Wherefore Should Not the Heavens Weep?

Photo of the statue "Jesus Wept" at the Oklahoma City Memorial by Crimsonedge34.

Photo of the statue “Jesus Wept” at the Oklahoma City Memorial by Crimsonedge34.

Jacob Baker began a long, public Facebook post this way:

I’m willing to bet that there are many people out there right now feeling conflicted about the mass murder that happened yesterday. I’m not talking about the outspoken blatant homophobes and bigots, but essentially good people who find themselves somewhat confused by this tragic event.

He went on to allege that such people have less empathy for the victims of the horrific mass shooting in Orlando because of a “feeling of disapproval or discomfort” that is “cultivated within your religion.” Thus, such people feel “both compassion and disgust.”

An early commenter replied that this “mirrors some of my own experience” and explained that his views on the LGBT community changed as a result of “realizing that they are very honest, genuine people who want many of the same things I want and who struggle in life just as I do.”

In a similar vein, Lindsay Hansen Park publicly shared her own conversion experience, which followed the same basic trajectory. She visited a gay bar “determined to witness the seediness, accept it, and love the LGBT community in spite of it” but what she saw were “people, regular people” and this was “so normal” that “[she] literally couldn’t process it.” As a result, she felt “deeply ashamed” and “betrayed by my culture.”

These sentiments are examples of a larger narrative which holds at its core the proposition that the only reason someone could espouse traditional sexual morality is out of disgust for people who are different. I don’t question the sincerity or even the accuracy of these individual accounts, but I strongly question whether they can be generalized so easily.

I will start with my own experience. The first person I recognized as possibly gay was Mark[1], a skinny kid in my middle school. I was pretty severely bullied in my middle school—even the teachers liked to get in on it occasionally—and Mark was the only person there who had it worse than I did. He was tormented most frequently in and around the bathrooms, and homophobic slurs were used almost exclusively (as opposed to just sporadically, as in my case). My memory is not exact, but I recall other boys refusing to use the urinals if he was present.

I did my best to stand up for Mark. I’m sure my best was not very significant—it’s not like I had a lot of social capital to pull from—but I just tried to go out of my way to smile, to say hi, to never avoid him, and to maybe run minor interference between him and some of his tormenters. I hope it helped.

At that time, I had only the vaguest notion of what it meant to be gay. I’d never kissed a girl or even held a girl’s hand, so all matters related to human sexuality were highly theoretical and abstract. I had some notion that being gay was a sin of some kind (and I had nothing like the sophistication to distinguish inclination from behavior), but that didn’t seem relevant to what I saw before my eyes: a lonely kid who wasn’t hurting anyone was being harassed. Did anything else really matter? None of the lessons that I’d been taught at home and in Sunday school about reaching out to those in need had come with exception clauses.

I’ve known lots of people from the LGBTQ community since then: family, friends of family, friends of my own. I’ve even had people confide in me about their own journeys with sexuality and—once or twice—seek out my advice. At no point did my religious beliefs about sexual morality change. And at no point was there any conflict between those beliefs and my desire to love and be kind to others. At no point did feelings of disgust arise to create internal conflict or turmoil. Why should they?

One of the most important scriptures we have as Mormons is the seventh chapter of Moses in which Enoch beholds God weep. Enoch asks, “how is it thou canst weep?”[2] God’s reply is long, starting in verse 32 and ending in verse 37. It is not short of harsh language, discussing the sins of those who would perish (“they are without affection, and they hate their own blood”) but concluding, “wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?”[3]

The Doctrine and Covenants states plainly that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God,”[4] and that value is independent of righteousness or sin. And that’s a good thing, because we are all sinners. There is no dividing line between technical sinners (good, church-going folks who make inconsequential mistakes now and then) and real sinners. There is just one group, and we’re all in it together, and there’s no justification for trying to figure out a pecking order.

We should mourn for the innocent victims of the horrific shooting in Orlando every bit as much as the innocent victims of any other mass shooting: the prayer group gunned down in Charleston, the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary or—God forbid—our own Mormon brothers and sisters if a mass shooting ever takes place at one of our ward buildings or temples. When their children suffer, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and the whole heavens weep. They don’t see a difference between one group and another. Who are we to claim sight where God is blind?

I do not question the personal experiences of Baker or Park or anyone else. They were taught what they were taught, learned what they learned, and experienced what they experienced. But to turn those personal histories into general indictments is to turn valid personal experience into invalid strawmen.

We live in a world where 15% of Americans believe “media or the government adds secret mind-controlling technology to broadcast signals”, 5% believe “the exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons” and 4% “believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies,”[5] so of course I cannot rule out the possibility that somebody, somewhere feels conflicted about these shootings. All I can say is that in the wake of this mass murder, I do not feel conflicted in the slightest, and I do not know a single person who does, and  there is nothing in the faith I recognize as Mormonism that would justify or “cultivate” such feelings.

What I was taught, and what I believe, is that we are all children of God, no exceptions. We are all valuable in the eyes of our Heavenly Parents, no exceptions. And we are all sinners and “unprofitable servants”,[6] no exceptions. Our Parents don’t care more about some of us than others, and neither should we. That is the only faith I can recall from my childhood or reconcile with our scriptures and our theology.

Here is the reason I have chosen to share these thoughts today. In The Bonobo and the Atheist, primatologist Frans de Waal describes what he calls “serial dogmatists.” These are people who “crave dogma, yet have trouble deciding on its contents.” He gives Christopher Hitchens as his example, writing:

Hitchens was outraged by the dogmatism of religion, yet he himself had moved from Marxism (he was a Trotskyist) to Greek Orthodox Christianity, then to American Neo-Conservatism, followed by an “antitheist” stance that blamed all of the world’s troubles on religion. Hitchens thus swung from the left to the right, from anti-Vietnam War to cheerleader of the Iraq War, and from pro to contra God. He ended up favoring Dick Cheney over Mother Theresa.

I am concerned that something similar is taking place here, and that what we may be witnessing is serial tribalism. First, the LGBTQ community is alienated and vilified as “them.” Then, after a conversion experience much like one of Hitchens’s, it is the conservative religious who are alienated and vilified as “them” instead. Initially, the sin of homosexuality was the special sin that rationalized treating an entire group of people as other. Now, the sin of intolerance is the new special sin that rationalizes treating a (different) group of people as other. But the fatal flaw is the idea of a “special sin.” Outside of the sons of perdition (which corresponds neither to sexual transgression nor bigotry), Mormon theology has no such concept.

Some will see this as an indictment of all liberal Mormons, a personal attack on Baker or Park, and—most of all—just another example of tribalism itself. It is none of those things. I do not presume to characterize—let alone judge—the hearts and minds of anyone, and this includes those I’ve quoted. To impute motive or morality to a person based on a single, heartfelt, well-intentioned Facebook status would be a particularly egregious violation of the Lord’s command to “judge not.” What I’m interested in is an idea that I have seen crop up in many places, and which I believe can (and should) be critiqued without attacking anybody personally.

It doesn’t really matter what you believe the “special sin” to be. No matter where you draw that line, it is quite possible that someday somebody you love will cross it. Someday, someone you love will cease to be one of “us” and will become one of “them.” You will save pain and heartache if you learn now—before it happens—that that line in the sand is meaningless. That we’re all one.

Unity that depends on seeing eye-to-eye is a brittle and a hollow unity, but there is something better and deeper and stronger and truer. We do not need to resolve the deep-rooted moral and theological and political differences among us (as Mormons, as Christians, and as Americans) in order to come together in a time of senseless and horrific tragedy. I’m opposed to any idea that—even inadvertantly—implies otherwise. I want everyone who has been saddened by this horrific crime to know that there is no hesitation, no asterisk, no qualification in my response to it, or the response of anyone that I know. Now is a time for compassion and mourning with those who mourn, not for drawing lines of any kind. Difficult conversations can be resumed later, and—if we’ve learned anything—perhaps with less rancor and more generosity than before this tragedy occurred.

[1] Not his real name, because I don’t still have contact to ask permission to use it.

[2] Moses 7:29, 31.

[3] Moses 7:37

[4] D&C 18:10

[5] Public Policy Polling

[6] Mosiah 2:21

66 comments for “Wherefore Should Not the Heavens Weep?

  1. Bravo! If we cannot all find unity in compassion for the innocent who suffer we might as well give up the game.

  2. Thank you for so eloquently stating what many Mormons feel. My religion informs me to love, everyone. It saddens me to think that others have not grown up with that experience. If Jesus were in Orlando, I believe that he would be hugging and crying with everyone. That is the Jesus that I know. I am grateful that my Mormon faith informs me that we are all God’s children, no matter our differences.

  3. I don’t believe “the only reason someone could espouse traditional sexual morality is out of disgust for people who are different,” but most the Mormons I know (and especially older Mormons) hold disgust for the gay and lesbian community. Including my parents and most my siblings, most of the Mormon neighborhood I grew up in, and most of my current ward.

    Of course, my experience has mainly been in the Mormon belt, including conservative suburbs and even more conservative farming communities. I’m sure people in other situations were brought up differently.

  4. I get what you are saying Nathaniel. I will just say that It’s also hard to be / feel charitable when activists are interjecting with things like “The LDS church hates gays” into LDS Newsroom comments section where the article is simply a act of condolences towards the victims.

    I know that not all LGBT people aren’t activists and most are just normal people.

  5. “But the fatal flaw is the idea of a “special sin.” Outside of the sons of perdition (which corresponds neither to sexual transgression nor bigotry), Mormon theology has no such concept.”

    Excellent point. Well worth repeating.

  6. It seems that most LDS believers are strongly condemning of the horrific attacks and aren’t really “conflicted” to use Baker’s term and are plenty outraged. However, given the level of disgust that I know many LDS believers to have in relation to LGBTQ+, it seems reasonable to believe that many, particularly older generation folks, are slightly less outraged at the attack than they would have hypothetically been had the victims been straights, a group of Christians, or a group of LDS people.

  7. The trick is recognizing sin yet not treating people as other. That’s hard for humans to do. Not just on any one area of “identity” as you know. Christ was the master in this going with the classes that the Jews disparaged the most yet simultaneously not accepting the sin. The scriptures constantly warn us of not alienating people for whatever reason but to love them. The phrase “love the sinner hate the sin” gets brandied about a lot. But often people somehow miss the “love” part of that.

  8. Thanks for this. Many Saints claim to know other members who are “disgusted” by homosexuals. Yet, in my adult experience (age 55 and 37 years as convert, living in the Deep South mission field) I don’t find this to be common at all. Sure, the occasional small talk about homosexuality eventually comes round to “I would never do such and such with another guy — that’s disgusting.” But that’s where it’s left. The protester doesn’t drone on and on for hours about his alleged disgust. It’s more of a display of machismo, a beating of the chest to proclaim his heteronormativity loudly and clearly. I think I read a statistic that almost all of us have at some point or another wondered what it would be like to have sex with someone of the same gender. I view pronouncements of disgust as public affirmation more so than condemnation. In other words, I think Saints’ thoughts about homosexuals fall more in line with the post, with only up the occasional member who is truly intolerant in an un-Christlike way.

  9. IDIAT, the indisputable and undeniable fact that a good number of LDS believers regard the open LGBTQ+ community to be acting unnaturally and committing extremely grave sins of the utmost immorality to the extent that they are actually destroying society strongly suggests that they are deeply disturbed and disgusted by the practice of homosexual sex. While I think that the more charitable attitudes expressed towards open LGBTQ+ people in the OP and the comments is encouraging, denial about rampant disgust among LDS members towards them and treatment of them as inferiors is part of the problem. It is like you’ve been living in a cave. While the standard LDS members haven’t been violently intolerant of LGBTQ+s, they’ve been plenty intolerant. Who are you fooling?

  10. Re: those who seem to see differences between how LDS people have or do not have disgust toward LGBTQ+ people; reminds me of this tale my father used to tell:

    (this version is from http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/traveltales.html )

    “The Two Travelers and the Farmer
    North America
    A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

    “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

    “What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

    “They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

    “Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.

    Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

    Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

    “What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

    “They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

    “Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.””

  11. As generally a contrarian here, let me say first that I agree in general. That most people I know are not drawing an “other” line at sexuality in their hearts and their actions, and that more ARE drawing an “other” line at intolerance. I confess that I do struggle to love the bully.
    However, there is more intolerance than I would like, in the Mormon community that I know. It shows up not in statements of hate or revulsion but in avoidance and dismissal. “I don’t want to think about them.” “I wish they’d just go away / stay in the closet / not bother me.” It may be in part revulsion, but I suspect it’s much more commonly a simple cognitive dissonance. Because like it or not, in practice even though not in any well-explicated theology, Mormonism does have special sins. Pick your time frame, but polygamy, race, and homosexuality are three that come quickly to mind. Sinners and saints, complicated human beings as are we all, who for one reason or another the Church has or does treats differently and separately. Most thinking, feeling people don’t like it. And most believing, thinking, feeling people can’t make good sense of it and live in tension.

  12. Great stuff, Nathaniel. Thank you for it.

    Regarding some of what you discussed regarding “special sins” and further comments as to how people view them (or the absence thereof), I believe Alma 13:12 comes into this:

    “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.”

    I think it’s very difficult for people (at least some, if not many) to look upon sin with abhorrence without also, even subconsciously, conferring that abhorrence onto the sinner even though we have been commanded that we should not. It happens for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because a particular sin is too familiar (we have faced it ourselves, either successfully or less so.) Sometimes it’s because it is too alien (we simply cannot understand why people would do it, perhaps never having faced such a temptation ourselves). Sometimes we have seen the effects of a particular sin tear apart families and harm friends that we care deeply about and then we project onto others our heartbreak and disappointment.

    It’s not necessarily that the sin itself is “special”, but rather that its effect upon some has been particularly negative. Therefore, their reaction to that sin may be much stronger than to other sins. And yes, cultural biases and trends can also impact feelings on these matters. All of these factors can contribute to a strong, negative emotional response to anything (or anyone) associated in our minds with that sin, which can then come into conflict when we feel an outpouring of compassion and sympathy in the face of horrific events regarding the same group of people, such as the one in Orlando. They deserve our compassion and love no less than anyone else, but we have either been conditioned or (more likely) conditioned ourselves to have negative feelings regarding them or at least some of what they do.

    Such cognitive dissonance is a natural result of the constant battle between our inner natural man and our inner saint. Everyone is at a different place in that battle, so it’s normal that we will have different reactions in times such as these. It’s good that we can meet together (even virtually) to have an honest discussion about it, since I believe it can help us to think through our reactions and prevent our hearts from “waxing cold”. I appreciate those who charitably participate in these discussions and help to facilitate them. It’s very helpful to me.

  13. If my sense of outrage is less this time, it is because the lack of any meaningful action after the Sandy Hook massacre. If the deaths of twenty children won’t move us to action, then I have to recognize that nothing ever will, and so my outrage this time is tinged with resignation. So a guy killed 50 people at a gay bar where he used to hang out a lot? That’s terrible, but at least the killer targeted adults this time. Thank God for small mercies.

  14. Thank you, Nathaniel. I have noticed the reduction of Mormonism into its critics into something I don’t recognize at all. I have had those who have left the LDS Church tell me what I believe, and I have generally chosen to answer simply and succinctly, suspecting that they will not hear what I’m actually saying as they’ve boxed me into a narrative I don’t even recognize. I have not seen a single homophobic statement by Mormons after this senseless tragedy. I would honestly be stunned if I did see it.

  15. Interesting discussion. I would have been inclined to point out that the Orlando incident is the collision of a chain of bad choices neither of the parties involved had to make.

    Or not.

    It is irritating to me to note that nearly every report of the incident identifies the nightclub as “gay”. Not sure what that means. Is it homophobia for me to take note? Apparently nightclubs have gender identity too.

  16. Nathaniel, what if the “special sin” is racism that withholds priesthood from worthy black men? Can we draw a line in the sand there? Can we expect unity there? What if the “special sin” is modern day polygamy ala Warren Jeffs and the taking of 15-year-old brides?

    I highlight these two examples to show you where I am coming from. I dedicated 42 years of my life to the Mormon church, but I hold denying the human rights of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in the same space as the aforementioned “special sins”. I can no longer “unify” with the Mormon church. But I still love Mormons. I guess it’s just another case of love the sinner, hate the sin.

  17. Waiting for someone to weigh in with some good old-fashioned victim blaming such as:

    “The truth is that … [straight people] have a very low rate of becoming the victim of a …crime… because of modesty and adhering to a strict moral conduct in everyday life. It is precisely what they themselves can control despite what the [LGBTQ] world does. Better defense always beats a better offense. What can we learn from the strict moral standards of …[straight] conduct? That obedience to modesty and morality and rules is the best measure to ensure protection against …crimes.”

    Thanks(?) to Rob O for providing this “helpful” template.

    All I know for sure is that many people died because someone wanted to kill them, and this is a source of immense pain and sorrow to their families; this is independent of any other so-called contributory factors.

  18. Wowbagger,
    Its pretty disrespecful to quote me out of context on this issue. Please show some respect. My heart goes out to all the deaths and victims and families.

  19. Nathaniel, I believe you when you say what you were taught and what you believe. I was taught and believe the same thing. Here’s the problem: we belong to a religion that has strong doctrinal precedent for believing that certain sins are worse than others and that sin gives rise to consequences, presumably with worse sins yielding worse consequences. Law of the Harvest. A law decreed in heaven. Lehi’s lecture on choice and consequence. . . . The list goes on. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that there are members out there who, while saddened by the tragedy in Orlando and the loss of life, nevertheless feel somewhere that it was the result of bad choices made by gay people. That seems to me to be a much more obvious explanation for the critiques by so-called “liberal mormons” that you are focused on here than your serial dogmatist theory. I would imagine that your response to my comment will be some nuanced thoughts about the real meaning of the Book of Job and so on. And that will no doubt be useful, and I would agree with you. But that won’t negate the fact that most Mormons have a fairly simplistic, deterministic view of life, a deeply rooted tendency to interpret good and bad things in life as the result of choices that trigger a universal law of the harvest. Just the other day I heard my stake president, a highly educated and very successful professional, comment on a bishop’s success in his professional life being a direct result of his commitment to his calling. If you are righteous, good things happen. Invert and flip the antecedent and consequent in that statement and you get precisely the type of thinking that causes one to feel differently about Orlando. The reason? Because it’s difficult to show the unity you speak of while at the same time harboring the secret belief that the affected person got what he/she had coming.

  20. The following is from Catholic Bishop Robert Lynch in Florida two days ago in response to the Orlando attack:

    “Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,”

    I wish that more Mormons would follow the example of Bishop Lynch and honestly acknowledge that general and local LDS leaders and LDS members have long fostered an environment that has bred contempt for LGBTQ+. Thankfully, there appears to be no hard written evidence in the form of blogposts, comments, facebook posts, etc. that reveal a state of conflictedness among LDS people over the Orlando shootings. However, this is probably because people know that they would suffer a relentless verbal assault against them for posting anything saying that the LGBTQ+ victims had it coming to them because of their sinfulness. The problem in LDS culture is the denial of the history of hatred and disgust towards LGBTQ+. If you claim to have never felt disgust or hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community, then that is great. However, I openly confess that 12 years ago, I was a homophobe, and comfortably so. I was merely mimicking what appeared to be the predominant attitude among LDS people towards LGBTQ+. It took a lot of critical thinking and introspection to overcome that attitude. And I most certainly didn’t overcome it by reading the LDS standard works, listening to conference talks, and candid conversations with other believing LDS people.

    Margaret’s comment above (#14) is completely disingenuous. Maybe you haven’t seen a homophobic statement by Mormons in the very short period of three days after the attack, but I don’t believe you if you are suggesting that the Mormon leaders and members haven’t exhibited rampant homophobia for decades. I have every reason to believe that you and I have been around the same types of people for the last 15+ years. I have witnessed countless incidents of homophobia, so don’t tell me that you haven’t either. I don’t care what your nuanced (probably contradictory) view of Mormonism is, it doesn’t change what the clear trends in Mormon thought (exhibited by both members and leaders) have been. You don’t get to move the goal posts on well-marked territory. You aren’t fooling anyone.

  21. Brad L (21),

    As nearly as I can tell, you have read into Margaret’s comment (14) something that is not there and have, uncharitably, let your otherwise valuable comment and story turn into an ad hominem attack on Margaret. I know from both experience and reports that it is quite possible to live in the Provo area as an active Mormon and never hear any homophobic statements by Mormons — not because there are no homophobes among them, but because it is not a subject of discussion in at least some Provo circles. Please don’t let your concern about a history institutionally encouraged homophobia become an attack on someone who did not in fact deny that there is such a history. BTW, I’m glad to have learned recently, and to have your story confirm, that movement from homophobia to respect for LGBTQ persons is not quite as rare as I had thought. Thanks for the first part of your comment.

  22. JR, read Margaret’s comment (and my comment, in which I’m not attacking Margaret but her comment and its implications) more carefully. Implicit within Margaret’s comment is a denial about the problem and extent of homophobia within the LDS church both past (probably recent past) and present. Allow me to show you how. The comment begins “I have noticed the reduction of Mormonism [by] its critics into something I don’t recognize at all. I have had those who have left the LDS Church tell me what I believe, and I have generally chosen to answer simply and succinctly, suspecting that they will not hear what I’m actually saying as they’ve boxed me into a narrative I don’t even recognize.” Here she refers to past patterns of engagement over time with ex-Mormons whom she accuses of misrepresenting LDS people commonly believe and not hearing her more nuanced view of Mormonism. She does not yet specify the matter that is being misrepresented. She then notes, “I have not seen a single homophobic statement by Mormons after this senseless tragedy” which suggests that that “something” referred to in the first sentence was alleged homophobia. In my comment I give Margaret the benefit of the doubt and say, “I don’t believe you if you are suggesting….” But owning up to the clear implications of one’s arguments is not strong point of liberal Mormon discourse, which is too drunk on nuance and metaphor to recognize its own doublethink.

    The problem among LDS believers (leaders and followers) is not so much overtly strong homophobia manifested in repeated hateful comments. The problem is that LDS believers are not acknowledging the full extent of what homophobia is, are unaware that they themselves are mildly homophobic, and deny the culture of homophobia that is still very much at play in believing LDS communities. While it is true that LDS believers are not as homophobic as they used to be (which is good), they are still quite homophobic and manifest that in more subtle forms. As for living in the Provo area and not hearing homophobic statements, I simply don’t believe you. I think that you’re in denial like Margaret. I lived there for quite a while and work and interact with people in the Provo area on a regular basis. I hear subtly homophobic comments all the time. Sure, people aren’t saying overtly hateful things, but they regularly manifest their contempt for openly LGBTQ+ people and claim that they as religious people are the victims of LGBTQ+ rights campaigns.

  23. Characterizing your reading of Margaret’s comment as her implication is not appropriate. Characterizing it as your inference from her comment, which indeed is made possible though not necessary by her language, would be appropriate. It is unfortunate that you cannot conceive of and are unwilling to believe that anyone else’s experience of a subculture could be different from your experience of another related subculture (not all Provoans are alike). That is necessarily as limiting as the approach of the homophobes who seem to think that all gays are promiscuous.

    I agree that it is a problem that some (likely even many) “LDS believers are not acknowledging the full extent of what homophobia is, are unaware that they themselves are mildly homophobic, and deny the culture of homophobia that is still very much at play in believing LDS communities [and that] they regularly manifest their contempt for openly LGBTQ+ people and claim that they as religious people are the victims of LGBTQ+ rights campaigns.” Those perceptions, however, do not justify disbelief in others’ experience that differs from yours or mine, nor do they justify attacking Margaret as someone disingenuously trying to “move the goal posts” or trying to fool someone. I read your language as implying just that sort of personal attack. It would have been more charitable of me to see it as my inference rather than your implication. Sorry.

    BTW, the first time I was propositioned by a fellow male BYU student at BYU, I was so ignorant of what homosexuality or homoerotic behavior was that he had to carry on with his proposition for 20 minutes before I understood what he was talking about. I am not proud of my then reaction. I am glad I learned a few things and radically changed my attitude. Frankly, I don’t care what you believe or don’t believe about my experience or the current reports I have from friends in various Provo subcultures (p.s. I don’t know Margaret). Similarly, my experience doesn’t somehow make you disingenuous in reporting yours or Margaret in reporting hers. It would be a far more useful contribution to the discussion to point out those perceptions you have mentioned about the LDS culture generally and suggest or inquire what can be done to improve that situation. I don’t see what I can do about it beyond the private discussions I have with other Church members, and the occasional comments I can work into Gospel Doctrine Sunday School lessons I teach, and my old letters to the editors of Sunstone and Dialogue some of which were published. Incidentally, look here http://ckbigelow.blogspot.com/ for an example of a very remarkable change of attitude. I have reason to believe, but cannot be certain, that writer was formerly more homophobic than this post of his seems to suggest. It is a remarkable change of attitude. It can be done. He lives in Utah Valley.

  24. We all live in different communities and there’s no surprise that different communities, even inside the Mormon Belt, can be different when it comes to things like homophobia. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a ward in Provo with a decent number of BYU and UVU professors has quashed outward homophobia from its ranks. I live at least 40 minutes from the nearest university. I don’t think there’s a single non-retired professor in my stake. I would be surprised if there were twenty active people in my stake who have voted for President Obama.

    Homophobia has not been quashed in my stake. A leader in my ward recently blamed “the gays” for the church getting rid of its adoption program (even though the church specifically stated that that was not the case, and the leader knew of the church statement and said he “didn’t buy it”). People in my ward are aghast that “the gays” are characters in TV shows. It’s a rare month where “the gays” aren’t blamed for something at church (usually in EQ). Are people at church saying the people at the nightclub “deserved it”? Not yet, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear something along those lines sometime within the next year or two. Is there a large amount of homophobia in my corner of the Mormon Belt? Oh yeah. Again, though, I’m not at all surprised when people who live elsewhere have different experiences.

  25. A good article. I appreciate the quotes. I was immediately ashamed of any feelings that were in conflict because of who the victims supposedly were. I was and am horrified by it, but then horrified more by the fleeting conflict. I pushed those feelings away and said a prayer for the victims and their families. For me it’s a lesson about learning to love like the Savior. “Jesus said love everyone.” I was also struck by the lack of facebook posts from people in my ward who had most recently posted solidarity with the bombings in Europe. That was disappointing to me.

    Over the years, I’ve had to learn a lot about loving like the Savior. Not just in regards LGTB but with all kinds of people who may or may have not made bad choices. One of the things I’ve learned is that there is no “them”. Maybe I’m not committing one of the so-called big sins, but I am painfully aware of my shortcomings and am ashamed by them and know that God holds me accountable for them, unless and until I repent. I don’t think God distinguishes to much between “our” sins and “theirs”… not like we’d like to think.

    The only thing that I think causes me to feel a bit differently, and that might be justified, is the notion that the further away you are from living consistent with the teachings of the Savior, the further away you are from God’s protection. True, good and innocent people have injustice and worse happen to them all the time, but they also report moments of divine protection and help. But because of that distance, I’m sure, even prior to this event, God has wept for them, and well, probably for us.

  26. The more we talk about guns and gays the more we distract from the issue. Tolerance for homosexual behavior will not change the enemy we face. This was a crime against all Americans, and even all those who oppose violent jihad or violent expansion of this branch of Islam.

    Nothing that has been said on this issue will solve the problems we face or prevent another violent extremist acting out their vision of God’s will for Muslims.

    We ought to be saddened, sickened, and outraged at the perpetrators behind this asymmetrical act of war and not look inwards at ourselves about what we are doing wrong — other than to realize this constant introspect, and even worse judging of our innocent peaceful neighbors, is only allowing the fires of violent jihad to spread even more.

    While this shooting and others like Connecticut were tragic, they should not be viewed in the same light as just another mass shooting. They have different causes and we should be open about how to address them.

    I realize this isn’t the intent of the post, but we keep discussing the periphery of the issue without rallying as a people to do something that will actually prevent these kinds of shootings.

  27. Brad (23) “The problem is that LDS believers are not acknowledging the full extent of what homophobia is…”

    I suspect everyone has that problem because there’s no one view about what constitutes homophobia. Judging by the media many would say being opposed to gay marriage is inherently homophobic. Obviously many of those who disagree one the political debate would also tend to think this use of homophobia amounts to a way of merely labeling any who disagree with them as doing so out of irrational fears.

  28. Tim (25) I’ve definitely seen what I’d call homophobia among Mormons. Typically it’s more common among those who are older (unsurprisingly) and those who tend to be outside of places where they’d meet people regularly disagreeing with their views. (The farther away from cities the more common this is)

  29. JR, you and Margaret are being dishonest.

    Clark, homophobia is rampant in Mormon culture. If you can’t accept that, then there is a problem with you.

  30. Clark (29)–Yep. I think it’s also related to their real-world experience of actually knowing people who are gay. Unfortunately for me, I’m consistently the only guy in my ward (several hours away from the nearest real city, Salt Lake) who disagrees with homophobic views, and largely because of my views and the fact that I’m the only one who outwardly disagrees, I don’t hold enough social capital to make much of a difference.

  31. Brad, I fully accept there is homophobia in Mormon culture. That was my first sentence. Do you also accept that some too broadly define homophobia?

  32. We do know that homosexuality and sexual sins are more grevious than others (we have both scriptural and doctrinal basis for this, along with countless general conference talks). We can’t deny the doctrine and the law of chastity in these comments. So yes, there should be love. But not an embracing of greviou sexual sin in our effort to show compassion to those who have died. It is not mandatory to show an increase in support for homosexuality just because of this tragedy. These people were sons and daughters of God first and foremost.

  33. Since this discussion suggests that no person’s sin is worse that anyone else’s sin, and we’re all sinners and God weeps for all of us, may I ask if that sentiment also applies to the murderer in this case? He has a mother and father who are mourning — will anyone mourn with them?

    The recounting of God’s weeping in the original posting, as I understand, was weeping for the unnecessary suffering of unrepentant sinners. All of God’s children are called to repent — it is a universal message. I want to mourn with those that mourn, and weep for those who die without repentance. It all comes down to faith, hope, and charity.

  34. The truth is that other people engaging in sex, when we think of it, is almost always off putting, beginning with our parents. Even though it is what brought us into the world, we don’t like to think about them engaging in sex. The same goes for all kinds of sexual activity. Sure, Hollywood can make it attractive for a minute with attractive people, but even they generally avoid showing the nitty-gritty, and for good reason. This kind of reaction to sex has nothing to do with loving other people and being horrified by what happened in Orlando. It is very odd IMHO to try to measure whether or not a person can find mass murder horrifying depending on their views on marriage, sin or whatever, as if people cannot be allowed to be horrified unless they concur with various political opinions. Even stranger is “prayer shaming” and the behavior exhibited by Anderson Cooper in his interview with Pam Bondi. This kind of behavior says a lot about the people doing the shaming and nothing about the people they are trying to shame.

  35. ji 34
    I do not believe this discussion was about equivocating moral transgressions to the point of making all sins equal. I did not get that from the original post. Not all sins are equal. And to be honest, it might be difficult to actually create a moral pedigree of sin when individual circumstances are accounted for.

    I think all can agree that the slaughter of 49 innocent humans doing whatever they were doing is more grievous a sin then their sexual orientation. If we cannot agree on that then this post will seem equivocating. If we can agree on that, then we start there. We seek justice and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. One can do this without agreeing on homosexual sex or marriage.

  36. When God wept for all unrepentant sinners, I think that included the Orlando murderer.

  37. Brad L,

    Please clarify your definition of “homophobic.” If one does not endorse SSM for religious reasons, is one homophobic? If one encourages gay and straight single Latter-day Saints to live a celibate lifestyle, is one homophobic? If one encourages gay LDS teens to stay close to their families, adhere to the teachings of their faith and avoid LGBTQ activists, is one homophobic?

    I have lived in Utah for over fifty years, and I have rarely heard what I consider homophobic statements. I have heard much worse in other parts of the country and outside the LDS community. You may be talking past your intended audience here. Please define the word.

  38. “[A}void LGBTQ activists…”

    That’s definitely a term that needs clarification, even more so than “homophobic.” If i”LGBTQ activist” means “someone who campaigned for marriage rights for gay couples” or even “someone who is gay who doesn’t plan on living a life of celibacy,” then yes, if one encourages members of the church to avoid these individuals, there’s homophobia going on.

  39. Clark, “Brad, I fully accept there is homophobia in Mormon culture. That was my first sentence.”

    Not true. “I suspect everyone has that problem because there’s no one view about what constitutes homophobia”

    You subtly question the scope and validity of the term homophobia in your first sentence.

    “Do you also accept that some too broadly define homophobia?”

    Of course. But LDS believers typically define it too narrowly.

    Old Man, I don’t have some highly subjective definition of homophobia. Mine fits standard textbook definitions: an irrational fear or hatred of gays that manifests itself in discrimination and psychological and physical abuse. I would like to hear your definition of homophobia. Would you care to venture one? Consider the results of <a href="http://rationalfaiths.com/mormon-religious-context-and-lgbt-youth-suicides-an-additional-empirical-analysis/&quot; Benjamin Knoll's empirical analysis in which he found the following: “As Mormons move from their minimum to maximum population in a state, the rate of increase in high-school aged suicides moves from 17% to 119%. In other words, the more Mormons there are in a state, the faster suicide rates increased between 2009 and 2014.” If you’ve lived in Utah for 50 years and haven’t heard homophobic statements, your head is in the sand.

  40. I must add that what Julie wrote in comment 33 just confirms what Jacob Baker wrote. LDS people are conflicted. She felt the need to make what amounted to a qualification of “love the sinner, hate the sin” for victims. She feels that she has to practically apologize for sympathizing with LGBTQ+ victims of a horrific attack.

  41. Brad I fully agree some LDS define things too narrowly and some activists define it too widely. I don’t think I was subtly questioning the scope. I thought I was pretty overtly doing so because there is pretty widespread strongly held disagreement over the matter. My point is that you can’t really address the question of homophobia without first engaging with that question. Otherwise we’ll all just be talking past one another. (Ditto for questions of racism or religious tolerance — both questions where people tend to want to avoid clarity of communication in order to use such terms or avoid their use) The problem with just saying “irrational fear” is that of course there’s strong debate over what is rational in such discussions.

  42. Clark, you’re quibbling over semantics again, which is fine to some extent, but if pushed too far becomes of a way of dodging inconvenient issues. You seem to agree that there is homophobia in LDS culture. How about you venture a definition of homophobia then? You don’t like the word irrational, then how about you come up with a more apt term for qualifying the fear of LGBTQ+s, which is inextricably part of homophobia.

    I’ve made this point before with you, but I’ll make it again, since it appears to be your preferred strategy to undermine arguments you don’t like by questioning the semantics of terms used to make said arguments. The definitions of words are much like prices of commodities on the market. Prices exist for commodities because some people perceive the commodity to have value. Yet market prices for commodities are not determined solely by what a particular seller of a good or service says, but it is collective market forces that determine that. Prices for a particular good or service may vary to some degree, but if too high, the commodity loses value to the buyer, and if too low, it loses sale-value to the seller. Words exist because we humans create them and give relative meaning to them. However, their meanings are determined collectively. The terms ‘homophobia’ and ‘irrational’ have been given meaning by English-speakers, and while these have a range of acceptable meanings and connotations, it is a limited range. I will grant you that much like there are prices for goods and services that have no real value, or are severely inflated, there are concepts that people have created words for that have no root in reality. But I get the sense that you acknowledge homophobia and irrational to be useful words that do describe reality. If so, then I think you have a responsibility when pointing out the variation in meaning of the terms to inform us what you believe a proper definition of those terms to be and how it does or doesn’t describe Mormonism. For the fact of the matter is that lots of people are using the terms ‘homophobia’ and ‘irrational’ to point out flaws in Mormon cultural trends, and rather persuasively so, since more and more people are calling Mormon leaders and followers homophobic and irrational.

  43. Brad, your assertion that English speakers agree what ‘irrational’ means doesn’t make sense, because you’re arguing about a specific application of the word in a specific context. Likewise with fear, hatred, psychological abuse, and all those other things you think should be obvious. Stomping your foot doesn’t make it so.

    A logical reading of the authoritative statements of Mormonism leads pretty directly to the conclusion that homosexual activity is a sin. That seems like a pretty rational conclusion to me. Since it’s rational, it can’t be what you mean by homophobia, right? And we’re repeatedly told to love our neighbors even as we reject their sinful choices, so I’m not seeing the fear or hatred you’re certain is so rampant. And the general authorities have spoken out against anti-LGBQ violence. It doesn’t seem like psychological abuse to simply state church doctrine.

    So, basically, I don’t see the homophobia you claim is obvious. All I see is one more attempt to say that failure to applaud gay sex is the same as homophobia. So Clark is right to point to the problem of definition that you’re trying to sidestep by claiming that everyone simply agrees with you. (Hint: they don’t.)

    By the way, that article whose statistics you cite overlooks altitude as a confounding variable. One of the comments asked about it but the author never responded.

  44. I’m late to the party, but here’s my two cents …

    Very, very interesting that “The Bonobo and the Atheist” is quoted here. Nathaniel, the quote you cite is just a side thought in his book. I agree with the sentiment of avoiding dogmatism, but that is not what the book was about.

    The book is by a primatologist who argues that other primates (and other animals who take care of their young for extended periods of time) have evolved the ability to empathize–to project oneself into another’s situation and imagine how they feel. The author then makes the argument that our morality can be understood to have evolved from our ability to empathize and live in hierarchical societies. That is, morality comes from within us, it does not come from the heavens down to man. That’s the basic premise of the book.

    If I remember right, the author even goes into homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom. Bonobos are an example of a primate that resolves much of its conflict through sexual behavior–homosexual, heterosexual, and self … I don’t know what that’s called, but bonobos do that too.

    The book also touches on tribalism and in-group/out-group dynamics. I think one would have to be intellectually dishonest or just ignorant to claim that Mormonism doesn’t create a tribe and that the LGBT community is not part of the in-group. Last year the faith explicitly kicked out same-sex families–and just for good measure kicked their children out too. Which, the faith has a right to do if it wishes.

    Where was I going with this? … Having read de Waal and having participated in the LDS faith for much of my adult life, I can say it is ironic to read a post citing deWaal on an LDS blog. LDS teachings absolutely place the LGBT individuals in the out-group and the entire point of de Waal’s book–about Bonobos!–is that our moral codes come from within, not above, and our ability to empathize with others hinges to some degree on whether the “other” is part of the in-group or out-group.

    (Not related, but if you’re interested, type “capuchin monkeys reject unequal pay” in Youtube. It’s worth it.)

  45. Brody, I didn’t say that English-speakers agree about what ‘irrational’ means. What I said was that of all of the different understandings of what ‘irrational’ means, and what is understood to be irrational, there are clear trends and limits. It is possible, but unlikely, that there is an English-speaker is using the term ‘irrational’ to mean what others mean as ‘popcorn.’ If there is such a person, then their definition of ‘irrational’ is private and will not be understood by other English-speakers. Similarly I could try to sell a gallon of gas at $20, but it is highly unlikely that anyone would buy it from me. Much like I don’t have full control over what the price is that I sell goods at, I as an individual don’t have full control over what words mean.

    Your usage of the term homophobia (and denial that Mormon culture is homophobic) is basically the equivalent of you trying to sell me gas at $20 a gallon. I’m not buying it. Others aren’t buying it. Why? Because it simply appears to be outside the predominant norm of how the term is used. If you don’t think that Mormon culture is homophobic, then you bear the responsibility of providing a definition of the term homophobia, showing that it corresponds to other predominant definitions of the term, and showing that Mormon culture (which clearly regards open LGBTQ+s to be inferior to straights) is not inherently more or less homophobic than other cultures in the US. No to do so is just intellectually lazy.

    Homophobia isn’t only restricted to manifestations of physical violence. You think that a religion that has repeatedly emphasized the extreme sinfulness of LGBTQ+ relationships to even go to the extent of violating its own doctrine (Article of Faith 2) by forbidding baptism to children of a parent in a gay relationship has fostered a culture that is fully accepting and loving towards LGBTQ+s. This is denialist ignorance in the extreme. How about you actually listen to the many, many stories of LGBTQ+ who grew up in LDS culture and then try to tell me that there is no homophobia in LDS culture with a straight face.

    Oh yeah, Mormon-populated areas vary greatly in altitude. Stop grasping for sorry excuses to deny the obvious.

  46. “If you don’t think that Mormon culture is homophobic, then you bear the responsibility of providing a definition of the term homophobia, showing that it corresponds to other predominant definitions of the term, and showing that Mormon culture (which clearly regards open LGBTQ+s to be inferior to straights) is not inherently more or less homophobic than other cultures in the US.”

    So your point is that if you label someone or a group of someone’s then it is on them to prove that they don’t fit the label and not on you to define what you mean by that label.

    This semantics thing may seem crazy to you but let me tell you a story a few years ago that was similar to this.

    I was following a discussion about racism on a message board and there was an array of more conservative and more liberal posters. At the time, my definition of racism was similar to what you would find in the Oxford Dictionary when you googled the term. “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” In other words, calling people racist terms, not hiring someone because of their race, treating them differently because of their race and so on. So some posters were calling other posters racists for this or that but I couldn’t see how the those people fit the term of racist until the more liberal posters defined the term a bit more specifically.

    They defined the term essentially as a cultural and governmental system that gives minorities a disadvantage through historical momentum, and sometimes intended consequences, other times unintended consequences. Most of the definition has nothing to do with one’s direct interactions with another person. It’s mostly systemic. My definition of racism was not racism. It was prejudice and bigotry.

    Apparently this definition is considered normal among liberals and in the academic world. So much so that it is considered crazy to think there is any other definition.

    So at that point I realized it would be a good idea to figure out what people were using as the working definition of a term before assuming they are saying the same thing I am thinking.

    I can’t speak to the experience of others here but I would suspect that Clark and others have had similar experiences where to them it appears like others are changing the definition of terms to something outside of the clear trends and limits they thought to be normal.

    There are literally people out there who think that since the church considers gay sex a sin they are homophobic and until the church changes its doctrine to allow gay members to be married in the temple and be 100% members in good standing the church will be homophobic. Since that is within the range of clear trends and limits of the definition of the word it seems reasonable that some people would like to pin down exactly what you mean by the term before arguing the merits of your post, otherwise everyone is just talking past each other.

  47. “Oh yeah, Mormon-populated areas vary greatly in altitude. Stop grasping for sorry excuses to deny the obvious.”

    This isn’t grasping at straws. Altitude is a major factor in depression and suicide and altitude also happens to greatly correlate with the percentage of mormons in a state since the mormon belt is literally sitting right on top of the rocky mountains. So if your correlation is between % mormons and suicide and you aren’t accounting for altitude as a control variable then you are not doing your statistics correctly.

  48. Brad (45), I don’t think in this case I’m quibbling over semantics. I know lots of people for whom opposition to gay marriage is homophobic and lots of people opposed to most homosexual prejudice but who draw the line at gay marriage. This isn’t an “intellectual” distinction but a pretty important one in current debates. And don’t get me wrong, I can completely understand why say my gay acquaintances would tend to see opposition to gay marriage or disagreement over religious freedom in the workplace would be homophobic. But I also think it’s a place where a degree of intellectual charity is important.

    If the question is to what degree Mormon culture is homophobic, I think those issues are unavoidable. If the question is just whether there’s homophobia in the culture then of course there is, even by the more narrow definition of homophobia. (I suspect most of us have met Mormons – especially older ones – who have what I’d consider to be offensive views of homosexuals)

    I know some people think semantics don’t matter in these instances, but when it results in very different judgements about who is or isn’t something (in this case homophobic) then I think people are just engaging in sophistry when they brush the concerns away.

    Again, I’m fine if people think Mormon culture is homophobic because many (most?) oppose gay marriage and think individuals should have more religious liberty with regards to public organizations and gay marriage. However I also think it’s an unfortunate use of the term. Personally I think it ridiculous to label wide swaths of the country homophobic when major liberal leaders (Obama and Clinton) had the same views just a few years ago but aren’t labeled homophobic. It’s a very disingenuous form of discussion IMO. Again I think it fine to think the views are wrong, but I think the rhetorical strategy has gone well beyond that.

  49. Brad L (48) “Because it simply appears to be outside the predominant norm of how the term is used.”

    This is the key issue. Liberals (I’ve no idea whether you are liberal — I’m making a broader point here) simply seem amazed to discover that people use these basic terms differently than they do. That is in public discussion there seems to be either disingenuous or radically ignorant understanding of terms others use. That you think your use is the predominant norm simply shows that you are judging the entire country in terms of your peer’s linguistic use. Not recognizing how quickly that use has shifted and being unaware that most of the country doesn’t share that use.

  50. Brian, “So your point is that if you label someone or a group of someone’s then it is on them to prove that they don’t fit the label and not on you to define what you mean by that label.”

    Others on this post have acknowledged that ‘homophobic’ is a valid label, plus they are denying that Mormons are homophobic, which appears to be a common and valid criticism made by many. I’ve provided a basic definition (comment 40) of homophobia and they have yet to say whether that is valid or not. Yet their denialistic insistence that Mormons are typically not homophobic suggests that they disagree with my definition.

    As for it being homophobic or not to disagree with gay marriage on religious grounds, even we are to grant that that is not homophobic, it is likely that people who frown on gay marriage and consider homosexuality a grievous sin are discriminatory towards gays in other areas and are more prone to psychologically abuse those who are gay, particularly family members. Also, just today, a report (http://kuer.org/post/youth-suicide-drives-down-utahs-child-health-ranking#stream/0) was published that shows that youth suicides in Utah have doubled since 2008. This is attributable to a number of factors, but the dogged non-acceptance of LGBTQ+s in the face of increasing acceptance for them outside Mormon society is no doubt a factor in this.

    Clark, reading your clarification, I don’t really have any beef with your view. My issue is with those who are denying the prevalence of homophobia in Mormon culture outright.

  51. Brad L,


    I would only add that arguing about the term “homophobic” is ridiculous given the situation. I know many LGBT adults who leave the LDS faith and are then free to fall in love with the person of their choosing and marry. My anecdotal evidence is that these people feel a great increase in satisfaction with their life. Their concern? Overwhelmingly the concern is LGBT teens because they are obligated to stay in the faith. Young people who see and feel their sexuality developing in a climate that tells them it is wrong.

    Adults are free to leave the faith. Teens are often obligated to stay.

    I don’t give two bits about whether you want to call Mormons “homophobic.” I care that there are young people who identify as LGBT and are mired in a climate that is so toxic to their identity.

    (And yes I’m aware there are some LGBT Mormons who choose that belief system and are happy.)

  52. I think this undoubtedly the real issue. Right now people have strong biological drives that make them completely understandably depressed and alienated at church. The Church has no solutions on what to do. Since the Church took more overt actions the last few years over the gay marriage issue the suicide rate has increased.

    I can completely understand why the brethren feel like they have no choice given what has been revealed. Thus we need some sort of revelation to clarify what the Lord wants done. To simply label homophobic this huge conundrum believing Mormons find ourselves in due to the requirements of the revelations is simply unhelpful. It avoids the central issues at the core of the problem. Mormons aren’t going to change their views by being called homophobic. If anything it’ll simply cause a counter-reaction that makes more people focus on that rather than the real pain and struggles of members in the church. Effectively the status quo drives people out of the church from frustration with few options.

    Brad I think what I find unhelpful about your approach is that you seem to assume most Mormon are in this category even if you might agree the label is problematic. I don’t think we know how many are. I think some are but I’m rather skeptical as many are as some suggest. More importantly I don’t know of any way we could know how many are. In which case we’re just making generalizations based upon people we’ve encountered which is hardly representative of the whole.

    That said I do think given the issues it’s easy for people to make what you call discriminatory acts even if they might not think of it as such. It’s sometimes hard for Mormons to separate out “goodness” from say following the word of wisdom. That is, it’s hard for me to think drinking coffee makes someone evil – yet I’ve covenanted not to do it so I follow that covenant as best I can. But when you say something is wrong it’s hard for most people to instinctually think of all the nuances of the position. So drinking alcohol is sometimes treated bad the way stealing is bad. (Ignoring the hierarchy of goods most people instinctively latch onto) The same sort of thing undoubtedly happens with gay issues, perhaps made worse because of the place we justifiably give sexual sins.

    All that said, and going back to the original post, I’m just deeply skeptical most Mormons wouldn’t empathize with the victims of the terrorist attack. And that’s regardless of their feelings on homosexuality.

  53. Clark, you should have left it at comments 50 and 51. This last one was a disaster to which I won’t respond in full. But I will note some of the most egregious parts of it.

    “I can completely understand why the brethren feel like they have no choice given what has been revealed. Thus we need some sort of revelation to clarify what the Lord wants done. To simply label homophobic this huge conundrum believing Mormons find ourselves in due to the requirements of the revelations is simply unhelpful. It avoids the central issues at the core of the problem.”

    Here you are making an excuse not to use your own reasoning on what is homophobic and what is not. In your mind, the leaders’ words on LGBTQ+s are superior to anything else said about them. You can’t bring yourself to entertain the idea that the LDS church leaders are homophobic or that the new policy wasn’t actually the result of revelation but the product of knee-jerk homophobia, especially considering the fact that the new policy contradicts long-held LDS doctrines.

    “Mormons aren’t going to change their views by being called homophobic.”

    They have in the past. Since people don’t like being labeled homophobic, by acknowledging the full range of homophobia is, it is likely to reduce the level of homophobia in society. People are more likely to call out homophobia when they see it. People are more likely to be hesitant to engage in homophobic actions. I’m here calling out nonsensical homophobia denial.

    “even if you might agree the label is problematic”

    Wow. Is this some veiled attempt at declaring victory? Nice try. I never conceded that the term ‘homophobic’ is problematic. You’re the one who insisted on delving into semantics in order to dodge addressing a serious issue. I gave you the benefit of the doubt for a moment, but now I’m regretting having done that.

    “More importantly I don’t know of any way we could know how many are. In which case we’re just making generalizations based upon people we’ve encountered which is hardly representative of the whole.”

    You’re making excuses to dodge an important issue.

    “I’m just deeply skeptical most Mormons wouldn’t empathize with the victims of the terrorist attack”

    Straw man. No one here is saying that they are. The issue is LDS people being conflicted about sympathizing with LGBTQ+ victims to the same extent that they sympathize with other victims of mass shootings. Already we have evidence from this comment section that people are conflicted.

  54. Also, this is my last comment on this post. So don’t bother responding because I will not see it. Homophobia in LDS culture is the issue. Deny it at your own peril.

  55. Brad (55) Here you are making an excuse not to use your own reasoning on what is homophobic and what is not. In your mind, the leaders’ words on LGBTQ+s are superior to anything else said about them.

    If homophobia is an irrational fear and individual believers are rationally deciding to follow the brethren then how can that be homophobia by any of the senses you accept with the term? Sincerely? Now perhaps you think it’s the brethren who are irrational and so it’s indirectly homophobia. But if the brethren are sincerely trying to follow the revealed commands of no sex before marriage and marriage only between a man and a wife, then are they being irrational?

    Whether what the brethren say is “superior” to anything else said I don’t know. I can only say I’ve covenanted to follow the words of God revealed through them. I’ve had no revelation saying they are wrong. Therefore I see it entailing following them. If you see a solution out of this that is rational I’m all ears.

    I don’t think I’m making excuses but rather explaining the reasoning (which again makes it rational and thus by definition not homophobia if one is actually following the semantics of the term rather than applying it more broadly)

    I’m here calling out nonsensical homophobia denial.

    But you haven’t shown it to be nonsensical in the least. I can tell you feel strongly about it but that’s not the same as the opposing views being non-sensical.

    I never conceded that the term ‘homophobic’ is problematic.

    You said in (52), “Clark, reading your clarification, I don’t really have any beef with your view. My issue is with those who are denying the prevalence of homophobia in Mormon culture outright.”

    Since my comments were about how the term was used in problematic ways I confess I’m confused as to how you “don’t have any beef with my view” and simultaneously don’t concede it. To me a contradiction is inherently irrational. I’ll leave the implications of that alone. (grin)

    The issue is LDS people being conflicted about sympathizing with LGBTQ+ victims to the same extent that they sympathize with other victims of mass shootings.

    Again, I said, “I’m just deeply skeptical most Mormons wouldn’t empathize with the victims of the terrorist attack.” I think most empathize the same as they do any victims of terrorism or other violence. Obviously I have no way of confirming how many do. But then neither do you.

  56. Brad (56) I didn’t see your mic drop so apologies for responding. I can but say again I don’t deny in the least the existence of homophobia in the Mormon community. I’ve certainly seen it. I think we should all work to stamp it out both within ourselves and within our community. That said I also strongly suspect the prevalence is not nearly as great as some suggest and that what they call homophobia is a sincere and rational attempt to live the commands as best they are able. This unfortunately entails some positions (such as the position of sexually active homosexuals in the church) that many in the broader secular world label homophobia. Again I’m completely open to solutions to the dilemma. I fully recognize how painful it is and hope further light and knowledge is revealed. But until then I think members are fairly limited in the choices they have open to them.

  57. Any new posts soon? Maybe? Hopefully? I fully admit to being a T&S junkie and I want, nay, need my fix.

  58. I have a bunch. I’ve just been swamped with work and my wife being out of town. I’ll be going to Canada next week so I’ve got about half a week to finish them up and post. Sorry. I’m trying to avoid doing the quick post due to complaints.

  59. Nathaniel, thank you. I saw the post you referred to as well as the article and your thoughts mirror mine. The sweeping condemnation of always mystery folk builds a lovely straw man with which to bash conservative and/or believing Mormons. I was dumbfounded that at a time of such sadness THAT would be what someone was thinking about, how to take a jab at someone else’s brand of grief as not being pure enough. Because selective tolerance.

    Brad L, what a mormophobic you are. Deny it at your own peril.

  60. Re: “Worse” sins and “worse” consequences

    Yes, in a way, there is a hierarchy of sins, e.g., consequences of not doing one’s home teaching =/= consequences of murder (I hope! ;-D Still, perhaps someone is adept enough at manipulating logic that s/he can do a sort of “six degrees of separation” thing which shows that, actually, the two, and their consequences, are equivalent.) On the other hand, sin is sin in that all sin separates us from God, no matter what the sin.

    I love the LDS production, “The Prodigal Son” (1992). (Yeah, I know: sappy, campy, dated, whatever, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for sap, and camp, and datedness, and whatever!) I especially like the scene in which Jim’s real problem is laid bare. Speaking of Tom, he tells Joanne, “There’s a big difference between what he’s done and anything I might’ve done.” And she replies, “The difference I see is that one of you is trying to repent and one of you isn’t.” He asks, “Since when have I become the big sinner?” And she replies, “The minute that you let your pride convince you that you’re better than somebody else.”

    Then, she goes on to say, “Just like cocaine and alcohol almost destroyed your brother, jealousy and bitterness are trying to destroy you. You’ve got to realize that it’s not just your brother with the ‘big sins’ that needs Jesus Christ. You need him just as desperately as any of the rest of us do. If you think you can overcome this bitterness by yourself, you’re just fooling yourself. Tom couldn’t overcome his problems alone, and you can’t, and I can’t. Nobody can. The bottom line is, nobody can make it halfway through this life or into the next without the Savior.”

    In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a lot of us have Jim’s attitude when it comes to homosexual behavior because we’ve let our pride convince us that we’re better than those who have that particular temptation. But let’s face it: if all sin had the “ick factor” that homosexual behavior does for many of us, it’d be a lot easier to keep the commandments. As much as I think homosexual behavior is a sin, I can’t demand that someone accept my paradigm. Anyone who does share my paradigm and who has that particular struggle has, in some respects, almost a uniquely tough row to hoe, so it’s easy for ME to say, “Well, everyone should keep the commandments.” And while I think people should be ready to defend the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of us seem quite eager to impart “Living Water” to others we believe desperately need it … through a fire hose set at full blast.

    Say not, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” Rather, say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And let he that is without sin cast the first stone.

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