Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

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HazyShadeofFall
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Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by HazyShadeofFall » 03 Dec 2020, 01:59

I started having serious questions about my faith and the church about 3 years ago, but for the first 1-1.5 years I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. I had other things to worry about - an incredibly stressful final year of university, moving to a new city, job searching, figuring out my sexual orientation (asexual). In the spring of 2018 those questions came to the surface more frequently, and what tipped the scale and launched me into faith crisis mode was the subject of temple marriage.

Since then I've been doing better at figuring out what I believe, what I value in my participation with the church, and what my boundaries are. And I'm not going to go into my entire list of concerns with temple marriage. But I do want to talk a bit about one issue I have with it, which is its relation to amatonormativity.

Amatonormativity is a concept I've recognized (and disliked) since I was a teenager, but I only learned the term a year or so ago, and in fact it was only coined in 2011 by Elizabeth Brake. In her words, it is "the assumptions that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types." [https://elizabethbrake.com/amatonormativity/]. To put it in simpler terms from the LGBTA wiki, "Amatonormativity is the assumption that the traditional view of romantic relationships: a monogamous relationship where the parties are married, live together, and have children in a nuclear household, is the highest form of satisfaction one can achieve in life, and that all people strive for this type of relationship." [https://lgbta.wikia.org/wiki/Amatonormativity].

People all over the world and from many different faith traditions get the messaging that they need to get married to have a successful, joyful, or fulfilling life, but it seems that the Mormon tradition takes things a step further. It's not just about companionship in life, sealings are what allow you to stay connected to the people you love for the rest of eternity. It's a saving ordinance that a person must perform to attain the highest level of exaltation. For some this sounds like a beautiful reward. To me it sends the message that no matter how Christlike I strive to become, I will never be enough if I don't dedicate my life to some random person. And since marriage, to me, feels viscerally unnatural and wrong, exaltation as defined by church teachings is unattainable.

People often talk about the more obvious reasons that gay/bi/pan members of the church find participation difficult, and those are important conversations to have. I have seen next to no discussion about what makes it hard for asexual members like me. It's hard enough to navigate life being told at every turn that your life will be sad and unfulfilling without a romantic relationship. It's even harder when your own faith community touts that they have the key to exaltation yet offers you no hope of achieving it.


**Note: When I mention asexuality, I am talking about the way I personally identify it, which means I am not attracted to people either romantically or sexually. Asexuality is a large spectrum and the majority of ace-spec people use concepts like the Split Attraction Model to more accurately describe their identity. If you're interested, you can read more about it on the LGBTA wiki article [https://lgbta.wikia.org/wiki/Split_Attr ... odel_(SAM)].

Minyan Man
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by Minyan Man » 03 Dec 2020, 07:50

HazyShade, you are deep. I've never heard of Amatonormativity before. So I'm not going to give you a full response yet until I read more.
You mentioned the following quoted below. I think the jury is still out on this concept, teaching, revelation, etc. Whatever you want to call it.
There really isn't much written, talked about or taught at church or temple about this topic.

The one thing I do want to reinforce is: do not dedicate your life to some random person (never, ever). Christ should be the focus of our faith & belief system. Everything else is secondary. My belief in Christ, his life & mission, are difficult enough for me to understand sometimes. We have a tendency in the church to make the gospel more complicated then it has to be. IMO
HazyShadeofFall wrote:
03 Dec 2020, 01:59
People all over the world and from many different faith traditions get the messaging that they need to get married to have a successful, joyful, or fulfilling life, but it seems that the Mormon tradition takes things a step further. It's not just about companionship in life, sealings are what allow you to stay connected to the people you love for the rest of eternity. It's a saving ordinance that a person must perform to attain the highest level of exaltation. For some this sounds like a beautiful reward. To me it sends the message that no matter how Christlike I strive to become, I will never be enough if I don't dedicate my life to some random person. And since marriage, to me, feels viscerally unnatural and wrong, exaltation as defined by church teachings is unattainable.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by DarkJedi » 03 Dec 2020, 09:53

I think many LGBTQ+ members (and former members) do take issue with the church's teachings on marriage/eternal marriage and for some it is the main catalyst for their dissociation.

My two cents (free today because of Black Friday week) is probably not super helpful because it's pretty unorthodox. I don't believe the church teachings relating to eternal marriage in large part because it is not addressed in the Bible and most of the "doctrine" comes from what I consider to be a questionable section of the Doctrine and Covenants (one of many sections I question). Further, while I could buy the "many mansions" in heaven idea, I don't buy that heaven is divided into kingdoms and which kingdom we end up in is based on our behavior here. And even if heaven is divided into such kingdoms, I believe there is scriptural evidence that we are not "stuck" in one place for eternity. The idea that we don't/can't progress through the kingdoms is fairly recent, and it was commonly taught otherwise in the church prior to the mid-20th Century. My beliefs are slightly more complicated than that but that's a fair summary.

I think many members get too caught up in the dogma, and the gospel is really much simpler.

I think a big part of the issue about not hearing much about asexuals/asexuality is that there are few such members (or people in general) although there are probably more than we know because it can be easy to disguise. And I think asexuals tend not to be "out" or out themselves and tend to be silent (I could be wrong).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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HazyShadeofFall
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by HazyShadeofFall » 03 Dec 2020, 21:50

Thanks for your thoughts Minyan and DarkJedi.
My two cents (free today because of Black Friday week) is probably not super helpful because it's pretty unorthodox. I don't believe the church teachings relating to eternal marriage in large part because it is not addressed in the Bible and most of the "doctrine" comes from what I consider to be a questionable section of the Doctrine and Covenants (one of many sections I question).
That is the belief I've been leaning towards lately as well.
I think a big part of the issue about not hearing much about asexuals/asexuality is that there are few such members (or people in general) although there are probably more than we know because it can be easy to disguise. And I think asexuals tend not to be "out" or out themselves and tend to be silent (I could be wrong).
I agree with you there. Asexual people do make up a small percentage of the population, and for a lot of us it's easy to pass as straight. (Easier for women, at least, since asexual men are often coded as gay for not actively pursuing women.) As for being out, it's really hard to say as I haven't seen a lot of discussion on how many of us are out and to what degree. I'm out in most online spaces and to a few friends and family members, but unless I'm having an IRL conversation that naturally leads towards talking about asexuality, I generally don't bring it up.

Something I forgot to mention in my original post is part of why I think it's important to talk about amatonormativity. Even among LGBTQ members and allies, sometimes their proposed solutions to how the church handles homosexuality still reinforces amatonormativity. Embracing members in same-sex relationships would be amazing. Allowing gay temple marriages would be amazing. But if that's where it stops, then it still holds marriage as the arbitrary gatekeeper of what makes a person "worthy" (/qualified/prepared/etc) to receive the full blessings of heaven.

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SamBee
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by SamBee » 04 Dec 2020, 02:42

We need to do away with these intersectional terms like "normativity". Yes, settling into a relationship is the "norm". It is stupid to argue otherwise and you wouldn't be here without it. End of. It's not something I've succeeded in personally but most people do, and if they didn't none of us would be here. I would rather be single than in an unhappy marriage (and in a happy marriage rather than either of those), but I don't see it happening. I don't see why I should weaponize or politicize my own personal position. If anyone asks me, I just tell them the truth.

Intersectionality seems to hate nuclear families for some reason, probably because they stand in contrast to the state-run society it seems to crave. I would argue that the extended family is probably the ideal, but it is something which has been destroyed by the modern world. We essentially live in an atomized society now, which has destroyed communities, then families and now has more people living alone (which leads to greater pressure on housing etc, and questions over care for old people, loneliness etc) A society run by the state is not a good idea - it is prey to the whims and corruption of the people who run it. It certainly cannot raise children properly as nearly anyone who's been in a state run home can testify - I don't know any who've graduated from such places without substantial psychological scars.

Putting people with low/no sex drive in a grab bag with gay and bisexual people is completely illogical. Those groups actually have more in common with heterosexuals, because they look to hook up, and maybe form long term relationships.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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DarkJedi
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by DarkJedi » 04 Dec 2020, 06:03

HazyShadeofFall wrote:
03 Dec 2020, 21:50
Something I forgot to mention in my original post is part of why I think it's important to talk about amatonormativity. Even among LGBTQ members and allies, sometimes their proposed solutions to how the church handles homosexuality still reinforces amatonormativity. Embracing members in same-sex relationships would be amazing. Allowing gay temple marriages would be amazing. But if that's where it stops, then it still holds marriage as the arbitrary gatekeeper of what makes a person "worthy" (/qualified/prepared/etc) to receive the full blessings of heaven.
This was a new term for me, but I'm always good with expanding my vocabulary. I agree the church hugely reinforces amanonormativity in many aspects. I think society in general has moved away from the idea somewhat (many more people accept gay marriage as legit than did 10 years ago for example) but the church (and many church members) has made little progress in that respect.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Arrakeen
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by Arrakeen » 04 Dec 2020, 17:59

I think the church’s obsession with eternal marriage has widespread effects on people regardless of sexual orientation. People tend to think something’s wrong with you if you’re unmarried and not interested in dating. I’m a straight, mid-twenties YSA at BYU (where people act like marriage is a graduation requirement), and it’s always interesting to see the reaction when people find out I haven’t even tried to go on a date since I was a teenager. And I always have to tell family members that no, I’m not interested in dating any of the girls in my ward, or in my classes, or my work, etc. I’m not opposed to being in a romantic relationship at some point, but it’s just not the most important thing in my life right now.

In the church there’s a tendency to treat unmarried adults like children. A 29 year old who is unmarried will be treated as less “complete” and not as far along in life than a 19 year old who is married with a kid on the way. YSA wards exist with the purpose of getting people married and “off to the next stage”. They don’t talk much about personal development, goals, or skills. It’s just dating, dating, marriage, dating, how to be a worthy date, how to find a worthy date, date ideas, dating standards, dating stories, etc. every week.

I think the church would do well to shift the focus away from just marriage and focus on principles like love, compassion, forgiveness, etc. that apply to all our relationships with other humans. And I would eliminate things like YSA wards that define people by their relationship status. Sure, have an extracurricular group for young people to meet up and do fun activities, but don’t base everything on dating.

The reality is, many people do not ever get married. Many people do not care much for dating. Many people find that other things in are more important to them and more fulfilling. But it seems like the church really struggles to accept that there are other paths than the standard one of get married and have kids.

Arrakeen
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by Arrakeen » 04 Dec 2020, 18:16

DarkJedi wrote:
03 Dec 2020, 09:53
I don't believe the church teachings relating to eternal marriage in large part because it is not addressed in the Bible and most of the "doctrine" comes from what I consider to be a questionable section of the Doctrine and Covenants (one of many sections I question).
I feel similarly about this. If eternal marriage is the most important thing in mortal life, why is it mostly absent from the scriptures? How often did Jesus preach about dating and the importance of choosing a marriage partner? How much of the Book Of Mormon talks about marriage and dating, versus things like war? Or is Nephite coinage more important to salvation than eternal marriage?

Minyan Man
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Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by Minyan Man » 04 Dec 2020, 21:47

HazyShadeofFall wrote:
03 Dec 2020, 01:59
**Note: When I mention asexuality, I am talking about the way I personally identify it, which means I am not attracted to people either romantically or sexually.
As I think about this more, I have a friend in our ward who may (or may not) fit your description. I've know him for many years. He is
active in Family History, Temple Work & he retired about the same time I did. He never married & never dated as far as I know.
Recently he became a member of our Bishopric. I don't think anyone has held the fact that he's not married against him. In terms of
eternal principles I believe he is more dedicated than I am. He's friendly, outgoing & social. There have to be more members like him. We do live in a large city. Our ward has a diverse membership with a wide cross section of people. I know this is only one example. Am I missing something?

HazyShadeofFall
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Joined: 19 Aug 2019, 10:39

Re: Amatonormativity and Temple Marriage

Post by HazyShadeofFall » 05 Dec 2020, 02:14

Arrakeen wrote:
04 Dec 2020, 17:59
The reality is, many people do not ever get married. Many people do not care much for dating. Many people find that other things in are more important to them and more fulfilling. But it seems like the church really struggles to accept that there are other paths than the standard one of get married and have kids.
You're right, overemphasizing dating and marriage affects a lot of people in a lot of different circumstances. It's not wrong to enjoy dating and want the typical nuclear family, but it's also not wrong to want a different kind of family or life, and the latter part is what the church has a really hard time with.

I'm also in my mid-twenties and in YSA, and I have mixed feelings about YSA. The good: I have enjoyed the social aspects of church far more than I ever did growing up, actually making real, lasting friendships at church. My current ward, for the most part, doesn't talk a lot about dating and does focus more on broader life skills. (Anytime we have a visiting speaker with a stake calling is a different story.) And I love having discussions and lessons that are actually applicable to my life instead of always being geared towards married people with children at home. The bad: It does absolutely create an unnecessary distinction between married and unmarried members. It sends the message that we're not fully adults or we don't have anything meaningful to contribute to "normal" wards because of our age and marital status. And even if my ward doesn't focus too much on dating, the reality still remains that that is the purpose of its existence.

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