Sex and Gender in Creation

M82 Galaxy, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/UofA/ESA/AURA/JHU

So the whole approach that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has with gender, and it being an eternal binary and complementary? And they say that binary is necessary because sex is necessary to creation?

Let's unpack that and throw it into the recycle bin.

So Creation involves two different creative acts at its core, which I want to discuss:

  1. Making Stuff
  2. Making People

Scripture gives us a couple different accounts of the Creation. 

In Genesis, God (understood singularly) creates everything, with the exception of "Let us make man in our image." That statement remains plural in a way that goes totally unacknowledged and unexplained in the text. 

Moses 2 then has God speaking in the first person telling this story. 

We learn during the endowment that the Creation involved a collective effort between God, Jehovah (the premortal name of Jesus), and Michael (the premortal name of Adam). 

The creation of Stuff in these depictions are non-sexual in nature, and nonsensically male. Especially since Abraham 4 calls this a collaboration between plural Gods. With God being a title that is shared, according to Mormonism, between perfected heterosexual couples, it simply makes no sense that our conceptions of Creation do not include women anywhere. That's not how they're read, understood, or taught in any official capacity. 

The label of "God" didn't yet apply to Jehovah or Michael in their premortal, unembodied, unordained, and unendowed states. But somehow, we are more comfortable with their participation in the Creation than we are with acknowledging the perfected, resurrected, empowered contributions of our own Heavenly Mother.

We're supposed to base our entire notion of divinity on the power of sealed men and women—and no other type of relationship. But our understanding and presentations of the Creation are too timid to even acknowledge that any woman was even there.

If gender matters so much in the creation of Stuff that women don't even get to participate, or approach in no way supports the need for women in these partnerships. And if women were present for and are essential to the Creation, then the way we interpret and teach the Scripture needs to change drastically to include women. One has to give away to the other.

And then there's reproduction! Surely it takes a combination of the right equipment, requiring both men and women in the gender binary to reproduce! This may be where the sidewalk ends in terms of "the known world" in Mormonism, but this is the reason we give, more than any other, for the justification of why we cling to the gender binary.

The greatest incongruence between what we believe and what we teach on this front is apparent in the endowment. In that depiction, there are no women present. Returning to Scripture, there is no need to see it this way. Abraham 4 speaks plurally about the Creation of Adam and Eve, that there are multiple participants there. Genesis 1 or Moses 2 can also read this way if we get comfortable with the voice of God including both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, a duet of voices instead of a solo masculine voice. That's not what we teach, but I believe it should be.

You can have a cosmology in which women are so important to a heterosexual couple, no eternal union is complete without one. Or you can contradict this notion entirely and maintain that God's children only need a Father. And these thoughts do contradict each other at their core. Yet somehow, they've existed together in the air we breathe for so long, we don't even have the language to name this contradiction unless we gather it from somewhere outside of our community. But pointing out that contradiction isn't enough for some people to challenge the gender binary as anything less than divine.

Nevermind that sex and gender are delineated separately in Scripture—male and female created first, Man and Woman named second.

Nevermind that there's no necessary connection between gender and what reproductive capabilities and equipment someone may or may not have.

Nevermind the way the flimsy eternal gender binary falls apart every time another intersex person is born neither male nor female, as if that detail somehow escaped God's perfect notice—whoops! Like God suddenly forgot their own rules.

We are at a place in scientific advancement where we can produce healthy biological offspring between same sex parents. That technology and capability is new to us, but none of it is new to God. God understands genetics, and has for the entire history of our relationship with them. The potential and ability to use genetics in this way has been there this entire time. As with all assistive reproductive technologies, creating life doesn't cease to be sacred just because a penis never entered a vagina at any point. And if that's the hill we're dying on, that battle was lost back in the 1980s when gamete donation and IVF became a normal part of reproductive healthcare. The children born from medical interventions in pregnancy aren't lesser people because of how they were conceived. There's no reason for this to be different for queer couples who use those technologies, even as it defies what we've traditionally thought as being necessary to create life.

So what makes sex holy? Is it the gender binary? The monogamy? The presence of a sealing ceremony? The ability to produce offspring? Which parts of heterosexual coupling are the necessary elements to honor and serve God?

It's not monogamy, and there are many dead polygamists who will fight you on sight for suggesting it.

Infertile couples will tell you it's not the ability or inability to produce offspring. None of us are being thrown out or blocked from full participation in the Church because of that.

"Children are entitled to a mother and a father," they say. But single parents, widows and widowers who don't remarry, don't have their sealings cancelled because their children are missing a parent of a certain gender. 

None of these justifications for maintaining the gender binary as a necessary part of our faith holds up to scrutiny. And since the sealing ceremony is being withheld from people based on their adherence to the gender binary, queer exclusion is a policy with no real valid justification other than "We've always done it that way," and "because we said so."

But let's say none of this convinces you. The idea that queer people in same-sex relationships cannot bear their own children is the hill you're willing to crucify others on. Within the structure of eternal family building, this still doesn't matter because adoptive sealings exist! 

If my husband and I adopted a child and my brothers-in-law adopted a child, we are both equally shut out of those children's lives because we didn't give birth to them in the covenant, and are therefore not sealed to them. The circumstances are identical. The roll that will fix it is identical. Because sealing works for me and my husband in our relationship, there is no necessary reason why it wouldn't similarly work for queer couples of whatever configuration. 

The seating solution would exist deep into eternity, especially for the number of eternal families that will end up divided over queer rejection. According to one of the speakers at general conference last week, no one is going to be forced to remain in a familial sealing where they don't feel safe, valued, and respected. For that reason, there will be many queer people in search of families in eternity, from every age and culture in the world.

We have to start acknowledging that the formation of these families is a better solution than forcing queer people into celibacy—a state which is contrary to divine mandate, happiness itself, and the ability for anyone to receive their full inheritance in the Kingdom of God. If the only alternatives you can come up with for queer relationships are ones that God would reflect because of how they harm individuals and place their relationships on unequal footing with everyone else, it's a good indication that it's a man-made problem paired with shoddy human problem-solving. An all-knowing God wouldn't set someone up to fail from something they can't change in such an eternally unfair way. (See Genesis 2:18 and D&C 38:24-27)

What this really comes down to, the more I think about it, is the insecurity that comes to people of a certain age and status in the Church in admitting they are wrong. There is fear in having to acknowledge the holiness in all kinds of love, and all the many kinds of relationships that are born out of this love.

If anyone can fall in love with anyone and form a family, then doesn't that make MY family less special and holy?

No. Of course not. Unless your family relationships were born out of duty and obligation instead of love, and you now have to admit that there was no need to put yourself, or anyone else, through that. I've personally been left holding the bag with church policies that are disavowed only after they've done damage to me. The harm that has happened to others is no justification for ongoing harm. If the best time to have changed that approach was twenty years ago, the next best time is now.

The insistence of heterosexual supremacy in the Church is full of contradictions, which should be our first clue that it doesn't come from God. It's preventing us from taking the gospel "into all the world," according to the injunction the Savior gave to his original apostles. It's preventing the fullness of the gospel from reaching many who cannot access it because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, which have never been and never will be valid reasons to withhold access to God from anyone. (See Mark 16:15, 2 Nephi 26, and Alma 32)

Queer people deserve to participate fully in the Church. They deserve to be sealed in the temple to their partners. They deserve to know the joy that comes from being able to form eternal families. They deserve to be able to seek out valid and essential healthcare without having their positions in the Church threatened or questioned in any way. They deserve to be in the pews with us, presenting as who they truly are. Honesty is the Spirit of worship, and we need to stop asking queer people around us to build their lives on foundations of lies and deceit for the comfort of others at church.

Don't let anyone tell you this has to be difficult. It's not difficult to see the unnecessary obstacles created by policy. It's easy to recognize them for what they are and commit to getting rid of them. The love we have for God, which requires us to love ALL of God's children, should compel us to make these things right. We should want to envision the arms of God stretching out wide enough to include everyone in this world.

Being the voice of a loving God, who doesn't fail and is not a hypocrite in that love, is the easiest thing in the world. We would all know that if that was the God we worshiped.

And, as a warning that is needed by some: just because you do not worship a God who loves and honors queerness doesn't mean that version of God doesn't exist. It does mean you've prevented yourself from perceiving God that way.

In the same way those who have claimed to serve God have justified slavery, you will end up with egg on your face when you realize God does not endorse forced subjugation and exclusion of anyone. Affirmation, like abolition, is simply the right thing to do. No appeals to Scripture will ever change that.

We don't have to keep making this mistake. We can believe that when God said he loves all people, that all are welcome and none are forbidden, that God is no respecter of persons, that we are all children of God—we can believe it.

Instead of fighting the will of God, we stop making excuses and just... do it.

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