John Gustav-Wrathall asks, “What can LGBT Mormons hope for?” As an answer, John offers his own experience as a guide, and there is much about it that is commendable. Optimism, faith, relying on God, and a commitment to the Church are all far superior to their alternatives, and John’s generosity and positive approach is a welcome contribution to what has too often been a toxic and polarizing debate. Mormons can fully share in much that John hopes for.
But John has also chosen a path that is in some important points incompatible with Mormon belief. There has to be clarity about this, and, as John is an excommunicant, the point is indeed quite clear. At a number of points in his answer, John gestures towards rejection of Church teachings about sexuality in a way that would be worrisome in a Church member, but is not entirely surprising in an excommunicant.
In John’s life story, personal revelation plays a fundamental role. And that is to be lauded: personal revelation is a foundational element of Mormon belief and spiritual practice. Personal revelation is only part of that foundation, however. The Church is also founded on revelation to prophets and apostles, and Church leaders have been quite clear in their teachings about homosexual relationships and gay marriage. Some will protest that Church leaders have not inquired earnestly, or meditated sufficiently, or spoken authoritatively. But that is not plausible. To say that the prophets have not spoken prophetically on a topic about which they have spoken at length—and a topic highly relevant to Church teachings that has been subject to intense public debate for the last few decades—amounts, in the end, to denying that Church leaders are led by revelation.
What can committed members of the Church retain of John’s spiritual experiences and personal revelation? I think we must affirm, although not endorse, his decision for connection and family. The Church does not counsel divorce. John has made commitments to his partner and son and he should abide by those commitments. I don’t think we can say that John took the best path for everyone, but I am prepared to believe that he made the best choice that he was capable of. Human beings are imperfect. In a world where Nephi took one look at the walls of Jerusalem and said, “Sorry, Lord, this one is beyond me,” I don’t think that would have been the end of the Spirit’s striving with Nephi. There would have been a Plan B, and a Plan C. We repent and get back on the path, although our choices may have changed the path we’re on. I believe that the Spirit confirmed to John that God has a plan for him, because I am certain that God does have a plan for him and will always have a plan, although the route may take some unforeseen turns.
John writes movingly of his resolve to be patient with a Church that remains at odds with his personal revelation. I’m glad that John enjoys a positive relationship with the Church and I hope he will continue to do so, but I don’t think many people could maintain the life-long patience with the Church required to follow his example. The biggest peril for the would-be imitator of John’s path is, I think, pride. That temptation can be impossible to resist for someone who has found himself personally enlightened and is waiting for the prophets to catch up. When we are confronted with a fundamental difference between what the Church teaches and what we believe, it is better for our own spiritual welfare to recognize that the problem is most likely to lie with us. Otherwise we put at risk our sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, an obligation that is no recent innovation. Having faith in some enlightened prophet of the future who will finally set the Church aright entails a rejection of the real prophet of today. Nearly all vices are rooted in the future, said Screwtape.
What I think would constitute a better and ultimately more successful approach is for John to acknowledge that there are flaws in himself, including in his sexuality (just as all of us must acknowledge flaws in our selves and our sexualities), even as he remains committed to doing the best he can inasmuch as he is able and under the circumstances that he finds himself. That seems like a better way to cultivate a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and it would let John cast the burden of patience off of himself and onto an infinitely patient God.
* * *
I appreciate the generosity of Jonathan Green’s response to my essay. I share his hope for a continuing discussion of issues related to LGBT experience that is, as he puts it, less “toxic and polarizing.” It is in that spirit I would like to share a couple of further observations.
Humility means acceptance of the possibility that one can be wrong, and openness to consider other views, but does not exclude the act of holding an opinion. Pride would include an unwillingness to accept data, including the data that comes from the experience of LGBT people themselves — even when that data seems to contradict common wisdom. It is unreasonable to demand that an individual, in the search for truth, abandon self-knowledge. Once I lose faith in my own ability to discern truth, I have no basis any more for judging truth from any source. I become vulnerable to the worst kinds of authoritarianism.
The Gospel in its very nature is anticipatory. It encourages us to look with hope to the future. Not vices, but virtues are grounded in the hope that the fullest blessings of the Gospel will be extended to us in the same way as they are currently extended to every other child of God.
* * *
I admire John’s commitment to seeking out truth and self-knowledge. John, thanks for a firm yet respectful exchange.
It’s precisely in matters of love, romance, and sex that I’m most skeptical of self-knowledge as a guide to truth. The demands of the flesh are persistent and too often bend the whisperings of the Spirit to their will. Our best recourse, I think, is not to abandon the search for self-knowledge and personal revelation, but to place that search in conversation—not with common wisdom, but with Church teachings and revelations to Church leaders. Otherwise we become vulnerable to the worst excesses of Antinomianism.
I have faith in the path towards the fullest blessings of the Gospel that has been sketched out by our living prophets, and I will follow that path to its conclusion. As I do so, I hope I can emulate John’s example of looking with optimism to the future.
* * *
Readers are invited to continue the conversation in the comments below, but please take John’s graciousness and respect for others as a guide as you do so.
Jonathan, thanks again for helping to model a respectful discussion. You’ve done a great job of setting the tone for any ensuing discussion. I hope the comments thread will stay at this level.
Part of the challenge for LGBT individuals in these kinds of discussions has to do with the trauma many of us have experienced as a result of intense rejection. This particular type of self knowledge, as many within the church leadership and membership finally seem to be acknowledging, has tended to elicit a visceral response from straight members and leaders that is absolutely not helpful. So these discussions tend to be very painful to us… Reopening old wounds, or deepening wounds that never healed in the first place.
Which sort of begs my next line of questioning. If I understand you correctly, in your response to my response you are saying that issues of sexuality are more likely to lead us astray than any other aspect of ourselves. The first thing I thought of when I read that was that criticism of the church that accuses Joseph Smith of leading the church astray, because his revelations on polygamy were a case of the prophet following his gonads, and then consciously or unconsciously rationalizing it through “revelation.” I wonder how you would respond to that.
Many LGB individuals have certainly wrestled with this question. We ask ourselves: “Am I just following my gonads?” We wonder if we can trust ourselves in this particular arena of self-knowledge. It can take years for us to sort that out. And it is very painful.
But in my experience, both from observing this process in myself, and from observing it in countless others over the years, figuring out that we are gay, lesbian or bi, and not merely “same-sex attracted,” actually has nothing to do with following our gonads. It has to do with discerning something very fundamental about our natures, emotional, social and spiritual. (Parenthetically, I believe some may be just “same-sex attracted” — whose experience is different from being “gay.”) Years before I was even able to contemplate acting on my sexual orientation, when I confessed my feelings to God, the Lord told me this aspect of me was part of my “inmost being.” It was one of those kinds of personal revelations where the Lord speaks to you in particular words. And it took me years to understand that when he used the words “inmost being” it meant that my gayness is part of my core, eternal identity.
That was truly a revelation to me at that moment. I had just come through a pass in my life where I literally was getting ready to kill myself over this. I would have died before “acting on it.” And the Lord said to me, essentially, No, this is part of the eternal core of who you are and it is good. It still took me years to digest that. And honestly, one reason it took me so long is because our culture — the Calvinist culture in which the church is saturated — gets particularly twisted up about sexuality. My problem was not that I was too ready to follow my gonads, it was that I found it impossible to believe that anything good could come from my sexuality.
I recently spent a length of time with an individual who has lived church standards his whole life, married, kids, faithful church service his whole life. And the level of pain is so intense. Never, ever “acted on” being gay. And he is now at an age and a stage in life where acting on it doesn’t make much sense any more anyway. But he recognizes that this is a core aspect of who he is. He hovered on the edge of suicide after the November 2015 policy came out. Most people would ask, why would the policy be so devastating to him? The policy validates every choice he’s ever made around sexuality for the last six decades. The answer: because in what the policy implies about being gay, it struck at the very core of who he was, and that pain is almost unbearable. He’s in a place of intense pain in relation to the Church.
Charitable comments start with a charitable post. Jonathan’s insinuation that John’s status as an excommunicant somehow unprivileges John’s thoughts on the matter is distasteful in the extreme.
My understanding of Christianity is that charitable comments start with oneself. If that is too much to ask, you are charitably asked to move along to another post.
John is too much of a gentleman to say otherwise, but I can’t believe this is the way you treat guests. Marc Bohn, do you find this acceptable?
The mind boggles. A passive aggressive stunt—the same sort of erasure that drives so many from the fold of Christ: you don’t feel what you feel, you can’t think what you think.
Of course you’re right, Frank. It does start with me.
Beautiful thoughts, John. As always. And your measured response to Jonathan’s smarmy taunts is an example to us all.
D. Christian Harrison — John was actually interested in having someone post a counter-point, thinking that a respectful exchange with someone offering an opposing view could help to move the conversation past trivialities to focus on substance. I don’t think Frank had any issue with you criticizing an approach that “unprivileges” John’s thoughts because of his status as an excommunicant, but instead objected to the manner in which you did so. Instead of attacking Jonathan, could you post a comment that explores why it is problematic to “unprivilege” John’s thoughts on the matter?
If I made a commitment to my Bookie to come and gamble my earnings away everyday, would you say I need to honor that committment?
What if I made a committment to drink everynight?
What if I promised to hurt someone?
What if I made a committment to ISIS?
Is committment more important than obedience to God’s laws? Apparently, to some, it is…
I agree that the phrase “not surprising in an excommunicant” feels dismissive, slightly ad hominem, and it invites people to dismiss what I have to say because of my membership status, rather than inviting people to consider the merits of what I actually have to say.
LGBT folks get traumatized by misunderstanding and rejection, and then re-traumatized when we tell our stories and are disbelieved or told that our experience is not real. So I also get why Christian (or others) would read his response get really upset. It’s one reason why, in my initial response to Jonathan, I tried to explain why these discussions can be so painful for LGBT folks. I don’t recommend this discussion for people who are feeling really wounded.
I chose to let the phrase go, because in some of his other statements Jonathan seemed to be making a good faith effort to interpret my experience in a more charitable light.
I felt (still feel) that a profitable avenue of discussion has to do with the question I posed in my first comment: Why are we so distrustful of self-knowledge when it comes to sexuality?
The essense of Jonathan’s response is the living prophet is always right. Despite a history of correction where subsequent prophets have over-ridden previous prophet’s declarations of eternal doctrine. The problem that lies within Mormonism is the corrections are largely white-washed out of any historical narritives that the Church publishes and are actually studied in Church, seminary, institute or beyond. That is their right, but it isn’t a very honest one. The closest acknowledgement of error being the blacks and the priesthood essay on lds.org that ‘disavows’ previous doctrine.
And the fall out of the living prohet always being right is when there is tension between the lived experience of members who dissent or leave the Church, “…it is better for our own spiritual welfare to recognize that the problem is most likely to lie with us.” The fault lies with the doubter, the dissenter, or those for whom the Church’s doctrine cause harm.
It is interesting that Jonathan would cite ‘pride’ as John’s primary fault. Yet as you may have gathered from John’s article or from knowing him in person, John is one of the most humble people I know. By contrast, the position that the leader of the Church is in essense infallible in is height of pride. Jonathan’s response does not engage any issues supporting his position other than ‘the living prophet is always right.’ There is no other argument made.
Honest question, “How is this not pride?”
Cordiality and politeness are the beginning of meaningful discourse. But this dialogue, the trend in the public square, and the comments in this thread, mostly build on the popular a priori demand that we must first confess that Church leaders must be totally wrong, since LGBTABCXYZ advocates are such nice innocent people. This is the precise definition of the term “special pleading”.
When I start from the opposite view, assuming that commandments from God are immutable and absolute, the issue looks totally different. Because I am confident that this view is consistent with eternal principles, I am comfortable with an uncompromising stand, even though those who advocate a different point of view are not. I am not ashamed to bear witness of the Gospel of Christ.
Being nice about this point is wonderful – being right is even better.
QT: Come on, think a bit. We’re not talking about crimes. These are commitments between human beings to support and care for one another and their dependents. The Church may not solemnize those relationships, but we can affirm their intent. As with (legal international, or illegal domestic) polygamous marriages, they’re a hindrance to baptism, but the Church does not counsel divorce. Once those relationships are entered into, people have an obligation to support their spouses and children.
D. Christian: We can’t ignore reality. John’s affection for his husband, his spiritual experiences, his positive experience in marriage – those are realities that John rightly asks Mormons to wrestle with and not ignore. At the same time, those things have also ended his Church membership, and that does affect his status as a commentator on the Church. That’s simply another reality that has to be wrestled with. Pretending it doesn’t change things isn’t the basis for progress.
John, historians and scholars of all kinds have done quite a bit of work on Joseph Smith and early polygamy, and there’s quite a bit more behind it than merely increasing access to sexual partners. Sam Brown, I believe, argues that the prophet was seeking not sex, but multiple and eternal family connections. I’m persuaded that he was not simply justifying his lusts through revelation.
Jonathan – By the way, one of the things you said in your second response I whole-heartedly endorse: “Our best recourse, I think, is not to abandon the search for self-knowledge and personal revelation, but to place that search in conversation—not with common wisdom, but with Church teachings and revelations to Church leaders. Otherwise we become vulnerable to the worst excesses of Antinomianism.”
My reason for sticking with the Church through thick and thin (including Prop 8 and the Nov. 2015 policy) is because of my testimony. And I am grateful — I have benefited immensely — from placing my search in conversation with Church teachings and revelations.
“John has made commitments to his partner and son and he should abide by those commitments.”
I think you mean “husband.”
I need to point out that this is largely not a discussion. The counterpoint offered here to John’s article and followed up in comments uses language like:
– commandments from God are immutable and absolute
– confident that this view
– consistent with eternal principles
– an uncompromising stand
– I am not ashamed to bear witness of the Gospel of Christ.
– being right is even better
The whole counterpoint article is ‘thanks John for sharing, but the prophet is always right.’ Why even have John write an article for you? There is a substantial difference between saying ‘the Church’s doctrine is always right’ and ‘this is what our understanding of doctrine is today.’ It takes no intelectual or moral effort to respond to John’s article with, ‘thanks for sharing, but we are right.’
If only there were some precedent for LDS leaders to be wrong about a matter of sexuality.
“Sam Brown, I believe, argues that the prophet was seeking not sex, but multiple and eternal family connections. I’m persuaded that he was not simply justifying his lusts through revelation.”
This is an interesting aside, Jonathan. I assume you are a careful writer and that the “simply” in your sentence is intentional. I appreciate that – It adds a nuance that seems to set your own belief on the matter apart from the church’s position (i.e. that sexual desire and relationships had nothing to do with it). How do you address that disconnect? Maybe I’m misunderstanding you and your personal view on the matter is identical to that taught by the brethren. But what if it was not?
What duty does a faithful LDS have in matters on which their personal belief is contrary to that of the church? Your argument in the post is that “[w]hen we are confronted with a fundamental difference between what the Church teaches and what we believe, it is better for our own spiritual welfare to recognize that the problem is most likely to lie with us.” What should I do, as a practical matter?
I, too, am at a loss to see how this could be called a discussion. I suppose it is only fair to acknowledge that this topic does not, for the most part, lend itself to discussion. Discussions are difficult and require some sense of movement on each side – even if it’s just a move to understand one another in a better, more complete way. While John’s essay was full of give and a sense of movement, Jonathan’s essay stood still. It’s not that I need Jonathan, or anyone else, to agree with John, it’s just that this seems a bit futile and more like broadcasting than communing. Sometimes we are so set in a conviction we are only capable of broadcasting, I understand and appreciate this. There are surely points where I am unable to discuss issues with movement as well.
I will also point out that Jonathan’s argument for polygamy (an argument that I hear mostly from men, but another topic for another day) is actually very close to the argument John makes for his marriage to his husband. So that leaves me, a woman, a bit shambled. It seems that…unorthodox marriages are fine because they are about eternal connections rather than lust AS LONG as the unorthodox marriage includes one man and truly any number of wives. Unorthodox marriages are not fine and are no longer about eternal connections rather than just lust if they include one man and one man, one woman and one woman.
Surely, from a woman’s point of view, one can understand how raw this rubs. It seems, well, convenient, shall we say, that the only unorthodox marriage blessed by our church (even still in its highest, most sacred spaces) is the one in which straight male desire is most roundly rewarded. It makes every straight male argument in its favor a bit, well, polluted. As someone deeply immersed in the history of the church, I see much more harm from the practice of polygamy than I have ever seen from the practice of de-stigmatized homosexuality.
I don’t think polygamy and homosexuality are perfect mirrors of one another and so this line of thought can only go so far. But our willingness to subject women to the tyranny and terror of polygamy (tyranny and terror of the institution more than the one man they have all married) and our unwillingness to sanction, even outside the temple, loving, supportive, equal partner unions like John and Goran’s truly leaves me flummoxed.
Tom, I believe you’re conflating what I wrote and others’ comments. That being said, this is supposed to be a discussion about LGBT issues within Mormonism, and that does impose some limits on the language we use. If we were to, hypothetically, use language like “commandments aren’t that significant, we don’t really know what God wants, principles are totally dependent on context, compromising our principles is more important than giving offense, we don’t have to be bound by the teachings of some long-dead itinerant preacher in Palestine, being right doesn’t matter,” we wouldn’t be holding a Mormon discussion. It’s totally OK if someone would prefer that discussion, but I’m not interested in hosting that discussion here. I do think “This is what our understanding of doctrine is today” is a good formulation, but it needs to be matched with a willingness to live according to that doctrinal understanding.
“principles are totally dependent on context”
Maybe not *totally* dependent on context, but the first few pages of the Book of Mormon do suggest that there’s some context dependence to the principle that you’re not supposed to chop a dude’s head off and steal his stuff.
The “this is what our understanding of doctrine is today” formulation is pretty good, but difficulty arises when it turns out not all of us (even not all the current church leaders and not all current members in good standing, in case that matters) have exactly the same understanding of the doctrine in question. For whatever it’s worth, I consider it a feature, not a bug, of Mormonism that the church does not provide unambiguous, direct instruction on each and every issue, and that quite a lot depends on individual interpretation and an honest personal search for understanding. But it certainly makes it hard to nail down exactly what “our understanding” is as to some of the more difficult questions.
Megan, I didn’t take Jonathan to be arguing for polygamy. Merely noting that people who might receive the gospel in Africa with polygamous cultures can’t be baptized if they continue to practice polygamy. I’ll admit up front I don’t know what the church’s policy there is in terms of what they tell missionaries to say. But it’s not a theoretical problem. In the same way you could imagine someone brought up in one of the apostate groups like the Allreds who practice polygamy but then is converted to the gospel. If they, because of their upbringing, decide the Church is true, what should they do if they are also married to multiple people?
I took Jonathan to simply be noting that these people might well be happy, may well love their spouses, but that doesn’t mean the Church is wrong for banning polygamy in this life. That is, the polygamy ban for multiple living spouses can be fully inspired despite polygamists feeling they are having a spiritual life.
So I think you took him the exact opposite of what he was saying. (Correct me if I’m wrong Jonathan)
I think the problem pops up when we think that any command God gives us must make us happy in the short term. I just don’t think that is the case. So ultimately the question is what God commands. That makes discussion difficult if one side thinks God said marriage is only between a man and a woman and the other doesn’t. As others commenters mentioned, what room is there for a real discussion at that point? Perhaps at best some understanding and appreciation for the problem.
Jonathan, you make no effort outside of “the living prophet’s said so” to make this a discussion. Here are some possible discussion points:
– origin of our doctrine of eternal marriage
– how it is different from mainstream Christianity
– how or why same sex marriage threatens temple marriages
– why would the Church be against civil marriages?
– why is celibacy the answer? Is celibacy damaging when people are forced to live it?
– why did Christ never say anything against homosexuality?
– Why did Christ never speak on marriage at all? (Except divorce – which he unequivocally denounced but we allow today)
– Why did early Christians not have religious marriages at all?
– Why didn’t Jews marry in the temple in the past?
– What scriptural support is there for the Proclamation on the Family?
– What possible scriptural basis is there for gender roles in the Proclamation?
I would imagine you didn’t go down these roads because the Church’s position on any and all of these subjects is messy at best and every argument will circle back to ‘God said so’.
My point is this is not a discussion about ‘LGBT issues within Mormonism.’ If you truly believe the 13th Article of Faith, than you have to be open to our understanding of eternal doctrine changing. And if our understanding has room to change and a persecuted segment of Mormon members (LGBT) are actively calling our attention to damaging doctrine, perhaps we should listen. Because I would assume we would agree that a loving Heavenly Father would not put LGBT Mormon youth in situations where they would suffer to the degree of taking their own lives or cast them off from their own families. But those are both realities for LGBT Mormon youth today.
Sorry, I see your point, but I find no basis for the assertion that “a loving Heavenly Father would not put ____ in situations where they would suffer”, when in fact He obviously did. This is more special pleading. If the true basis for comparison is suffering, it is pointless to argue about who suffers, and to which degree of agony or agonizing. There are no metrics for objective comparison. I had a toothache – does that count?
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent…”
Totally open to discussion of opportunities to repent – along with the rest of us. :-)
“Our best recourse, I think, is not to abandon the search for self-knowledge and personal revelation, but to place that search in conversation—not with common wisdom, but with Church teachings and revelations to Church leaders. Otherwise we become vulnerable to the worst excesses of Antinomianism.”
Wait a minute, Jonathan, I thought you called for a respectful discussion on this issue. I don’t think that is possible when you basically called all those who support same-sex marriage immoral. Sorry, pal, but you’re on the wrong side of morality, and it is because of attitudes like yours that LGBT teens in LDS communities commit suicide. You take refuge in what can only be described as a position of “when the prophet speaks the thinking is done” as a pathetic excuse to justify your own irrational fear and hatred of LGBTs, your homophobia, that is. You’re clearly too scared to think for yourself on the issue. You’re a moral coward. And don’t try to tell me that you’re not a homophobe. You are by all conventional definitions. Of course the LDS leaders are completely out of touch on all matters related to sexual orientation. Elder Bednar has denied that sexual orientation even exists (“there are no homosexuals in the LDS church”). According to the November 2015 policy, it can be clearly implied that LGBTs in committed same-sex relationships are more evil that murderers and rapists, for the children of the latter can be baptized in the LDS church before the age of 18.
I think we’ve come to a time in the US where the homophobes need to plainly be told 1) they’re homophobes like it or not and 2) to shut their mouths. For their position is becoming increasingly unpopular and disproven by the day and when they try to put together any sort of reasonable or coherent sentence on matters LGBT, it is painfully embarrassing. And yes I support free speech. I support the freedom of majorities who hold the morally correct position to shout down what is now a homophobic minority in the US.
Meanwhile physiologists & geneticists – i.e., scientists – are moving the gay indicator needle ever closer to “normal.” What will our revelators do when the process is complete, the epigenetic process has been decoded, and the “condition” is understandable as a variation but in no way the “selfish choice” we’ve been taught for years? The invocation of prophetic authority on this fraught issue has been, is, and likely will continue to be, disastrous.
There is a substantial difference between the Lord allowing us to suffer in the world and the Lord’s own commandments and people being the source of that suffering. A God of love does not cause suffering even if he allows suffering to occur in the world. And I would be very concerned if the doctrines I believed caused harm to others. Perhaps that is why the Church embraced racism for so long after the civil rights movement.
I don’t know what could be a bigger red flag that we are thoughtlessly following false doctrines.
“I don’t know what could be a bigger red flag that we are thoughtlessly following false doctrines.”
I can think of at least one.
“The invocation of prophetic authority on this fraught issue has been, is, and likely will continue to be, disastrous.”
Not in my experience. Sorry yours has proved unpleasant to you.
And yes, thanks, I suppose I do need to plainly be told 1) I’m a homophone or something like and 2) to shut my mouth.
Thanks for the proposal. Excellent basis for constructive dialog.
Odd that people consistently confuse “right enough to follow and listen to” with “right all the time” as if these were the same. No one is right all the time, but this does not mean we never listen to anyone else. What usually matters is not so much how often they are right, as how often they are right compared to _you_.
Megan – Part of me now regrets opening the rabbit hole of polygamy in general or Joseph Smith’s polygamy in particular. If it helps any, I think it’s possible that Joseph Smith’s polygamy was uninspired, but that God is guiding gay and lesbian people into marriages, and is blessing them when they make those kinds of covenants. I also think it’s worth reflecting on the way the ghost of eternal polygamy has been used to coerce gay people into heterosexual marriage with the argument that marriage and romance have nothing to do with each other.
John, I think anyone teaching that love and romance have nothing to do with marriage are teaching false doctrine. I think there have been some horrible if well intentioned advice given to gay people (and for heterosexual spouses of gay people told it would all work out). Good intentions don’t guarantee good results. But that goes for all purported solutions. People may think well of them in the short term but often the long term consequences aren’t what they seem.
Tom, in the short term doing what’s right can be painful. I’m sure the children of Israel didn’t like being led through the wilderness for 40 years. Doing what God asks often is painful in the short term. What counts is finding out if it’s really what God is asking. And that is something only each individual can tell.
I think it undeniable that further revelation for the Church on these subjects is needed, but I’ll fully admit I’m very skeptical that simply adopting what the world thinks is right will constitute such revelation. Let’s be very clear that there are pretty fundamental questions of salvation and the nature of spirits at question here. I can completely understand those who don’t fit into the hetero marriage situation would be dismayed. I completely understand. Love and companionship is a basic human need and drive. But I think the pretty huge theological issues are being brushed away rather quickly.
” … I’m very skeptical that simply adopting what the world thinks is right …”
“simply” is not that simple, Clark. The “world”? Honestly, why does anybody have to tell you this?
“Here we integrate theory from evolutionary genetics with recent developments in the
regulation of gene expression and 50 years of research on androgen-dependent sexual
development. We first find that the existing paradigm of mammalian sexual development
is incomplete, with the missing component being a system to canalize androgen
signaling during fetal development such that the response to circulating testosterone is
boosted in XY fetuses and blunted in XX fetuses. We integrate these data with recent
findings from the epigenetic control of gene expression, especially in embryonic stem cells,
to develop and empirically support a mathematical model of epigenetic-based canalization
of sexual development. The model predicts the evolution of homosexuality in both sexes
when canalizing epi-marks carryover across generations with nonzero probability.”
Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development
Author(s): William R. Rice, Urban Friberg, and Sergey Gavrilets
Source: The Quarterly Review of Biology, (-Not available-), p. 000
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/668167 .
Accessed: 12/12/2012 09:28
P, what on earth does that have to do with my comments? It seems a non-sequitur.
What “the world thinks,” pro or con, has nothing to do with homosexuality. This is like considering what the world thinks about gravity, cell division or eye color. Homosexuality is biology – thus the QRB piece. The only LDS options – marriage to an opposite-gender partner, life alone or excommunication – is inhumane. And, no, I’m sure you don’t “completely understand.” Such condescending nonsense.
John – I could talk about the ghost of eternal polygamy for ages. But I won’t. (You can thank me later, ha!) I always appreciate your measured responses. I also honestly think polygamy has an important place in this discussion. For so many reasons, doctrinally and culturally, and so think you were entirely right to bring it up. Sometimes, only sometimes, it can feel like it is the keystone of our religious culture and so I am not sure it is possible to have a discussion about the point and purposes of Mormon marriage without inviting that particular ghost into the room.
Clark, I appreciate your comments.
Advising gay individuals to just marry heterosexually as a solution to their problems was not a handful of bishops, it was general practice in the Church until fairly recently. It was the result of teaching that came directly from the brethren. I’m still hearing reports of it happening today.
The Oaks/Wickman interview in 2006 and the “God Loveth His Children” pamphlet began to back the Church away from “conversion therapy.” Oaks said you should only marry if you feel a “great attraction” for your spouse. But if you hang out at a North Star conference you’ll find plenty of emphasis on “mixed orientation marriage,” and discourse separating romance from marriage.
I agree, we need further light and knowledge, and I don’t want to “brush away” the church’s theology about marriage. I can live with Jonathan’s statement about engaging in a conversation between personal experience and personal revelation and current church teaching.
John G-W, you are a Saint among men. I admire you so much. God bless.
We need to face facts. Discussion where Mormonism is involved doesn’t work. Eventually the conversation leads to one party quoting the prophet, and the discussion shuts down. Because either we follow the prophet, or we don’t.
I personally have chosen to follow the heart and intellect I have first. One this issue and a few others, it leaves me at odds with the prophet, and unpopular with many Saints.
I wasn’t alive in 1978. Maybe it’s a bad comparison. But when the church stops shock therapy, edits general conference talks, and advocates celibacy over getting married anyway, then perhaps the thinking isn’t really done. Yet. Stay thirsty.
I think this does demonstrate the nature of the problem.
LGBT Mormons’ experience doesn’t fit the dominant theological paradigm. There’s no serious attempt to engage with the data. Instead, we’re told we lack faith or we are lying or we don’t know what we think we know. Our presumed unrighteousness or lack of faith or confusion then provides the justification for various forms of rejection or ostracism — sometimes pretty intense. That leads to trauma, and the majority of LGBT Mormons, after trying to make things work, eventually drop out and disappear.
Much of the anguish could be soothed if people felt seen and heard and understood. The core problem — at least for me — was not lust. It was cognitive dissonance. It was inability to make sense of what I was experiencing, and a lack of willingness on the part of those who ought to have considered me their friend to walk that road with me and help me figure it out.
When cognitive dissonance arises, you can attempt to deny it (“conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy”) or evade it (by leaving the church and getting as far away from Mormonism as possible). Or you can engage with the anomalous data.
By the way, engaging with the data (our life stories) in this way is the opposite of heretical… It’s profoundly faithful. It is a form of insistence that the Gospel applies, we just haven’t figured out how yet. You can’t go forward with that kind of work without generous doses of faith, hope and love. That’s the work of any real faith journey, of any living faith community. When we stop doing that, all we’re left with is the empty forms of faith that manifest as legalism and dogmatism.
I like very much John’s honest and moving hope for the same things that believing Christians desire and particularly those who embrace the teaching of the Restoration. The status of these hopes, along with the challenges they involve, becomes clear on considering John’s personal story, and I believe it justifies giving a fair hearing to the stories of other LGBT people. Even where they may disagree, Church members can at least come to a better understanding of the difficulties that LGBT members of the Church face.
John makes clear that the ultimate hope of many LGBT members and former members who continue to attend and participate, where possible, in their wards and stakes is that Church policy might one day change in a way that would alter their status or possibilities within the Church. However, he also indicates that the more immediate hope of these LGBT members and former members is that, barring such a change, the wards and stakes of Zion will seek to foster the kind of compassion, good will, tolerance and spirit of inclusions that welcomes LGBT people, and, for that matter, all people of good will, to associate with the Church and participate, where appropriate, in Church activities.
I believe that to do any less than this would place in question our adherence to the teachings of the Savior. As members of the Church our primary obligation is to serve and care for people in need, and are we not in one way or another all in need? Possessing and exercising the virtues John called for is what being a Zion people implies. Moreover, the benefit is great, not simply because, in one way or another, our service might be helpful to our LGBT brothers and sisters, but it would likely help keep intact the families and friendships that are frequently damaged by the estrangement and excommunication of LGBT members, not to mention the self-harm and suicides that might avoided.
Whatever one might think about the ultimate hope of LGBT members and former members, the more immediate hope that John describes is very realistic, clearly justified, and should be a shared goal of all members.
“Much of the anguish could be soothed if people felt seen and heard and understood. The core problem — at least for me — was not lust. It was cognitive dissonance. It was inability to make sense of what I was experiencing, and a lack of willingness on the part of those who ought to have considered me their friend to walk that road with me and help me figure it out.”
John, I hear this. I have seen this happen in many different settings with various kinds of trauma. Trauma also takes a lot of time to heal from, and I think a lot of times people don’t know how to walk that long path with someone…often not unless they have walked a similar healing path themselves (even if the specific struggle may vary). So I do think we have a ways to go in our culture for space for the messiness of mortality to really be navigated. As you note, this can create a sense of an empty faith. (If there is no wrestle, what of faith? Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of all things.)
But I have also seen (and experienced in my own life, with my own struggles) that trauma can be a very jealous master. It can create a black hole that demands that everything and everyone outside it adjust to relieve it…when in reality, trauma is healed by the wounds actually healing. Trauma is a survival mechanism, not an end state by which to make final judgments about self or others.
And healing happens within the heart and soul of the person, not by the world around the person changing to make dissonance cease and desist. To promise or demand any kind of such reduction of the wrestle is to deny the reality of our existence as mortals, imo and to divert focus away from the plan of God and the Savior’s role in that plan.
So, in this case, it is clear that the Church’s teachings on marriage causes trauma and deep dissonance for some, but that doesn’t mean the Church’s teachings on marriage are wrong. We can’t and shouldn’t measure the rightness of doctrinal teachings by whether or not they are hard or cause pain. God never promised an existence without pain, but He did send a Savior to help us through it. To expect someone to step in and assuage the dissonance by pretending a lack of conviction about Church doctrine is, imo, just as wrong as to be so dogmatic as to not leave space for a wrestle.
I think of friends whose spouses have lost faith. The mutual respect and space that is required to maintain a marriage in this situation is so poignantly difficult but essential. If the spouse in the Church demands compliance to LDS beliefs when they are not there or are in flux, that is a deep violation of the doctrine of agency and even core principles of respecting the humanity of another. But that goes both ways. If the unbelieving spouse constantly barrages the believing spouse with anger and accusations against the Church, especially with expectations of agreement with such accusations, that is also deeply wrong. And I have seen that believing spouses can experience their own trauma, which is often not recognized. It can be devastating to have something so foundational not be shared by a loved one anymore.
Healthy boundaries are needed so that *each* person can honor his/her own journey while seeking to build the relationship.
There’s a real tension here and it’s hard to walk, but it requires the best of us all. I crave more open dialogue about trials and trauma, and I think for that to happen, *both* compassion for those in dissonance mode *and* respect for those not obviously in that place is essential. The Church is, after all, defined first by its doctrines, and if that reality isn’t respected as a starting place for discussion, I think too much is being expected in the name of compassion.
Jonathan, do you think the Spirit misled John or that John isn’t interpreting personal revelation correctly?
Neither? I’m just interested in getting clearer clarification on why you think John is not on the ideal path despite your affirming John’s entitlement personal revelation.
P, I was speaking of ethics not science. Science has nothing to say about what one should do.
David, Michelle – thanks for the softer replies.
Michelle – I agree that it is unreasonable to expect Church members to abandon what they perceive to be set doctrines, and I do not expect it and I don’t ask it. Before my husband and I got legally married in 2008, I called my parents. The Church had just sent out a letter to every congregation in California asking Church members to support Prop 8, and I was aware of the conflict this might create for my mom and dad. I expected them to respond as faithful Church members, and I wanted to let them know that if they needed to do that I didn’t blame them. (To my surprise, my parents insisted on attending our wedding anyway, and both opposed Prop 8.) If I didn’t expect my parents to side with me against the Church, I don’t expect you or anybody else to either.
My brother once told me a story of a conversation he had with a gay co-worker. The co-worker was questioning him about the Church’s stance on homosexuality. After my brother explained the Church’s position, his friend asked, “Do you think that position will ever change?” My brother replied that, no, the Church’s position would never change. He went home and it bothered him all night. He couldn’t sleep. The next morning he went back to his friend and apologized. He said, “Actually, I spoke incorrectly. It is an article of faith that the Church has yet to receive many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. And while I can speak with certainty about what we currently know, I cannot definitively say that this will never change. A faithful Church member would actually be open to the possibility.”
It seems to me that, recognizing the pain of LGBT members, it would actually not be an unrighteous prayer for faithful Church members to pray that, if it be the Lord’s will, that we might receive greater light and knowledge on this subject, and that if the Church’s current policies need correcting, that the Lord authorize us to correct them as soon as possible.
“When we are confronted with a fundamental difference between what the Church teaches and what we believe, it is better for our own spiritual welfare to recognize that the problem is most likely to lie with us.”
Whatever Jonathan was trying to say here didn’t come out right. Too over-the-top, too institutionally defensive, too hard-edged; though not necessarily without some truth. Invitation to try a different expression of this.
Jonathan, I applaud your willingness to attempt a civil discourse on this issues, particularly on a public forum where your views will be strongly contested.
Here are my questions: (1) What evidence do we have that the church’s doctrinal teachings against SSM are any more unchangeable than its prior doctrinal teachings excluding black men from priesthood and black members from the temple; (2) Are you aware of any claim by the current FP/Q15 that they have personally received revelation on the issue of SSM as opposed to merely interpreting scripture and defining policies within their authority?
You are quite correct that church doctrine defines the FP/Q12 as prophets who lead the church by revelation. But I think you may be overstating their pronouncements as to SSM. While the FP/Q15 have declared SSM sinful (and subject to automatic disciple), I am not aware of any claim to visiting angels, dreams or visions, or anything else that we associate with big-R ‘Revelation.’ In my reading, the FP/Q12 are simply setting out their understanding of sin based on scriptural authority – something they clearly have authority to do, but no different than when the FP declared that the racial priesthood/temple ban, and its justification based on pre-mortal lack of valiancy, were “[not] a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord.” (see https://bycommonconsent.com/2004/04/21/a-statement-from-the-first-presidency/).
Of course, the church has now repudiated the doctrinal justifications for the ban (and left in limbo the doctrine of the ban itself), but you seem to be suggesting that there is no hope for a similar 180 on SSM. To understand that claim (prophesy?), you need to make very clear how our situation is different from 1949. If its just that the full FP/Q12 have spoken rather than the FP and some of the Q15, well that doesn’t impress me much. Neither am I impressed by the amount of repetition of the doctrine. To abandon hope of a future revelation – for a church built on continuing revelation, no less – I need you to present a clear explanation as to what Revelation our leaders have received on this issue, not just a bald pronouncement that they have authority to receive revelation and to run the church.
Isn’t it great to be living in a world where we may just be holding ourselves hostage to the prejudices of those who lived thousands of years ago?
Dave K, it seems to me we don’t have evidence any doctrine is unchangeable. The very nature of continuing revelation seems to presuppose that. Yet almost certainly the majority of doctrines are correct. So this to me seems like a reasonable question that kind of misses the point since it tends to presuppose that such things ought to change. But the real question is where the burden of proof is.
I can completely understand those upset by the doctrine and seeing it cause pain thinking the burden of proof is on those defending the policy. Yet that is not persuasive in the least to those who acknowledge doctrine might change yet see it as a very rare thing. Further those people will note that this isn’t just a small change as with blacks and the priesthood but a change that completely reformulates the theology of pre-mortal life, the theology of marriage, and the very notion of deification and God’s nature. With the blacks and the priesthood issue, even as egregious as some of the 19th century views were, they always held that sometime in the future the priesthood would be given to all. Further there were scriptures like 2 Nephi 26:33 that seemed to go against the policy. All that changed was stopping a limit. In this case it’s not a slight revision to theology but more or less rejecting the vast majority of Mormon doctrine.
If we look at the situation in terms of burden of proof, that huge change seems pretty significant and very unlike the 1978 revelation.
So I fully acknowledge that continuing revelation allows change. I am always excited and open to correcting error. I think those raising this simply are not being forthright in their comparisons though. Likewise the majority of those advocating particular changes, don’t seem able to layout all the changes necessary to deal with the doctrine. A few have suggested very limited changes, such as allowing marriage for time but not sealings. Even that has significant theological implications. Again, I completely understand the frustration and pain this brings many. However merely saying doctrines aren’t always complete really doesn’t push the discussion much. Let’s say marriages for time were allowed but had to be divorced at death. Is that something that would really please people? I suspect not. It’d merely push the problem back a level. It’d allow for a period of acceptable behavior but not legitimize the relationship the way I think John suggests he wants.
The reality is that there aren’t many good answers and appreciating the problem has to grapple with that.
John, like I said, I think Bishops telling a gay person to simply marry a heterosexual person was horrible. I have no trouble saying that well meaning policies sometimes were horrible. As a church we’ve certainly screwed up at times and I think we can believe the church is inspired and true yet also acknowledge our foibles and mistakes. Likewise I think electroshock therapy or related practices were horrible. It’s clear people want a solution and it seems equally clear that as of right now there are no good solutions. That’s why we need further light from the Lord. That said, I remain skeptical God’s expectations are our expectations. (That’s just a general principle and not saying anything particular about the theological problems) I think people have ideas of what they think the solutions will be without fully thinking through the implications.
Praying for further light seems a good thing to do. I certainly do that, although I claim zero personal revelation on the subject. But I certainly pray for the Apostles to get clear inspiration on this issue. I just hope that whatever the Lord reveals we will accept. I suspect regardless of what the answer is, many people will think it wrong because it doesn’t meet their expectations.
Every generation gets to deal with the prejudices of prior generations. The trick is to improve up their work – stand upon their shoulders if you will – while not casting them off. Yes, certainly do the hard work of atoning for mistakes they cannot, but realize that you likely would have done the same in their shoes, that your ability to see higher is only because of the tilling the field first, and that in the end, any doctrinal improvements will be for not if we can not also keep ourselves tied to them. We are chained together with welding links (to use Joseph’s parlance) not only so that we can save past generations, but so that we have a hope that future generations will save us. King Benjamin was right; we are all worthless dust.
I’m fine with the burden being on those proposing a change, but Jonathan’s post suggest much more than a burden; he suggested the issue is closed. If there is to be a burden, it would help if you defined it. Here’s my stab: the best guide for judging is set out in Christ’s instructions about tasting fruit. So let’s honestly analyze the fruit of SSM. Do their marriages produce comparable goods to heterosexual marriage. In my judgment they do. That’s why I changed my views. That’s why so many of my generation did (and are doing) the same.
As for our theology, it’s really not that hard. Our knowledge of the pre-existence is very hazy. Many theories put forth by Joseph and his successors would allow for co-eternal personages and non-sexual progeny (see, e.g., the King Follet Discourse and this really cool post: https://bycommonconsent.com/2017/05/22/plans-of-salvation/) Our knowledge of the next life is likewise clouded. Section 132 is the only place I know of to suggest that eternal progress may require sexual progeny, but that reading is just one interpretation; it isn’t required. Much more persuasive (to me) are the hundreds of scriptural references that describe Christ as our father even though his fatherhood has nothing to do with sex. If Christ can be a father, so can my gay neighbor. Motherhood doesn’t require giving birth (ask Sheri Dew). Adoptive parenthood is just a legitimate as natural parenthood.
As with blacks and priesthood, the change comes first from seeing the good fruits of what one was taught to be evil, then focusing on different scriptures that support a change (2 Ne 26:33 for the priesthood; Gen 2:18 and D/C 25:1 for SSM), then deciding to open one’s heart to adopt the new good, and finally receiving spiritual confirmation of the change. It’s happened many times in our doctrine. It can happen again.
Whoa! So “great attraction” is the official standard now? Well, at least that will make it easier for us still-celibate AARP-eligible Mormons to explain our situation, I guess, even if it does seem to bode ill for the future. A prospective future–life-long celibacy–that is allegedly a fate worse than excommunication, if I understand the dialogue here correctly.
Only made it through 3/4 of the comments, just wanted to add that while I disagree with John’s overall conclusions, I think he has sensed many things right according to my own feelings and understanding. I think our knowledge will expand significantly in this area, and the day will come that we will see clearly the place and meaning of homosexuality in the grand scheme of God’s plan. That there will be distinct place and meaning for those who are gay. I can feel it in me.
And to me so very important that he brought up that I totally agree with, “It is unreasonable to demand that an individual, in the search for truth, abandon self-knowledge.” In the end, while it is very wise to seek other sources we can rely on and trust, as we learn and grow, ultimately that judgement and choice too comes from within – personal revelation trumps all and we are then each accountable for whether we were being true to ourselves and the spirit within us or whether we acted in self-deception – and that is for each person to judge for him or her self.
Dave, more or less your “really not that hard” theology is to jettison as wrong most of our theology. Saying it’s hazy is really to say we don’t know most of that theology. That’s fine if you believe that. I just think there’s a lot more there than you appear to and certainly most members do as well. Limiting our theology only to what Joseph taught unambiguously isn’t really a good way to determine theology IMO. But beyond that I think you’re leaving out a lot of D&C 132. The issue isn’t whether God’s organization of spirits is sexual, adoptive or something else. The issue is that deification is specified as requiring a man and a woman together (D&C 132:15-16) The form of the temple ceremony presupposes that. The idea that we have heavenly parents as a mother and father presupposes that. I think you are severely underplaying out just how much change this would require.
Again there’s lots of people who prefer to keep to a minimal theology on such things. But realize that your “really not that hard” change requires revelations overturning a significant part of post-Nauvoo teachings that most Mormons take for granted.
Now of course if there is something wrong in our theology we should remove it. We did that with a few of Brigham’s teachings. As Jonathan Stapley’s post noted a lot of views of how the plan of salvation proceeds aren’t as clear as some think. Some things people assume are true likely aren’t. But in this case it’s just not a small change and portraying it as if it is will lead to people not understanding why this is such a big issue. Many members not familiar with the struggles LGBT members face underplay the struggles there. But I think by the same measure people are neglecting what’s involved on the other side. That people see it as “easy” makes me think there’s a fundamental gap of understanding at work. No wonder many people who want change get frustrated with the church. They may well see the change they want as easy to achieve. If members ought better appreciate what the church is asking LGBT members to do, I think LGBT advocates ought also better understand what they are asking the church to do.
I don’t want to derail too much, but D&C 132:15-16 is just one verse. How spirit babies are made is a very small issue in our doctrine. That’s why it never comes up in the BOM and waits until the very end of the D&C. I know it’s a big leap culturally for a lot of members, but all that would be needed theologically is to frame the scriptures talking about man+women as being given at a time when SSM was not on the radar (which is factually correct). That framing is no more difficult than recasting scriptural instructions to all-male groups of missionaries to also apply to sister missionaries today.
One other point, current church doctrine says that we are “children of heavenly parents” not that we have “a” father and “a” mother.
Clark Goble wrote: “If members ought better appreciate what the church is asking LGBT members to do, I think LGBT advocates ought also better understand what they are asking the church to do.”
IMO, that was one of the best takeaways of this discussion. I’ll grant that many LDS do not even attempt to understand LGBT people. But LGBT people and activists often fail to acknowledge the immense demands they are asking of the Church and many devout members. If any productive two-way dialogue is going to be initiated, it will have go be after those issues are acknowledged and alleviated by the participants.
I enjoyed the conversation. To me, as I read some of the comments (especially ones pointing out JGW’s status as excommunicant), this makes me think of a few questions:
1) Is it more important to be a member of the LDS church in good standing or to have the sort of spiritual experiences and testimony that JGW has? I don’t want to be too inflammatory, but I note that per JGW’s post, his being a member in good standing nearly led to his suicide. I can’t say if his spiritual experience are legit, but it seems to me that he’s nowhere in that sort of state anymore.
2) Is there room in Mormonism to believe that one can have the sort of spiritual experiences and testimony that JGW has in a way that pushes one outside of the church, or does that always (from a traditional faithful LDS perspective) call into question the other person’s experiences. In other words, knowing that JGW has been excommunicated for the sorts of things that drive his testimony and faith, must a faithful Mormon question whether JGW is misinterpreting something?
3) If spiritual experiences are so easy to misinterpret (or can be twisted so easily by sexuality, etc., etc.,), does that raise questions about whether we can trust any given spiritual experience. (I mean, there are so many typologies about how to judge a real spiritual experience from various counterparts, but it seems that no matter the typology, you can find someone who doesn’t really work with that typology.)
1 – While I know this was somewhat tangential, the existing evidence does not support the idea that Joseph Smith married multiple women to support his lust. My understanding is that there has yet to be any confirmed descendants of Joseph Smith through any wife other than Emma. There is evidence he had relations with 3 of his (non-Emma) wives, but if his purpose was to satisfy his lust, reason tells us there would have been children produced.
2 – Regarding the claim that our current leaders are simply interpreting the scriptures to formulate policy re LGBT: Not too long ago I sat in a meeting with 5 other individuals, one of whom was a general authority. This GA related to us an incident that occurred not long after the church’s announced policy re baptism of children of LGBT, etc. He walked into the office of a member of the Q12 to find this person in a somber mood. The Q12 stated that he knew this policy was going to make him and the others targets of strong negative emotion, but that he could not deny that it was the will of the Lord. Make of that what you will.
“A faithful latter day saint must be open to all changes….”
So theoretically, president monson could come up with an Revelation stating that we don’t believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ anymore….
Yeah, that’s a big no. LDS must be open to all changes that haven’t already been firmly taught and revealed. Ssm would destroy the church, because it destroys gods plan. The proclamation on the family is firm. Those who reject its teachings, and seek to destroy the family by instituting imitations bring upon themselves the judgement of God, and destroy our nation. Calamity is just beginning.
After the November change I prayed mightily and in March received personal revelation that includes being referred to the scripture that is included in the prelude to Declaration 2 on the priesthood
“All are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female” It was pointed out to me that at the time this was written saying bond and free, or male and female were alike unto God is on a par with saying gay and straight are alike unto God would be now in the church, and that if all are alike unto God gay people should be included in that.
Until we follow God, and treat each of their children alike, black and white, male and female, gay and straight, we are not yet aligned with Gods will.
Individually whenever we discriminate (which means deprive or hurt or treat differently) anyone, we are refusing to love unconditionally, when we can love unconditionally we become Christ like.
If we could COLLECTIVELY love unconditionally we become Zion.
When we love unconditionally, we will be celestial.
I am awaiting the revelation from our leaders to remove discrimination from the church. Women and gays.
I really do not see that this will create problems with other doctrine of the church. We just have to stop discriminating against women and Gays and anyone else.
“Not too long ago I sat in a meeting with 5 other individuals, one of whom was a general authority. This GA related to us an incident…”
I’ll believe you and your reported sources, Mike, as soon as I hear that information over the pulpit in General Conference, and not before.
I was asked to talk about where I find hope, and, bottom line, it is rooted in my relationship with God. I realize that by its nature that type of hope is not transferable or accessible to others. I have a testimony of the Church, and people can take that statement for what it’s worth, and I have a testimony that I and my husband and our relationship have a place in God’s scheme of things, and people can take that for what it’s worth too. I’m also reasonably sure that as a Church, we are still on a journey. As Jonathan put it, God always has a plan, and he’s working with us. I’m trying to be attentive to the Spirit and live in such a way that I can play my part in God’s working out of things. And I’m content to watch how God unfolds the rest. I know it’s going to be good.
Need citation: Not a surprise. And frankly, I don’t care whether you believe it or not. I was there. But the conversation he had with the Q12 was private, as was ours. So, as I said at the end of my comment, make of it what you will. I’m not asking you to believe it. But for those who insist that the leaders are flying by the seat of their pants and never receive any sort of guidance, etc., I’m also waiting for sources, citations, whatever.
I get that there are issues where they make their best judgments and hope they’re right. Here was an instance where at least one of the Q12 believes there was guidance. Believe it, don’t believe it, I’m going to go get some pizza.
Citation, whether Mike’s anecdote is true or not, I’m not sure you can dispute that the Brethren think they are implementing the Lord’s will when it comes to LGBT issues.
I’m both amused and chagrined by the new apologetics that refuses to accept the words or deeds or the Q15 as intentional unless there is a “this saith the Lord” moment.
I was a bit snarky in my reply. Frankly, if Need citation had posted the same comment I would not have believed it. I would not have disbelieved it, either. But there are a number of persons who read this and other blogs and the comments and surely get the impression from many that the church leaders are flying by the seat of their pants on nearly everything and I disagree with that. As mentioned, I do believe that they are left to their judgment on a number of things (as are we), but when a source credible to me indicates there was guidance on something, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt unless and until something impels me to believe otherwise.
Dave, that’s simply not true. I’m not sure where you are getting your ideas of what constitutes doctrine. But the idea of a heavenly mother and father is throughout our doctrine. Likewise as I said the issue simply isn’t birth/adoption. Not sure I can say much more than that beyond simply repeating myself. It’s fine if you simply think all these other texts don’t matter but hopefully you can at least understand why they do for many people.
Geoff, all are alike to God, but that doesn’t mean the implications of that are necessarily what you think they are.
I appreciate this forum. I like to hear the thoughts and views of sensitive people. Part of my background is that I was a Temple-married, returned-missionary husband and father of 2 in 1976 when I found that I had African ancestry in my early Louisiana roots. This was 2 years before the 1978 revelation. I had a lot of questions! If I gave that info to my leaders, the general practice of the Church was to not allow someone like me to “exercise their Priesthood” and I had seen that done in Puerto Rico when I served as one of the lst missionaries in that mixed-race island. Eventually our family situation was brought to President Kimball, when my brother sought a ruling on whether he could marry in the temple. He was allowed to, and I was allowed to continue doing ordinances. This was about 12 months before the 1978 revelation. Later we learned that dozens of cases like these had come to The First Presidency from Brazll as a lst temple was being planned there.
I am a “recovering analytic” and a great question I have learned to ask is “What does Heavenly Father want ME to know about this policy or principle or scripture?” Many people in the Church face incredible obstacles to living a joyful life in marriage—-because of disease or disability or disfigurement; wounded emotional backgrounds; inability to earn much income; a spouse who becomes non-supportive; many other deeply difficult situations.
What every member has in common is the ability to pray and seek Guidance. Guidance can come only with much persistence sometimes, yet it comes. I will bet that many faithful members who have the concerns expressed here HAVE received answers that they don’t share because they are too personal. I hope we will encourage any of our friends and family who suffer or struggled that they CAN and WILL receive answers to their prayers. The Compensations of the Atonement can be very Joyful
I still feel there’s a critical issue for gay and lesbian Mormons that isn’t typically addressed in these kinds of discussions.
I tend to shy away from doctrinal speculation for some of the reasons expressed in this discussion. Even if there were agreement that we have insufficient understanding and even if we were in agreement that the doctrine needs to change, we wouldn’t know how it would change. But what I feel we can discuss, and what needs to be discussed, is what are the actual facts on the ground? What do we know about the experience of real LGBT people?
The core of the problem for gay and lesbian Mormons has to do with what our nature is. Even if I were not in a relationship, even if I never entered into a relationship for the rest of my life, this aspect of me I experience as a core part of who I am. With relatively few exceptions, that sentiment is universally expressed by gay and lesbian Mormons, regardless of their relationship status or their status in the church.
One of the reasons these discussions are so painful for LGB people is because much of the discussion amounts to a denial of who we are and what our experience is. It is not helpful to suggest that this is an affliction of my mortal experience. I do not experience it that way, and neither do other gay and lesbian people. It is not comforting to suggest that God will change this about me, or that God will provide me an opposite-sex spouse in the next life. Actually, nobody who says that actually knows that is what will happen.
For decades church members and leaders embraced the now discredited claims of “conversion therapy.” The damage caused by this was inestimable. Conversion therapy was sort of like the Cardassian interrogator trying to get Captain Picard to say he saw five lights when there were in fact only four. (In Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Chain of Command,” for the non-nerds out there. Great episode!) It involved trying to get us to believe things about ourselves that weren’t true, and then blaming us for failing.
If we should not speculate about future doctrine, we should also not deny the facts about LGBT experience for the sake of our assumptions about the doctrinal implications of that experience.
“This GA related to us an incident that occurred not long after the church’s announced policy re baptism of children of LGBT, etc. He walked into the office of a member of the Q12 to find this person in a somber mood. The Q12 stated that he knew this policy was going to make him and the others targets of strong negative emotion, but that he could not deny that it was the will of the Lord.”
What I find revealing about this anecdote is that the Q12 member wasn’t somber because of the harm being inflicted on LGB people, but rather because people were going to be unhappy with church leaders. That accords with my experience of Prop 8, where church leaders were very unhappy about the backlash aimed against the church, but generally unconcerned about the upheaval they had caused in the lives of gay couples. I’ve seen this again and again: church leaders are unwilling to own that their choices are hurting people. They’re not even saying, yes, some people will be hurt, but it’s worth it in the long run (which would still raise questions); they won’t even acknowledge that anyone is getting hurt. I suspect that at least to some extent, they genuinely believe the narratives they’re spinning in which it’s all for the best (e.g., the Nov 5 Policy is just about protecting children). But it makes it very hard to have any real discussion.
I genuinely do believe that many (maybe all) of the Apostles sincerely hold the view that their decisions on this are inspired, and they’re doing their best to follow the will of the Lord as they understand it. But as a gay Mormon, I find that to be perhaps the most devastating aspect of the whole thing. It’s an extra dose of pain to be told that it’s _God_ who is pushing the policies and practices that directly harm people like you. I know the standard line on this is something like, well God sometimes asks for hard things. I actually think that’s true, that the religious life can and should be demanding at times–but quite honestly, it gets tiresome to hear that defense coming from people who aren’t the ones who are being asked to make the sacrifices themselves.
I was one who was determined to stick it out in the church despite everything, but who has recently found a lot of peace in distancing myself from Mormonism. I’m a little sad about that, though, because it feels a bit like giving up on a tradition which for much of my life I have desperately cared about. I’m really appreciative of people like John, who are in a place where they can stay and keep fighting the good fight, sharing their experience and calmly engaging in dialogue.
Thanks to all who have asked questions and commented earlier. There are too many questions for me address all of them, and most have now received better answers from someone else than I could have come up with, but I particularly liked Michelle’s comment. The commenter known as sgnm asked a couple questions I still want to answer, one now, briefly and parenthetically, and one later. (About the topic you asked about that I am not mentioning here in order to avoid derailing the thread again: no, I think I’m pretty much in the ballpark of the relevant Gospel Topics essays.)
After reading the comments, I’m coming to think that the divide between the two sides can’t be bridged. Each side has basic, foundational commitments they can’t abandon. The exercise of seeing how much the gap can be narrowed is still worthwhile, however, to see if we can communicate across it in easy conversation rather than by shouting.
For me, two basic issues have become central to the discussion. One is personal revelation and what to make of others’ inspiration. Both because personal revelation is precious and out of simple respect for other people, we should try to accept as much of it as possible, even as we remain clear about what can’t be accepted. I see this as trying to implement 1 Thess. 5:19-21: “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” The usual standard about claiming personal revelation versus claiming revelation for the church is quite helpful, I think. So I can agree that John’s struggle with the Spirit has brought him to the best path that he could walk.
The other major issue I see is similar to John’s observation that many people fail to understand how threatening this discussion is to LGBT people – only from the other side of the gap. Clark has touched on this earlier, but it has been striking to me how many people who want the church to change discount how serious this issue is for Mormons (to be clear, I’m not accusing John of doing this). Gay marriage has been a contentious issue in most other Christian faiths, but marriage and family are uniquely at the pinnacle of both Mormon liturgy and the Mormon model of salvation, with unambiguous scriptural and prophetic commentary. So the stakes are much higher, and the kind of changes that would be necessary are closer to those of 1830 than 1978. The challenge is to accept Mormon commitment to our prophets and apostles as just as much a part of Mormon identity, and just as real as John’s devotion to his husband.
So minimizing what the prophets have said is counter-productive. Just as John would be rightly offended and little persuaded if someone told him that the love he felt for his husband wasn’t really love but some other emotion, it accomplishes little to discount Mormon feelings as nothing but cognitive dissonance and hatred. I’m also not particularly convinced by variations on “The prophet is only speaking as a prophet if he pinky-swears it.” It won’t do to dismiss what the prophet says as a mere interpretation of scripture – interpreting scripture for the Church is one of his most important roles! Interpreting scripture was the pattern of much of Christ’s preaching. When the prophet has spoken, the thinking – starts. Trying to erase the obvious fact that the prophets and apostles have spoken is not an effective way to minimize the gap.
The commenter known as sgnm also asked, “What duty does a faithful LDS have in matters on which their personal belief is contrary to that of the church?” I think the answer is that we should find a fallback position as far forward as possible. If you can’t accept a course of action the apostles recommend concerning some topic, you can still agree with them about the seriousness of the topic. This is something else that John provides a good model for; even if full Church membership isn’t possible, maintaining communication and a positive relationship is a better fallback position than embittered rejection.
Mike: “This GA related to us an incident that occurred not long after the church’s announced policy re baptism of children of LGBT, etc. He walked into the office of a member of the Q12 to find this person in a somber mood.”
This kind of anecdote would be far more valuable if it included the names of the GA and the member of the Q12. Are names available?
JR – The names are available, but if I give them then I out myself to the others who were in the meeting. While you may be convinced with the disclosure of the names, I think 99% of people would not be, so the cost-benefit analysis says the risk is not worth it to me.
“I think 99% of people would not be, so the cost-benefit analysis says the risk is not worth it to me.”
Yeah. I guess I’m just a cynic. I suppose you had to be there, because it came across as manipulative on the part of the GA recounting the tale, to me. That was how I pictured it, which probably says it all about the trust I feel towards general leaders at the moment…
Could someone who feels that a concept of exaltation that includes gay families is asking too much of Mormonism, or takes something precious away from Mormonism please elaborate so I can understand a bit better what folks feel is at stake?
I don’t want to put words in people’s mouths, but whenever faithful Mormons mention “marriage” or “family”, to me this inherently presumes heteronormativity.
Regarding the embodied nature of God in Mormonism (with God being explicitly/literally male rather than just metaphorically so), and the introduction of Heavenly Mother to provide sexual balance theologically — I think these introduce more challenges than they resolve. BUT I recognize that minimizing their importance does certainly count as rejecting Mormon concepts.
Even if people want to dance around the exact mechanics of procreation in the afterlife, I think that from everything revealed in Mormonism so far, there’s no reason to believe that it’s not heteronormative in the eternities as it is here.
To put it simply: if exaltation is the highest ideal in Mormonism, and if embodied sexual complimentarity is crucial to exaltation, then gay families are fundamentally incompatible with that because gay families are, quite simply, not ideal.
Andrew S. – Others can speak for themselves as to whether that is a reasonable account of their concerns.
For what it’s worth, I do not want to lose the traditional Mormon concept of embodiment either. For me, the hope of eternal union with my sweetheart would be impoverished without it.
But it seems to me that the idea that every single pair bond must be male-female presupposes that families in heaven are nuclear and separate. Everything about family in scripture, and in LDS sealing practice suggests that family in Heaven is big and extended. Gender complementarity in that larger family structure could encompass the notion that some pair bonds are male-female, some are male-male, some are female-female, some are intersex or non-binary. That’s what real, extended families look like down here.
Maybe all we really need to give up is a focus on the isolated nuclear family, in favor of a richly diverse extended family?
If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead. (Maxwell)
Hedgehog – I can see that. However, this story was such a small portion of the conversation and it sort of came up incidentally. That was not the topic of the meeting.
Mike, I appreciate the concern about “outing” yourself. I’ve seen a wide variety of local approaches to such “outings.” Would you be comfortable telling us if the Q12 member was anyone other than Elder Nelson?
“If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead. (Maxwell)”
Yep, heard that one lots of times. My question: if the kingdom of God is a kingdom of forced heteronormativity, what exactly does it have to offer LGB people? I’m not just being flippant. I recently had a fascinating conversation with a non-LDS man who is happily married to his husband. I mentioned that from an LDS perspective (at least as commonly portrayed these days), the best he could hope for in the next life would be to be turned straight and have his husband replaced with a wife. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t see that as terribly appealing. I realize I’m probably not the one to be making the missionary case at this point in my life, but I did find myself wondering what the response of a more orthodox member would have been.
Lynette, I will venture a response though I am also not one to be proselyting. Also, while I may be a more orthodox Mormon than some, I suspect various Church leaders would think me seriously unorthodox if I to share with them whatever I think.
First, as to the Maxwell quotation, Maxwell was an assistant to the 12 when he spoke in general conference in April 1974 and quoted that statement from a “wise man” who, it seems, was William Law (1636-1761), an English clergyman. In testifying of the truth of that quotation from Law, Maxwell did not then (or elsewhere in his talk) identify what he meant by the “kingdom of God.” The phrase has been used to mean, among other things, the Church (in varying senses of the word from “all Christians” to the LDS Church), Heaven (as opposed to Hell, there being no other alternatives in the hereafter in some Christian theologies, likely including Law’s and the Book of Mormon, though not later LDS theology), the highest degree of the LDS celestial kingdom, a “Zion community,” and the Lord’s peace in your heart. For a variety of historical LDS approaches to defining “kingdom of God”, see, e.g., http://emp.byui.edu/satterfieldb/PDF/Quotes/Kingdom%20of%20God.pdf. To the extent Maxwell may have been referring to an afterlife kingdom of God, it would seem that he was either indulging in hyperbole or simply did not believe the cosmology of D&C 76, the refinements of teachings on degrees in the celestial kingdom, or teachings on outer darkness, because there appears to be a great deal of difference between, e.g. the terrestrial kingdom and outer darkness. The latter alternative (Maxwell’s hypothetical disbelief in current LDS cosmology) is not credible.
Your question seems to presume that the “kingdom of God” is a highest degree of the celestial kingdom, populated by exalted hetero couples (or hetero polygamous unions or perhaps, in the case of some early Mormon “marriages,” complex hetero polygamous and hetero polyandrous unions). I can see no reason why non-Mormon LG people would find that attractive. (At least as to the possible complex unions, neither do many straight folks. Ditto for some straights dissatisfied with their marriages.) Some Mormon LG people have found an expectation of being turned straight attractive. Given the LDS approach to “many mansions” and the three kingdoms of glory, I would not have suggested to your same-sex married acquaintance that “the best he could hope for in the next life [in LDS cosmology] would be to be turned straight and have his husband replaced with a wife.” For some, the terrestrial kingdom might be much better than that. Of course, if he actually were turned straight, then he would probably appreciate a wife rather than a husband, at least assuming some sexual aspect to a celestial marriage. But I can see no reason why he could be expected to imagine that hypothetical outweighing the anticipated loss of a loving, emotionally intimate relationship with his husband. But since there are loving, emotionally intimate relationships without sexual activity maybe the eternally meaningful part of the current spousal relationship would not be lost. Most Christians other than Mormons don’t generally imagine marriages to exist in the hereafter in any event. I think my response would have been to include in the concept of a LDS “kingdom of God” all three degrees/kingdoms of glory and to stress how little the revelations really tell us about them, how they tell us essentially nothing about LG people in the hereafter, and how deeply committed some Church members and leaders are to their varied speculations. (I hope no one responds with the Proclamation on the Family. Even BKP demoted it in writing from his general conference claim of revelation to its being good advice for members of the Church to follow.) Comments?
“The kind of changes that would be necessary are closer to those of 1830 than 1978.”
Jonathan: did you mean 1890? I really do think that’s the more illustrative date here.
Another excellent exposition from General Conference. A great source, if you are interested in learning correct principles.
The Caravan Moves On
Theologically not a lot changed in 1890. So I’m not sure that’s a good example. Of course there was a disagreement over whether a practice was to be continued in this life forever. That this was a controversy always struck me as odd given Jacob 2 and the clear indication that it hadn’t been practiced for extended periods. But the controversy at best dealt with a narrow theological question and largely hinged upon what John Taylor purportedly said. So I’m really not sure it’s a good parallel at all for the current situation which has no questionable recently dead prophets speaking on it, nor merely a change in practice to older practice.
A few decades ago, Larry Tribe called the abortion debate a “clash of absolutes,” meaning that there wasn’t a ton of middle ground for people to come to, since going to the middle ground meant giving up what those on the poles considered to be absolutely fundamental (and apodictic) truths. This conversation is making me think the same thing about the Church and its theology regarding homosexuality.
That said, I’ve really appreciated the careful and considerate tone by John and Jon and many of the commenters. More of this would be good.
I’d start with the basic knowledge that we are all children of God. Our Father in Heaven’s work is for his children to “grow up” to become like him and share in his glory. He sent his son Jesus to make that possible. We do know that God wants us to be married and raised in families and carry on that marital relationship not only here in mortality, but into eternity; precisely because that’s the kind of relationship he has. Not all of God’s children will be resurrected to live in an exalted married union of male and female relationship like our Father and Mother and Heaven, but those who inherit the highest degree of glory and become like them will do so.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the exaltation of God’s children and the concept of eternal increase, probably because that’s pretty far beyond the present cares we need to attend to in learning to become like God’s son in the here and now, so we can be worthy to inherit it all he has and become like our Heavenly Parents in the eternities.
We should not encourage anyone to work toward anything less than their fullest potential, because it’s God’s desire for all his children and he can make it possible. I can imagine those who inherit a lower kingdom being happy an whatever capacity they are filling in God’s eternal kingdom, but it will not be one of romantic love and sex. As prophets have spoke that many of the social relationships we have no, we’ll have then, certainly there will be love and concern for others (predicated on a love of God and all his children), but sexual romance that’s divorced from eternal increase is simply not part of the plan of salvation.
That doesn’t make all non-procreative sexual activity (within the bounds of marriage) unnecessary here and now. But in an eternal sense, I imagine an eternity of seeking physical pleasure (be it sexual or otherwise) without eternal increase would be empty.
God’s work and his glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. That is a work he invites us to participate in. A rejection of that isn’t a rejection of the prophets, but telling God he’s doing it wrong. Which is a pretty ridiculous thing to say given any moment of thought.
I don’t this from philosophical argument, but based on personal revelation that’s inline with a study of the prophets and scripture. I don’t claim my comment in anyway as authoritative or binding, but just pointing out that this comment is the result of a very sacred revelatory experience connected to the temple. If someone else wants to reject my words, that’s their choice, but they can’t point to a rejection of the prophets words and claim to have any spiritual credibility to their message as far as the church is concerned. So all latter-day saints should be able to easily reject any argument that says, “my personal revelation differs and marriage between the same sex is ok here and now or in the eternities” or anything of the sort.
John Gustav-Wrathall asks:
“Could someone who feels that a concept of exaltation that includes gay families is asking too much of Mormonism, or takes something precious away from Mormonism please elaborate so I can understand a bit better what folks feel is at stake?”
I am not sure that I am saying anything new, but it seems to me that at least one thing that is being lost is the purpose for why God has created us male and female in the first place. If the church were to announce that same sex couples were able to be sealed in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage the same way a man and woman currently are, why create us as men and women? Why not create us as a single gendered species (something along the lines of the Asari in Mass Effect)? Why did God not make it so that anyone can procreate with anyone, since that would apparently be the order of heaven if God has no preference whether men are married to women or other men, and the same for women?
As I read the scriptures however, it does seem that God did have purpose in creating us as men and women (Gen 1:27), and those purposes are fulfilled in marriage (Gen. 2:24). When Jesus taught about marriage (Matt. 19:3-6), he goes back to these verses about the creation. The leaders of the church after Christ continued to teach this as well (1 Cor. 11:11 for starters). I just can’t read scriptures like these and then feel honest in saying that God has no real purpose in creating us as gendered beings.
I think it obvious the idea that God had purpose in creating us as male and female for the purpose of marriage, and the idea that marriage can be something other than the union of male and female are simply not reconcilable. And if you believe that God’s purpose in creating us as male and female is central to understanding the Creation and the Gospel, at the level say of a doctrine like that baptism is essential for entrance into the kingdom of heaven or that ordinances must be performed by priesthood authority in order to be valid, then it looks like those who say gender is of no real eternal consequence, particularly within marriage, are preaching “another gospel”. They are simply two very different philosophies, and while I have no desire or intent to say that someone who believes differently then me on this issue is not welcome in the church, I also can’t say that if the church were to change its teaching on this that it would make any sort of sense to me in light of what ancient and previous scriptures and prophets have taught.
“Why not create us as a single gendered species”
Same reason were black, white, thin, fat, tall, small,etc
Natural fallen world evolves differences.
God wants us to learn to love in diversity.
So it could be said that God wants us to see all kinds of sexed marriages as being godly families. I don’t believe it, I know it’s false. It contradicts what is revealed to me personally, and taught by the prophets. As Brigham Young related on a different subject about nice theories:
…that theory, though apparently very plausible and beautiful, is not true, for it is, or would be contradicted by the Prophets, by Jesus and the Apostles, and by all good men who understand the principles of eternity, both those who have lived and are now living on the earth. Brother Hyde was upon this same theory once, and in conversation with brother Joseph Smith advanced the idea that eternity or boundless space was filled with the Spirit of God, or the Holy Ghost. After portraying his views upon that theory very carefully and minutely, he asked brother Joseph what he thought of it? He replied that it appeared very beautiful, and that he did not know of but one serious objection to it. Says brother, Hyde, “What is that?” Joseph replied, “it is not true.”
In another discussion, I saw the possibility of “asexual homoromantic” relationships suggested as a way for those desiring a marriage-like same-sex relationship to remain “in” the Church. I am aware of a few cases of lifelong same sex roommates who were active in the Church because those relationships were platonic. Thoughts on this possibility?