savior, Jesus Christ, to rescue His erring children from sin and lead them toward salvation. Jesus Christ was chosen to provide the Way (through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) for God’s children to return to His presence and, with Him, to partake of the gift of eternal life. By infinite Divine love and through unfathomable suffering, God the Father offered His perfect Son Jesus Christ as a ransom for the sins of the world. Jesus Christ descended below all things, thus comprehending all things and retaining all power to redeem the penitent from suffering and the effects of sin in a fallen world. (see D&C 88:6)
The first and most basic undergirding principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News, is that God, our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ, love and bless all of God’s children: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:30)
During the same pre-mortal council, Lucifer came before God saying “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will dredeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely eI will do it; wherefore fgive me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1) In contrast, Jesus Christ, who was Beloved and Chosen from the beginning said “cFather, thy dwill be done, and the eglory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2) What happened next set the stage for a battle that has ensued ever since this great pre-mortal council: “Wherefore, because that aSatan brebelled against me, and sought to destroy the cagency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be dcast down; And he became aSatan, yea, even the bdevil, the father of all clies, to ddeceive and to blind men, and to lead them ecaptive at his will, even as many as would not fhearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:3-4)
When he was not chosen, this same Satan, also called the Devil, became angry and drew many of God’s children away after him. (Abraham 3:28) In fact, he turned a third part of the hosts of heaven away from God, because of their agency. (D&C 29:36, Revelation 12:3-4) A war ensued in which Michael and his angels fought against Satan, the dragon. Satan was cast out of heaven, into the earth, and his followers were cast down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9) Ever since that time, Satan and his followers have continued to fight against God, attempting to frustrate and, if possible, to destroy the Great Plan of Happiness, or the Plan of Salvation. As part of their punishment, Satan and his followers were denied the privilege of obtaining a body, and they were denied the privilege of experiencing the physical joys and sorrows of mortality. They were thus damned, or halted in their progress toward godliness and eternal life. As one might imagine, they were not then, and are not still, very happy about this predicament.
But besides the important fact that he and his dark angels do not have bodies, there was at least one other major flaw in Satan’s cunning tactics. Like the chink in the scaly armor of the terrible dragon Smaug, Satan, the Devil, did not know the mind of God. (see Moses 4:6) At the dawn of creation, Satan sought to beguile Eve and to destroy the world. Because of this beguiling, God cursed Satan, putting enmity between him and the woman (and the woman’s seed) (Moses 4:20-21) From the earliest time in recorded history, Satan was continually fighting against God, against agency, and against the seed of the woman, striving to make men miserable as he is (2 Ne. 2:27). In other words, he has continually been fighting against all of us. He prowls about (D&C 10:27) like a ravenous lion (1 Peter 5:8), eager to stir up contention (3 Ne 11:29), hatred and animosity in the effort to destroy God’s plan and all those who chose to follow that plan. Every mortal being who has ever lived, who now lives, or who will yet live upon the earth at one time chose to follow Heavenly Father’s great Plan of Happiness.
Which brings us back to Tolkien and the debate swirling around the notion of same-sex marriage. In most cases, the antagonists in Tolkien’s stories are not human in form. Whether necromancers, wraiths, orcs or dragons, they are like unto the bodiless spirits of Satan and his followers. In many cases, they are the fallen counterparts of the hobbits and wizards. With spells and with weapons of evil, these dark creatures close in upon Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and later, upon the noble Frodo. But, as is ever the case, good eventually triumphs over evil. Light disperses darkness. Truth defeats falsehood. Pure love conquers hate. Moral agency, the gift to choose between good and evil, triumphs over subjugation, enslavement, coercion and force.
Tolkien’s peace loving Hobbits and kind wizards do not seek to stir up contention or oppress others. Bilbo Baggins and his band are as far from seeking war as the light of day is from the darkness of night. Their quest consists of resisting the onslaught of evil that lurks in the shadows, and the darkness that grows in strength. Similarly, God’s plan is not to stir up the hearts of men to anger and contention, but that such things should be done away. (3 Ne. 11:29-30) In order to do away with evil, however, one must begin, like Bilbo, or Frodo (and also Ender), on his journey to understand who the enemy really is and how he operates. Satan attempts to pit mortal beings one against another in a strife of words and a contest of opinions. (JS-H 1:6) Long ago Satan instigated a war in Heaven to destroy the agency of man, and he, that old serpent, continues to instigate and to fan the flames of that same war.
When Gandalf, Moses-like, struck his staff against the ground with a flash of white light, he called forth, rebuked, and cast out the being that was at the source of the growing darkness and evil. Similarly, the light of Christ reveals that the real enemy is not our fellow man, but Satan, the Father of Lies. This same light and truth reveals the dark tactics of the arch nemesis of mankind.
Some have tried to argue that the ban on same-sex marriage is a restriction of freedom or an affront to agency, but in reality, the opposite is true. Freedom of choice can only exist where there are choices, and choices lead inevitably in one of two directions: to better, more abundant choices, or toward fewer, less favorable choices. For example, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins obtained greater and more abundant choices by making good decisions, while Sméagol degenerated into Gollum by making poorer and poorer choices. The reason for this is that although each individual is free to choose between good and evil, no one is free to chose the consequences of a choice (2 Ne. 2). Consequences, whether large or small, whether individual or collective, flow naturally and directly from choices. Good consequences follow the choosing of good, and bad consequences follow the choosing of evil. Which means, necessarily, that there must be a difference between good and evil, and that human beings are born with the capacity to discern between the two. One of the major problems in today’s society is that, true to form, Satan has continued in his attempt to obscure the boundaries between good and evil. Not only this, but Satan, the Devil, and his followers, continue to try to make good appear evil while disguising evil as good. (see Isaiah 5:20) In other words, Satan has continued in his attempt to destroy the agency of man, or the power to choose. But he has at least one chink in his armor, because he does not know the mind of God.
But God has given mortals access, through the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets, to His mind and will. Some of the main questions to consider and discuss are “What is marriage?” “Is marriage good?” and “Why?” These questions have clear answers. Marriage is central to God, the Creator’s plan. In the first marriage on this earth, Heavenly Father brought Adam and Eve together and commanded them to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. In other words, God commanded the first man and the first woman to reproduce and to form a family. Thus, marriage was born, and thus it continued throughout the ages. Marriage was good, and God Himself said as much. (see Genesis 1-3) It was and is good because it God’s creation was organized through Jesus Christ to bring about the immortality and the eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39) In opposition to this very good arrangement, Satan sought to beguile the woman, to tempt the man, and to destroy the first family. With enmity, or hatred, he sought to bruise the heel of Eve and of her posterity. Satan, the Devil (as well as those who followed him out of Heaven), was and is supremely jealous of mortal beings with bodies who have the power to love one another, to procreate, to have joy, to progress, and to return to live with God in families. He is so jealous, in fact, that he, like the wicked beasts who prowl after Gandalf, Bilbo and their band, seeks any means possible to disrupt, alter, or destroy God’s plan.
In very recent history, certain individuals have proposed the rearrangement and the redefinition of marriage. Satan is attempting not only to destroy families, but to undermine the very meaning and substance of God’s greatest power, namely Love. Some have even sought to disguise this new arrangement as something good, and as something to be desired. Satan, the Father of Lies, has made it appear as though such alterations were not only good, but liberating, or a greater expression of love and freedom. Satan uses every means possible to make sin look appealing, to make wrong appear right, to make evil appear good. (see 2 Ne. 9:9) Such lies are not really new, for even the first family was beset with problems of a similar nature. Being deceived, Cain slew his brother Abel, and foolishly declared: “I am free; surely the bflocks of my brother falleth into my hands.” (Moses 5:33) In reality, Cain was not free. He had foolishly chosen hatred and enslavement to Satan, the Father of Lies. The consequences that followed Cain’s choice were not greater freedom and happiness, but bondage and misery. This is always the case with sin. Satan entices God’s children to think that by choosing evil and sin they will obtain greater freedom and greater happiness, but the result of such wrong choices is always less freedom and less happiness. Thus, in the choices between good and evil, good choices lead to greater freedom, whereas evil choices lead to less freedom.
The reality is that none of us, and not even Tolkien’s fantastic characters, is perfect, and all of us, at one time or another, whether through weakness or otherwise, choose sin. Sin is simply the failure to live up to the light and knowledge that God bestows upon his children. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy. (Romans 3:23) There are innumerable ways to sin, and Satan uses every means at his disposal to tempt mankind toward sin. (Mosiah 4:29) At the root of all sin is the primeval sin of Lucifer, namely, pride and enmity, born of selfishness. Because of pride, Lucifer sought to destroy the agency of man and to claim God’s glory for himself. Because of pride, Satan tempts God’s children and entices them to live contrary to the nature of happiness. This same pride is at the core of every sin, whether it be a sin of commission or a sin of omission, whether it be hatred, envy, malice, or the carnal sins of sexual immorality, including fornication, adultery or homosexuality. Fortunately for us, Heavenly Father knew that we would sin, and He provided a loving Savior, Jesus Christ, to rescue us and to redeem us from our sins on conditions of repentance. Heavenly Father’s love is always there, and there is always hope, through Christ’s Atonement, to repent and to turn away from sin. One of Satan’s despicable tactics is to tempt mortals into believing that there is no hope, that God does not love them, or that repentance is not possible. This is a lie. There is always hope.
Some may argue that “same-sex marriage is not a sin, and that those who call it such are bigots.” This is also a lie. Like the great Gandalf thrusting his staff to the ground with a call to the light, prophets called of God, both ancient and modern, have declared that “the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” (see The Family: A Proclamation to the World) These prophets, and those who heed their counsel, often get a bad rap, because no one likes to be told that their deeds are evil. (Helaman 13:26) Sometimes people are angry because the truth cuts to the center of their guilty hearts. (1 Ne. 16:2) But like Jesus Christ, the purpose of prophets and those who heed their counsel is to lovingly reach out and rescue souls from sin. There is nothing more charitable than this, for like Christ, they are willing to lay down their lives for the redemption of their fellows, whom they love. They forgive even those who trespass against them. Like Gandalf, like Bilbo, like Frodo, they are unafraid, because perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18, Mormon 8:16) In order to be saved, mankind must be made aware of his need for a Savior. This Savior, Jesus Christ, came not to condemn, but to save (Luke 9:56).
Others may say, “free agency is God’s plan.” This is a deceptive half truth. Agency is not free. It came as a gift with a terrible price. Without the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, there would be no agency and no possibility of returning to the presence of God. (2 Ne. 9:9) God’s plan was to provide a way, through Christ, for individuals to exercise their moral agency, or in other words, to choose between good and evil. Deviation from God’s plan, including the integral role of Jesus Christ and of marriage between a man and woman, is sin. One is always free to make sinful choices, but God’s plan is for all of His children to be enabled to make good choices. When individuals and groups of individuals make wrong choices, they impede not only their own freedom, but the freedom of others. Lifting the ban on same-sex marriage is a choice which, on the surface promises to “liberate” those who choose deviation from God’s plan, while ultimately enslaving those who choose it, tearing at the very fabric of society, even to the detriment of those who don’t choose it.
“But,” some will argue, “homosexuality is not a choice.” This is another deceptive half truth. Certainly it is a complex issue, one that we do not yet fully understand. But in mortality, God’s children are always free to choose. Both Bilbo and Sméagol were enticed by the power of the ring, but Bilbo, unlike Sméagol, who became Gollum, chose to use the ring for good purposes. While some may be more inclined, or more enticed toward particular sins, such as a homosexual lifestyle, none are forced to act upon homosexual desires. To say otherwise is to deny that individuals are free to choose, and is, to the delight of Satan and his followers, an attack on moral agency.
“But those who promote marriage between a man and a woman are hateful and will end up on the wrong side of history!” Wrong again. To promote marriage between a man and a woman always has been and always will be historically and otherwise the correct and most loving thing to do. Strong and loving marriages between a man and a woman create strong societies, and strong societies enable greater freedom. Those who promote healthy marriages between men and women are promoting the greater good and the freedom of all, including the freedom and happiness of those who oppose them. True love does away with the false notion that love simply means whatever we humans would like it to mean. True love is love that is strong enough to correct, to reprove, and if necessary, to chastise. True love seeks the best eternal interest of the beloved. Since God loves all of His children and knows what is in the best eternal interest of His children, it is well that we should trust Him, and not yield to the deceptions of Satan or the convoluted philosophies of men.
“But if two gay persons really love each other, why should you care that they get married? How does that hurt you?” This is another subtle lie, a half truth that threatens to destroy God’s plan as well as healthy societies. In the first place, as mentioned above, love does not mean doing whatever one likes with no regard for consequences. True love is patient, kind, forgiving, and virtuous. It rejoices in truth. (1 Cor. 13) Satan attempts to present a counterfeit love, under the guise of “self-fulfillment” or “self-actualization.” True love, on the other hand, is the bond between God and Christ, between God and His children, the bond between a man, his wife, and his family, the bond between brothers and sisters, the bond that unites mankind as friends. Love means desiring that which is in the eternal best interest of another, and sin, in any form, is the opposite of love. If two persons with homosexual inclinations truly love each other, they will seek that which is in the eternal best interest of the other, and sin is never in anyone’s best interest.
“But wait, if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married. Don’t legislate morality, and stop shoving religion down our throats!” This is one of the worst lies of all, and one of the most cunning and deceptive. It is the age old lie of Satan himself, that serpent who in dulcet tones whispers “all is well, there is no devil, there is no hell. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Eat drink and be merry, commit a little sin, there is no harm in this, and at last we shall be saved” (2 Ne. 28:7-8) When sin is being thrust down the throat of society, and many naturally respond with a gag reflex, why should they be accused of oppression? The reality is that the freedom and liberty that we most naturally and earnestly desire can only come when the choices between alternatives are crystal clear. In other words, in a loving environment, with compassion as well as understanding, true principles must be taught, retaught, maintained and upheld in order for correct choices to be made at all. Bilbo could not travel without wise counsel from trusted friends, without a map, and without provisions and weapons to sustain and protect him. Jesus Christ himself taught the true principles of loving God and loving one’s neighbor, and all other commandments were given in support these two great commandments. Jesus Christ legislated His divine morality through the first great commandment and the second great commandment. As the pre-mortal Jehovah, He legislated His morality through the ten commandments to the children of Israel. Western civilization was built upon the principles of this Judeo-Christian morality, and subsequent laws were developed to sustain this morality for the common good.
“But the United States has written into the Constitution a distinct separation of church and state.” This is a gross misunderstanding. The United States of America was founded upon principles to protect freedom of conscience and the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of conscience. This does not mean that faith and religion are to be excluded from the public sphere, or that these basic elements of a healthy society are to have no bearing on political decisions. Quite the opposite. What is to be separated is the state’s encroachments upon the religious freedoms of its citizens. Lifting the ban on same-sex marriage is tantamount to the government’s attempt to override the conscience of its citizens. It is not the place of government to redefine marriage, nor to enforce a redefinition through legislation. In other words, morality has already been legislated, first by God and then through good laws according to nature. Government has no right to legislate immorality. The attempt to do so, like the earlier attempts of English tyrants, will not continue without meeting fierce opposition.
“But it is a right to have gay marriage!” Says who? It is no one’s right to alter or abolish the definition of marriage for his or her own selfish purposes. God is the source of rights, and governments exist to secure those rights for the benefit and the common good of society. No one can invent a right and try to claim that right by force to the detriment of others.
“But you must be against progress! After civil rights we now need the right of gays to marry, and this is good because it is progress!” Bogus. The color of one’s skin has nothing to do with a choice to commit sin, and the choice to commit sin has nothing to do with any sort of progress. If anything, so-called same-sex marriage is a regression of the utmost absurdity and degeneracy. A sick society promotes sin as progress and evil as a right.
“But it just isn’t fair. What about equality? Aren’t you being a little harsh and judgmental?” Perhaps not harsh enough. The society in which we live has become permissive to such an extent that any voice in favor of principle and justice can be dismissed through petty ad hominem attacks and hollow epithets. If one truly understands the nature of sin, and the misery and inequality to which it leads, he or she would be even more ardently vocal against the prevailing winds of evil. The end of sin is to be ensnared by the enemy, Satan, and his legions in eternal misery, never to progress nor to obtain the joy of living with families in the presence of God. Wickedness never was happiness, nor will it ever be. (Alma 41:10)
The truth is that no matter who we are or what we have or haven’t done, Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy. Not only this, but He sent the Savior, Jesus Christ, to Atone for our sins. There is not an affliction, a temptation or a condition that He does not understand: “There hath no temptation ataken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be btempted above that ye are able; but will with the ctemptation also make a way to descape, that ye may be able to ebear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13) The Apostle Paul also declared: “ 15 For we have not an high priest awhich cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points btempted like as we are, yet without csin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
The word of God as contained in scripture and the teachings of the living prophets, the Plan of Salvation, and the inspiring tales of Tolkien, are a lens through which to view the nature of good and evil, and to encourage others toward correct choices. As I have indicated, the real enemy is Satan, the author of sin and hatred. Like Bilbo and his band (and Ender too), we need to understand the nature of that enemy, and perceive the chinks in his scaly armor. God loves all of His children. All men and women are our brothers and sisters who fight a great battle against sin. Therefore, like Tolkien’s characters, let us be united in resisting evil, by word and by deed. (Alma 61:14) And like Jesus Christ whom we each chose to follow in the pre-mortal council in Heaven, let us seek to do the will of God, to whom all glory is given.
The beauty of everything that I have just written and expounded upon is that these things of which the scriptures and the living prophets testify can be verified by each individual, personally and privately, through the medium of prayer. God loves each of His children and is more than willing to reveal Himself and His purposes to those who diligently seek Him. (1 Ne. 10:17) Thus no one need rely upon the opinions, whims or fancies of fallible mortal beings: “We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment.” (Joseph Smith)
I can therefore write with the utmost conviction and certainty that God is our loving Father in Heaven who desires our eternal welfare and happiness. He is a kind and merciful Father who lovingly watches over all of His Children. (Alma 18:32) Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Father, is God’s Beloved Son and the Savior of the World. Jesus Christ is the central figure of Heavenly Father’s great Plan of Salvation, and His Atoning Sacrifice is the very centerpiece of that Plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the family is central to the Creator’s Plan for the Eternal destiny of His children. Though Satan may spread his cunning lies in the attempt to destroy God’s plan, ultimately he will fail, and truth will triumph. As God’s children, we can be alerted to the tactics of the enemy, and like Bilbo Baggins, play our unique role in the triumph of good over evil.