Once, while serving as a military chaplain, I attended a training event in Colorado Springs. There we toured the world headquarters of the Evangelical “Focus on the Family” ministry. Our friendly guide explained to us that their organization existed to promote the “biblical model” of the family in the modern world. A cheeky question popped into to my mind: “By ‘biblical model’ do you mean the polygamy practiced in the Old Testament, or the celibacy encouraged in the New Testament?” But I held my tongue, as I wanted to be a polite guest. But since this event, I have often reflected on how many ways the Bible has been used in contemporary discussions over policies regarding the family, marriage, and sexuality.
As Latter-day Saints, we have the teachings of the living prophets to help guide us through these issues. But many potential allies and adversaries use the Bible centrally in their arguments about these topics. Since we count the Bible as scripture too, it might behoove us to stay up to speed on what people are claiming the Bible says. One voice in this matter who speaks with considerable clout is Harvard’s Michael Coogan, editor of the acclaimed Oxford Annotated Bible and author of a slim and handy volume, God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says, where he brings his training to bear to explain what the Bible’s authors and earliest readers likely saw as its message about the regulation of sex and family relations.