I made the following reply in response to a comment (see comment by “Stan”) on a post about same-sex marriage. The commenter stated that he felt the church’s position on same-sex marriage was wrong so he felt it okay to support same-sex marriage: “I want gays and lesbians to feel welcome and to have the freedom to participate in our society in every way. Yet, I am told by church leaders that this should not be so. That doesn’t feel right to me. Prophets and apostles are fallible and have been wrong so many times before, especially on social issues like these. Because of that, I am going with my own desire to accept gays and lesbians in every way. I support President Obama on this issue. I too am for gay marriage.”)
My reply (this is all my opinion and I haven’t taken the time to really flesh out my arguments due to time constraints of trying to finish up my doctoral dissertation):
[It’s] an audacious stance to declare living prophets wrong on an issue just because they are fallible and past prophets/apostles have been wrong from time to time. What other current church policies or doctrines are wrong? What right do we have to declare particular policies or doctrines null and void?
Homosexual behavior is wrong (why is it wrong? God declared it so. Could it ever not be wrong? Yes, if God declared it no longer wrong. Has He? No.). So are all other forms of fornication. So is adultery. So are lying and stealing. We shouldn’t promote laws or policies that encourage the behavior. There is a difference between not preventing homosexual behavior and legitimizing it by redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. As a society we shouldn’t place our seals of approval on immoral behavior. What right do we have to dictate morality for others? Well, in the U.S. and now much of the Westernized world criminal laws and many civil laws are based on traditional Judeo-Christian morality. That is changing as our society becomes more and more secularized. Among the many lessons to be learned from the Book of Mormon is what happens to civilizations and societies when the majority of people support wickedness – they have war, misery, and eventually collapse. Should we try to ban all sinful behavior? No, but there are big sins and little sins and sins that undermine the structure of society. Homosexual behavior is a big sin (as is any sexual sin). Allowing same sex marriage redefines one of the main foundations of society – marriage and family. Marriage and families are already close to ruin with divorce and cohabitation and unwed parents. We should not promote laws that at best further muddy the waters of families and, at worst, continue to assault them. Until God – through his prophets – speaks otherwise (I am not saying He ever will but I don’t really know very much), it is our responsibility to support the living prophet.
Any time we sin we are going against the living prophet but more importantly, we are going against God. We, in our sins (I’m talking about willful sins, not sins through ignorance) place ourselves above God by thinking or feeling that we know better than He does or than His prophets do. God is forgiving so we can repent of our pride and all our other sins; He understands the difficulties and confusions of mortality; He knows we all sin and will continue to sin – that’s why we have Christ’s Atonement to bring us back in alignment with God and His laws. Christ’s Atonement also sanctifies us, if we allow it, so that we will no longer have the desire to sin. Hopefully at some point in our lives we cease sinning very much or often. But when we do sin, God’s hand is outstretched for when we repent. The goal is to stop thinking we know better than God and turn our wills over to Him. I’m not condemning you any more than I am myself. All I’m saying is that going against the teachings of the living prophets (and most of those of dead ones too) is crossing over a fine line (again, we all do this whenever we sin but just because everyone does it, does not excuse the doing of it).
Pres. Monson said at the most recent Priesthood session of General Conference, “At times the wisdom of God appears as being foolish or just too difficult, but one of the greatest and most valuable lessons we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right.” (Monson, Priesthood Session, April 2012).
Again, until God reveals to a prophet a change in policy or doctrine it is up to us to support the living prophet(s) regardless of our own feelings (doctrines don’t really change but policies – the implementation of them – can and do change; plus there is more that is yet to be revealed). We can question and have differing opinions but “when God speaks [through His prophets] and a man obeys, that man will always be right.” We do not have the authority to declare when a prophet is right or wrong. It is never wrong to follow the prophet but always wrong to go against him, even if a current teaching or policy turns out to be wrong down the road.