The Gay Rights Paradox

Today’s guest post is by John G-W.  LDS Church spokesman, Michael Otterson, downplayed the significance of the LDS Church’s public backing of gay rights legislation passed recently in Salt Lake City. He emphasized that the Church has already gone on record in support of civil rights legislation protecting gay individuals from discrimination. He also made it clear that the Church’s support for the specific municipal legislation in question – banning discrimination in housing and employment – should not be taken as a signal that the Church is shifting its position in relation to the question of gay relationships. The Church will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. Finally, it is worth noting that the legislation in question only garnered Church support, ironically, after it was modified to exempt the Church (or any other religious organization) from the stipulations contained in the anti-discrimination ordinance.

Still, Brandie Balken, director of Equality Utah, and Valerie Larabee, director of the Utah Pride Center, are heralding this as “a historic event.” They have stressed the importance of dialog and of finding common ground. They hope it is a harbinger of a future, more positive, more cooperative relationship between the gay community and the LDS Church.

On the question of “how significant” this step is, a brief poll of my husband and our foster son has yielded its own historic first. For the first time ever, my husband is in full agreement with the LDS Church. Not significant at all.

Pundits are already stressing the public relations damage the Church has sustained in the wake of its high profile support for Proposition 8 (and other similar referenda). As American society as a whole moves toward greater acceptance of its gay citizens – not merely as individuals, but as couples and families – the Church risks finding itself once again, as it did in the 1960s and 70s, associated in the public mind with bigotry and discrimination. In the wake of Proposition 8, the Utah gay community mounted a widely publicized campaign in which it emphasized discrepancies between Church statements in support of certain civil rights, and its failure ever to act on that rhetoric. Many now will view Church support for the Salt Lake ordinance as too little, too late. Salt Lake is finally passing an ordinance that was already passed in almost every other major municipality in America two decades ago. We fought and won that battle here in Minneapolis back in the 1980s.

As a gay Latter-day Saint who loves the Church and has a testimony of the Restored Gospel, my own reaction is considerably more complex than my husband’s, or that of the larger gay community. I feel heartache. I actually try to avoid dwelling on this kind of news. It’s too painful to me. Yes, it hurts to have to listen to Church spokesperson Michael Otterson’s careful public parsing of compassion, explaining exactly in what ways the Church considers me deserving of equality, and in what ways it most definitely does not. Those kinds of statements send me to my knees, pleading with God.

My life is composed of all the ordinary things every other life is composed of. My joy comes from the same simple things that others’ joy comes from. I need that kiss from my husband at the end of the day that tells me he’s glad we’re finally home together after the bumps and bruises of a typical workday. The mortgage we pay, the meals we share, the bed we share are my daily bread. They’re what give me strength for the battle. Sometimes the battle includes trips to the doctor and nursing our foster son through H1N1 flu. Figuring out how we can afford health care when our fuel bills are rising twice as fast as our raises at work. Trying not to get too worked up about the indignity of having to pay taxes that other Americans don’t, because my husband’s dental coverage through my law firm is not a benefit the Federal government considers tax exempt. Working hard to be a good and valuable paralegal by day, teacher and father and husband by night. Trying to be a responsible member of my community, volunteering at the local homeless shelter and giving money to the Red Cross, even when it feels like we have less money to go around. All of those things are part of the good life! And how would any part of that equation be any less important to me than to my straight co-workers, friends, brothers and sisters? How would it be any less of an assault to my dignity than it would be for anybody else, to be told that certain rights are acceptable for me to have, but others are out of the question, because – the Church tells me – it would be better for me to live my life alone than to have the love and support of a life companion?

When I pour my heart out to my Heavenly Father, when I refuse to get up off my knees until I’ve had an answer, I receive back from him “liberally!” “Without upbraiding!” There’s no parsing of compassion in that sweet communion! No stinginess there! No sense that I deserve any less than any other of his children. That love is overwhelming, boundless, eternal! Forgive, and you will be forgiven! Love as I have loved you! Do not fear! Do not sorrow! Do not be angry! Enter into my joy and be whole!

It’s in that love I have to dwell. It is to the mercy of Christ and his judgment seat I must cling. The sin that takes me out of that love, that plunges me into despair is always at the door. The temptation to judge. The temptation to become angry and self-righteous. To be ungrateful for what I have. If I want my debts forgiven, I have to let go.

And yet, despite the pain I feel, despite the way these debates send me seeking comfort from God, I also understand where the Church’s (sometimes seemingly excessive) caution comes from. Even though at some level these kinds of political wrestling matches are unbearable to me (and I try not to think about them too much), I understand that the doctrine, the teachings, the ordinances of the Church are not ours to do with as we please. Church leaders do not – contrary to popular perception – have the freedom to do whatever they want. They can only act according to the authority that has been given them by God. That is an authority weighty beyond what most of us can imagine. And President Monson is as bound by it as anyone else in the Church.

Moreover, I understand that the dividing line between Church and State is and never can be as tidy as many activists on this issue would have it. Biblical, Christian faith does not distinguish between morality in the civic realm and in the personal realm. Not just individuals but nations are judged by God. I may disagree with Church leaders’ current view on what constitutes moral action in the civic sphere. But I cannot disagree with the Church that faith places demands on us as citizens and voters. To disagree on that score would make me a hypocrite, given that I see my own (more liberal) political involvements profoundly flowing from my relationship with God, from the promises and commitments I have made to him.

Thus the complexity of emotions that overwhelm me in moment like this. I am left facing paradoxes and dilemmas that challenge every part of who I am. Why, in my relationship with God do I feel whole and good, not just in who I am, in how I am wondrously created, but in my relationship with my husband? Why did I feel so sustained by the loving, comforting presence of the Spirit in our journey to California in July 2008 to get legally married? Why do I experience the California Supreme Court’s post-Prop 8 upholding of that marriage as a tender mercy of the Lord? How can I feel so close to God, and the leaders of the Church I have a testimony of have such a different view? Why doesn’t God reveal to them what he revealed to me a long, long time ago? That I am OK just the way I am? That I, the workmanship of God’s hands, am not to question his wisdom as my Creator? Why does the Spirit continue to affirm both that I and my relationship are good, and that the Church is true and its leaders are called of God?

I take comfort that so many of my fellow Saints are finally wrestling with similar complexities and paradoxes. That is one reason I love the Church, why I continue to pour my heart out in prayer to some day be a member of it again in good standing. I love the Church, partly because it creates in us the right impulses, and tests us in the right way.

To stand in the paradox I must presently stand in teaches me faith, compassion, love, and most of all patience. If we can all learn these values in our mutual wrestling over these issues, God will have given us a much, much greater gift than equality in housing or employment.

Update: Mormon Matters would like to thank our guest poster, John Gustav-Wrathall, and introduce him to our readers. John was born in Provo, Utah a fifth generation Mormon, and was raised in the Rochester, New York area, a stone’s throw from where the Church was founded. He served in the Switzerland Geneva mission, and was a Spencer W. Kimball scholar at BYU, until wrestling with being gay nearly led to suicide and he left BYU. John later earned a Ph.D. in American History at the University of Minnesota. He authored the book Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA (University of Chicago Press, 1998). He lives with his partner of 18 years in Minneapolis, MN. John works as a patent paralegal in Minnesota and teaches as adjunct faculty at United Theological Seminary. He regularly attends his local ward. Concerning his membership, he explains: “Since October 2005, I have been regularly attending the LDS Church, and living as faithfully according to LDS principles as I can, while remaining faithful to my spouse and excommunicated from the Church.” John’s personal blog is Young Stranger.

Comments

comments

107 comments for “The Gay Rights Paradox

  1. November 11, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Johngw–

    In order to understand correctly I have list below what I understood from your post:

    1. You’re male and have a husband–two “married” men
    2. You have a testimony of the restored gospel
    3. You feel you have a close relationship with God
    4. You’ve received the answer that your gay “marriage” is acceptable to God
    5. You understand church leaders are being lead by God in their decision to oppose gay marriage
    6. You are overwhelmed by the complexity of the paradoxes you mentioned above
    7. You look for the time when God will give you much greater gifts than equality in housing or employment

    If my notes are accurate then I can understand why you’re overwhelmed!

  2. Ray
    November 11, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    This is a wonderful post, John. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I don’t have time for a substantive comment, but I do want to thank you profusely for tackling this topic as you have done.

  3. November 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Jared: I wouldn’t describe myself as “overwhelmed.” Actually, the opposite. A much more accurate word would be “sustained.” My efforts to live faithfully have yielded incredible spiritual and material blessings in my relationship with my husband and in my life generally. Occasionally I am deeply saddened… And the phrase I actually used, which I feel much better describes my situation, is “standing in paradox.”

    Many people assume that the Church will eventually change its position. But I don’t know that. No formal revelation has ever been received on same-sex relationships, and it is entirely possible that if one were received, it would merely support the current views and policies of the Church.

    However, my anticipation of change isn’t what cheers me… It’s my relationship with God.

    Ray: Thanks!

  4. Mike S
    November 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you for the post. I’m glad you have found such peace. I think God is much more understanding of each of us than most of the things we worry about in the Church.

  5. November 11, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Why would God give two very different answers…the answers he has given to you and the answers he has given to the church leaders and authorities? The answers which have sustained you in your marriage and the answers which have alienated you from the church institution? The answers which have made your testimony firm, but which make others doubt that your testimony can even exist in such an environment?

    I can’t really answer any of these things…these are just the questions that come to mind first…

  6. brjones
    November 11, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    John, I second Ray’s comments. Thank you for sharing such a personal issue.

    I have to echo Andrew’s comments in #5. That’s certainly not a criticism; it’s just hard to understand someone being able to “stand in paradox” to the degree that you are. It’s difficult for me to really understand. Obviously you support and (I think) sustain LDS church leaders, but are you saying that you believe the church’s positions on gay marriage specifically, and homosexuality generally, are inspired by god? Or are you saying you believe these men are called of god, but are just possibly making a mistake on this issue?

  7. November 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    brjones (and Andrew S): I think there are a couple of potential resolutions to the paradox.

    One is what you suggested… Church leaders are called by God, but they are capable of being mistaken. Most of our Church leaders come from a culture that is so homophobic, it is beyond the pale of possibility for them to imagine same-sex relationships being OK. Why even ask God for a revelation on a subject you feel so certain about? In fact, if you are so sure that this is a sin and abomination, you might fear to ask God about something that (to you) seems so self-evident, lest you offend God…

    Another possibility is that my specific circumstance calls for an individual response which is the best response under the circumstances, but keeps me out of harmony with current church practice. For instance, someone once pointed out to me that there are regions of Africa where the practice of polygamy is widespread. Ironically or not, individuals in polygamous relationships are banned from joining the Church. The moral thing to do is for these individuals to honor the commitments they have made to their wives. But the moral thing in that situation leaves them unable to join the Church.

    There are other resolutions I can think of as well…

    The paradox I have to stand in is similar in some ways to the situation of blacks who joined and remained loyal to the Church between 1857 (when Brigham Young instituted the ordination ban) and 1978 (when Spencer Kimball uninstituted it). You do the best you can, you have faith, and you stay close to your Father in Heaven, because sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps you going.

  8. November 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    By the way, I think it is possible that the Lord to deliberately withhold a revelation on a subject to test us, to see how we will respond.

    Accounts I’ve read of President David O. McKay’s wrestling with the subject of the black priesthood ban suggest that he earnestly wanted a revelation and repeatedly asked for one but couldn’t get one. The Lord waited until 1978, and gave the revelation that David O. McKay pleaded for to Spencer Kimball.

  9. November 11, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Wonderful post John, thank you. I was expecting a write-up on the issue but this was so much more personal and intriguing. Thanks.

  10. Mike S
    November 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I agree with the comments relating to blacks and the priesthood. In that case, there were Church leaders who were against the blacks having the priesthood. There were talks and scriptures quoted to back this up. It was presented as an eternal principle that wouldn’t necessarily be resolved until the end of the Millennium. People were excommunicated for not agreeing to the Church’s stand on this and for fighting against it (ie. apostasy). At the same time, I would bet there were many blacks and others who felt God’s love and comforting spirit much like John feels. And, at the end of the day, for those who had patience, the conflict/paradox was resolved.

  11. brjones
    November 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    #11 – For what it’s worth, I think there’s a very good chance this paradox will eventually be resolved in a similar way. In the meantime, John, I’m glad that you have found a way to exist happily with the situation as it stands.

  12. Jen
    November 11, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    #7-

    Johngw-

    “Why even ask God for a revelation on a subject you feel so certain about? In fact, if you are so sure that this is a sin and abomination, you might fear to ask God about something that (to you) seems so self-evident, lest you offend God…”

    I think that the leaders of the church may consider the Proclamation on the Family revelation from God and so they feel no need to ask Him further. However, with Prop 8, I can’t imagine that they aren’t praying about it and seeking His will to know what to do. I know if I were in the position they are in, it would be something I would be praying about often.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am glad that you have the relationship with God that you do. To me, that is the most important relationship we can have and it is what sustains us in life. God Bless You.

  13. November 11, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Johngw–

    I would like to respectively make a couple of points that I think are important.

    With just a few comments so far on your post it is evident that there are many perspectives being expressed.

    As I read your post a number of scriptures came to mind. The scriptures are given to us by God to help us deal with the paradoxes of life. I don’t believe you appealed to the scriptures in your post. Do you accept the scriptures as the word of God, if so, what scriptures can you provide to support the points you make in your post?

  14. November 11, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    jared – Let me start by saying that you are right, understanding what the scriptures have to say about this is extremely important. I will answer your first question — which I think remains within the scope of this post: “Do you accept the scriptures as the word of God?” The answer to that is yes. I regard the scriptures as one of God’s greatest gifts to us — ranked in importance only after the Atonement of Jesus Christ (about which we could know little without the scriptures) and the gift of the Holy Spirit (through which the scriptures have been revealed to us, through which we gain a testimony of scripture, and without which we cannot rightly interpret scripture). One of the major turning points in my faith journey was when I began to read the Book of Mormon again, and began to incorporate daily scripture reading into my life. I love and cherish the scriptures like I love and cherish few other things in life. If I were to be stranded on a desert island and could choose to take only one thing with me, I would have to say my scriptures would be that one thing.

    The answer to your second question, I feel, does not fall within the scope of this post. I could offer an answer to your question, but feel that if I did, this discussion would likely devolve into a debate over what the scriptures say (or don’t say) about homosexuality. Such debates typically get contentious, and I’d prefer not to get drawn into something like that. If you were motivated by a sincere desire to know how I square the scriptures with my relationship with my husband and my relationship with God, and if your interest were mutual understanding rather than debate, we could certainly discuss further off line.

  15. brjones
    November 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    #14 – I’m not going to attempt to answer for John, but your question raises a question for me, Jared. Obviously your feelings about god and the church are influenced very heavily by your personal spiritual experiences, which you have shared in the past. What is your position with respect to someone who claims to have had very specific experiences with deity which conflict with yours, and perhaps with the church? Do you believe this is possible, or do you believe that such a person must have been mistaken or deceived? This isn’t a sarcastic question, and I’m not trying to bait you. I’m just curious if someone with one of the more orthodox attitudes toward the church on this site believes that god would ever communicate something to an individual that is different from that being communicated to the church at large.

  16. November 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    brjones – I look at our various answers to this particular problem like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. I think we each have pieces of the picture. And while some of the decisions I have felt guided by the Spirit are in conflict with certain teachings of the brethren, I feel like 99% of what I believe and how I live is in fundamental harmony.

    I think this question is a bit more complicated…

  17. November 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    @Andrew, I can’t speak for John, but here’s my own perspective:

    Of all the articles, talks and pamphlets I’ve read that the church has published on homosexuality (and as a gay Mormon who has a vested interest in the topic, I’m fairly certain I’ve read them all) there isn’t a single one that claims that the views that it contains are a revealed answer to a prophet’s prayerful search for truth.

    Some of them cite the Bible as their authority (mostly the Old Testament). Others cite earlier latter-day leaders (the ones that had cited the Bible). But again, not a single one says (or even implies) “God has revealed to me that this is His position on the subject of homosexuality”.

    I don’t doubt that our leaders are prayerfully seeking answers. These are pressing questions, and have become even more so over the last few years. But perhaps, for whatever reason, they (or we–the general membership of the church) are not ready for an answer–whatever that answer may be?

    Revelation that is binding on the church requires an open mind, and it requires unity among the fifteen men who we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. My study of church history leads me to understand that the question of blacks and the priesthood was addressed multiple times in the decade or more prior to 1978, but until that year there were always dissenting viewpoints within the Quorum of the Twelve and a consensus could not be reached. Possibly a similar situation exists today.

    I don’t claim to know what answer our leaders might receive–or even that they absolutely haven’t received one. But the experiences and personal revelation that John (and many other) have received seem to indicate to me that God’s views on the subject have not yet been made known to the church as a whole, and that we’re still waiting for “many great and important things” to be revealed.

  18. November 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    #15 brjones asked me: “What is your position with respect to someone who claims to have had very specific experiences with deity which conflict with yours, and perhaps with the church? Do you believe this is possible, or do you believe that such a person must have been mistaken or deceived?”

    I don’t mind answering the question.

    I don’t have experience in dealing with the kind of issues that are present in this discussion. Those who have served in church callings such as a bishop or in a stake position are pressed into making determination with issues like this. I haven’t.

    My experience with the Lord is that when I have had a pressing issue the Lord has used vision, dreams, and the ministering of angels to communicate with me. These kinds of experiences can not be misunderstood.

    On issues of lessor importance, I’ve been guided by the Spirit via impressions and packets of help. Impression of the Spirit can be misunderstood.

    I mention this to make the point that if I were to make an exception to my understanding of the scriptures and what the living prophets have and are teaching it would take an unmistakable communication from the Lord to accomplish that.

    So my answer to your question is:

    Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. D&C 132:8

    I would say they are mistaken or deceived.

  19. November 11, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    #14 Johngw and #17 Scott

    I respect your wishes about deferring your discussion of the scriptures, and at the same time would like to receive an email where you get into this subject. I am not interested in putting anyone down or participating in a contentious exchange.

    My email is diligentlyseek@gmail.com

    Both of you seem to be looking for the time when your private impressions of the Spirit about gay marriage is revealed to the church at large. If my son were gay, and came to me with this perspective and asked my counsel, I would respond to him as follows: keep the commandments as the Lord has revealed them to His prophets. There is safety in this course.

    I know of some gays who believe this way and are bearing their cross accordingly.

  20. Tim
    November 11, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I can’t imagine how you must feel with the conflicting points-of-view but I don’t think it’s quite accurate to compare it to the blacks and the priesthood. Blacks were discriminated for being black, period, they could not help being black. Now I know gays cannot help being gay but you are not discriminated by the church for being gay. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay but there is (according to the church) something wrong with “practicing” those feelings. I am a straight man, but if I were to have sex outside of marriage, then I would be subject to the same consequences. So there is a fundamental difference there.

  21. Holden Caulfield
    November 11, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Johngw-another thank you for posting on this issue. I personally appreciate hearing your viewpoint. Because of the church’s past in dealing with gays, my testimony has dried up and blown away. That is why I so appreciate hearing about your feelings about Heavenly Father. My own feelings were torn as I read Bro. Otterson’s comments of support. I was glad to hear the church say giving support for gays having a place to live and to work is the right thing to do. I feel now the issue will be revisited by the state legislature and will pass in some form. That the church has to speak out on the issue before church-going members think these “common sense” rights should be expanded to gays is amazing. Members want to not be considered sheep and yet since the church has come out publicly, the light will finally go in many people’s heads.

    Michael Quinn has said that the reconciliation process that gays and family members go through as far as the church is concerned is that you have to develop “a private faith”, one that allows for disconnects like God accepting gays while the church does not. Members like Jared feel your position cannot be reconciled and is perplexing. I think this is actually why I lost my faith. I believe most homosexuals were created to be same-sex attracted and I find no way personally to reconciled this with the church. I do not choose to believe that God created people to long for a love they cannot have their entire earthlife. It is too central to one’s entire reason for existence. I know church most church members disagree with that. Too much misinformation comes from well-intended church leaders on this issue for me to believe they are led by God. For me, the only way out is to look elsewhere.

    Anyway, thanks for posting and good luck to you and yours.

  22. November 11, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Jared – I have also experienced more dramatic spiritual manifestations, including visions. But in my experience, it is easier to doubt something dramatic like that than it is to doubt the witness of the Spirit.

    Part of my own personal struggle has included wrestling with doubt along the lines of — how could what the Spirit is telling me be right, when the brethren seem to be saying something different? Most of what I have been prompted to do is what most Saints would consider pretty conventional — attend Church regularly, pray, study the scriptures, obey the Word of Wisdom, avoid pornography, keep my thoughts clean, avoid anger, seek opportunities for service, express love… The Spirit has also prompted me to keep my commitments to my partner, to love and be faithful to him. Unthinking obedience to the teachings of the brethren would have me break my commitments to him and abandon him.

    I’ve discussed my situation at length with two bishops now, and neither have pressured me to leave my partner. Both have expressed understanding and recognition that the correct choice for me under the circumstances may not be what is considered conventionally correct.

    Church teaching on this subject has evolved considerably in my lifetime. When I was a student at BYU (and on the verge of suicide over this), Church leaders were counseling gay men and lesbians to “just get married,” and promising them that this issue would eventually go away if they were faithful. At the time, I prayerfully sought counsel from the Lord and was prompted not to marry. Twenty years later, Church leaders have acknowledged the folly of pushing gay men and lesbians to marry, and are now counseling the opposite, admitting that this is not something that, for the vast majority, is likely to go away.

    I have no argument with those gay men and lesbians who choose to obey the current counsel to remain celibate for life. At this point in my life, if I were not currently partnered, that is probably what I would do. If my husband were ever to leave me, or if he passed away suddenly (God forbid!), I would probably do whatever I could to gain readmission to the Church.

    On the other hand, I feel incredibly blessed. My relationship with my husband is one of my life’s greatest joys and blessings. I’ve learned and grown so much as a result of it! I’ve learned, and continue to learn so much from him! I truly love him! I have seen the anguish of those who are not able to experience that kind of intimate life with someone they care for and someone who cares for them, and I don’t wish it on anybody. I truly believe that God intended for me to experience the gifts, joy, growth, and love I’ve experienced with my partner. I honestly believe that the reason gay men and lesbians don’t change, no matter how hard we try, is because that is the way God created us… For whatever reason, according to wisdom that he only knows. The scriptures also say “whoso forbiddeth to marry is not of God.”

    There are others who have felt called to enter into committed relationships — despite the extreme negativity of our culture toward such relationships — and who have been blessed as a result.

    Again, my hope here is not to enter into an argument with you or anybody… I’ve wrestled with plenty of self-doubt, but the principle of faith that has helped me move forward is the principle that of good seeds, we see good fruit, and of bad seeds we see bad fruit. I’ve seen so much tragedy and bad fruit from the counsel given gay men and lesbians to marry, or to remain single; and certainly from teaching that encouraged gay men and lesbians to see themselves as “abominations.” On the other hand, in the path I’ve followed — guided by the Spirit — I’ve seen so much good fruit. So much joy, love, goodness and growth.

  23. Mike S
    November 11, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    #20: Tim

    You state: “…but if I were to have sex outside marriage, then I would be subject to the same consequences…”

    John talks about his husband. They were legally married according to the laws of the land. I don’t know, but perhaps he never had sex “outside marriage”. In the Church, we accept a civil marriage as “allowing” sex between heterosexual partners, although we still hold up temple marriage as the ultimate ideal to work towards. Is John’s civil marriage technically any different?

  24. November 11, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I’ll reply to you privately regarding some of my perspectives in relation to scripture.

  25. November 11, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Holden – Thank you for putting this so beautifully. I hope that people won’t leave the Church over this. This is partly where I feel the idea of “standing in paradox” is a blessing. We shouldn’t abandon truths we’ve had to wrestle in order to achieve. But at the same time, we need to honor each other. In order to build Zion, where we are of one heart and one mind and dwell together in righteousness, we have to start at a place where we are not of one heart and not of one mind and STILL are committed to dwell together..!

    I agree with Jared when he says “My house is a house of order.” We need to respect and sustain Church leaders in order for this to work. I do the best I can to sustain our Church leaders. My bishop once told me that I sustain Pres. Monson 98%. He hastened to add that the 2% was the problem, because it was what was keeping me out of the Church. OK, I can live with that judgment. But at the moment, 98% is the best I can do.

    I desperately want folks like you — folks full of compassion and fire for justice and a hunger for truth — to draw the circle of the Church, the circle of Zion, back around yourselves… We’ll all get there eventually…

  26. November 11, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    A much more accurate word would be “sustained.”

    Why would God give two very different answers…the answers he has given to you and the answers he has given to the church leaders and authorities?

    Could be the impact that changes in position have had in other countries? Studying the experiences of churches in Africa when there have been doctrinal changes on some positions in their American branches has really given me pause.

    I think it is possible that the Lord to deliberately withhold a revelation on a subject to test us, to see how we will respond.

    I’ve also tracked the efforts that the Mennonite Conciliation services made in the area, and the report they made regarding it (resolving church conflicts over SSM, etc.).

    I am glad we were able to get this post. Better than I hoped for when I asked about getting a post on this news story.

  27. J.Ro
    November 11, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    As so many others have said, it was wonderful to read something on the synthesis of your own spirituality and your feelings about your sexuality. I feel like we hear so often of the discord in people’s lives regarding homosexuality and the church’s stance on the matter, and it was great to be able to see the perspective on the way you maintain your faith regardless (though not ignorant) of your sexuality.

  28. alice
    November 11, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    At this moment I only want to say 2 things so as not to dilute either message:

    1) Thank God the church made the right decision this time.

    And,

    2) I deeply regret your pain, john, and I want you to know that there are others — straight and LGBT — who struggle with you.

  29. Jeff Spector
    November 11, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    John,

    Welcome to Mormon Matters. Your post is most eloquent. You express yourself beautifully. You are in a most difficult spot, but seem to handle it well. Though in the minds of many, it’s a pretty black and white issue, with no shades of grey. It’s not like some of the trivial things we argue over like whether decaf coffee is breaking the Word of Wisdom.

    I do admire that you are still very loyal to the Church in spite of the position its takes on your relationship. Not many can hold your position even if it doesn’t directly affect them.

    At some point in our eternal existence, we’ll know the definitive answer to the question.

  30. Tim
    November 11, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    @MikeS #23

    Marriage, even civil, is not something to simply “allow sex”. Marriage is a sacred institution upon which to build a family and the church defines this very clearly in the family proclamation.

    @Scott #17

    If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then it seems citing the Bible as a revelatory source would suffice. The Proclamation to the Family was released as revelation. All of the big issues we face today regarding the matter were not yet at the forefront of people’s minds as they are today but they knew at the time they released it, that it soon would be an issue. So, not only have they already sought answers long before proclamation 8, but it was also a prophecy of sorts of what was to come.

  31. November 11, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    re 30:

    Tim, but doesn’t John also view marriage as a sacred institution upon which to build a family? So, really, it destroys the basis of your original contention in comment 20.

    The church is not simply saying it is not ok to have sex. This is a very reductionist (and limited) view. They are saying that two men cannot build a family. Two men cannot partake in a sacred institution.

    So, it’s not the same as if you, as a straight man, tried to have sex outside of marriage. Rather, it would be as if you wanted to be married, wanted to be committed, wanted to participate in the sacred institution, but the church simply determined you had picked the wrong person and would be invalidated from it.

    If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I guess we should tell these latter-day prophets to take a hike. I guess revelation (that *does* change things) should take a hike.

  32. Cowboy
    November 11, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    “The Proclamation to the Family was released as revelation. All of the big issues we face today regarding the matter were not yet at the forefront of people’s minds as they are today but they knew at the time they released it, that it soon would be an issue.”

    The issue of same sex marriage is not a new one. Prior to Proposition 8 in california, there was Proposition 21, labled the Knight Act, on which the Church was politically active (2000). In the early 1990’s, somewhere around 1992 there was a similar measure that made it’s way from Hawaii to the White House, which was subsequently signed into law by Bill Clinton, called “The Defense of Marriage Act”. This was another measure which ultimately defined marriage as a union existing between one man, and one woman. The Family, A Proclomation to the World, was released by President Hinckley in 1995, in the midst of this social debate. Suffice it to say, the Proclomation was very much a contemporary document, we should be under no allusion that it was intended as a pre-emptive measure to prop 8. Homosexuality and “alternative families” has been mainstreaming since the late 70’s, and is by no means a new issue to the public debate.

  33. Cowboy
    November 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    I should clarify that Bill Clinton signed the “Defense of Marriage Act” into law 0n September 21, 1996.

  34. November 12, 2009 at 12:20 am

    I think you people need to read your scriptures. The Lord is very specific about what he says concerning “sexual sin” and politically correct or not, homosexuality is sexual sin. You can’t support the law that prevents a person from discriminating against homosexual’s without destroying the law that gives a property owner the right to use his property however he pleases. True every person should be able to support themselves and earn a living for their families, however, homosexuals don’t have families unless they indulge in heterosexual behavior, either themselves or a heterosexual who provides the service. I find it very interesting that homosexuals have been around since time immemorial and it has only been since they have sought to legitimize their behavior that any question of discrimination has been brought up. If you study history, which unfortunately most American’s avoid out of fear of being called intolerant, or uncultured, you will find that any nation which has “tolerated” homosexul behavior as a lifestyle has bit the dust. I also find it interesting that man is the only creation that practices this vice and I think its because he is the only creation with the power of “thought”. I have always found it curious that homosexuals and lesbians are never 2 women or 2 men, they are always one partner who adopts the role of the female and the other the role of the male. Doesn’t that say something to anyone with a brain. If Heavenly Father, as Johngw states, smiles on her union, and I take it from her blog that she is the female componet of the relationship, why would He not direct his leaders to sanction the relationship? Satan is having a field day, especially with Latter-day Saints. We have become so desirous of being accepted we are no longer a peculiar people. How I long for a Latter-day Saint leader like an Abinadi, a Moroni, a Teancum, or Samuel the Lamanite who has the cohona’s to stand up and be a man instead of the whimps that fill our pulpits, congressional seats, and homes.

  35. November 12, 2009 at 1:19 am

    You can’t support the law that prevents a person from discriminating against homosexual’s without destroying the law that gives a property owner the right to use his property however he pleases.

    The law doesn’t allow property owners to use their property however they see fit.

    If you study history, which unfortunately most American’s avoid out of fear of being called intolerant, or uncultured, you will find that any nation which has “tolerated” homosexul behavior as a lifestyle has bit the dust.

    Let’s have some examples. Then provide some examples of homo-hating societies contemporary with them that haven’t also “bit the dust.”

    I also find it interesting that man is the only creation that practices this vice and I think its because he is the only creation with the power of “thought”.

    Google is your friend.

    I have always found it curious that homosexuals and lesbians are never 2 women or 2 men, they are always one partner who adopts the role of the female and the other the role of the male. Doesn’t that say something to anyone with a brain.

    It says you’re big on stereotyping.

    If Heavenly Father, as Johngw states, smiles on her union, and I take it from her blog that she is the female componet of the relationship

    Wow. Just wow. You know no more about homosexuality in humans than you do about homosexuality in animals.

    …why would He not direct his leaders to sanction the relationship? Satan is having a field day, especially with Latter-day Saints. We have become so desirous of being accepted we are no longer a peculiar people. How I long for a Latter-day Saint leader like an Abinadi, a Moroni, a Teancum, or Samuel the Lamanite who has the cohona’s to stand up and be a man instead of the whimps that fill our pulpits, congressional seats, and homes.

    Um… if Satan is having such a field day, wouldn’t the Lord tell his leaders? Oh sorry, they’re wimps. Except when it comes to John’s marriage. Then they’re OK.

  36. November 12, 2009 at 2:05 am

    Kuri, you totally beat me to it.
    One more observation: “The Lord is very specific about what he says concerning “sexual sin”” I’ve been around long enough to see what John has already mentioned–a fairly large change in Church policy and thought concerning homosexuality (and even acceptable sexual practices within heterosexual marriage relationships!). The scriptures are far from “specific” about the matter. Since I’ve never had a personal and direct encounter with the Lord about these things, I remain undecided about many issues regarding human sexuality.

    xinniemcgee, I’ll have you know that I am morally opposed to deleting objectionable comments as I truly believe in free speech and open discussion on this blog. But your comment has brought me the closest I have ever come to wanting to use my administrative power to make it disappear. It would serve you well to check your facts before next you comment here.

  37. November 12, 2009 at 7:31 am

    BIV – Thanks for the opportunity to guest post. And thanks to everyone who offered kind words, encouragement, and thoughtful questions.

    No need to delete anyone’s comments… I’ve heard it all before. “Sticks and stones…”

    What would the Internet be without a little incivility once in a while?

  38. Hestia
    November 12, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I am perplexed at what spiritual nourishment you can possibly find by remaining affiliated with the LDS church when there are so many other houses of worship that would not cause the paradoxical dilemmas in your life. Holden Caulfield (#21) expressed my sentiments exactly.

  39. November 12, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Hestia – I have a testimony.

    My husband and I were members of a liberal UCC Church for many years. I had a dream once in which the pastor of that church was giving me water to drink from a clay carafe. I would empty the carafe, and ask for more. He kept refilling, and I kept drinking. But no matter how much water he gave me, my thirst wasn’t quenched.

    When I worship in sacrament meeting at my LDS ward in Minneapolis, the thirst is quenched. I don’t know how to put it differently…

    By the way — in response to Jared’s request that I state my views on what the scriptures have to say about homosexuality, I don’t have any objection per se to discussing this in an on-line format. It’s just that I sensed he wanted to debate me (which I’m not really interested in), and I furthermore didn’t feel it was on topic as part of this post. As I was thinking about how to respond to Jared by email, I decided that perhaps it would be better to discuss it in an on-line forum that he (and others, if they wish) can participate in. So I plan to post my thoughts on this topic on my personal blog in the next day or two. Anyone who is interested in joining in the discussion is welcome to check in.

  40. Holden Caulfield
    November 12, 2009 at 10:22 am

    #34– “cohona’s”–reformed egyptian for “cojones”?

  41. WMP
    November 12, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Johngw–

    Thank you for a most thoughtful, interesting, and moving post. It was quite different than I expected … I’m glad I read on. I empathize with your struggle for understanding.

    I also tend to agree with you that perhaps, at times, the Lord withholds direction/revelation in order to test us, either individually or as an institution. I personally believe this may have been the case wrt blacks and the priesthood. I must confess, however, that I see several significant differences between the Church’s position that those of African descent could not hold the priesthood and it’s current position that homosexuality–as manifested in practice–is a serious sin. The church never held that being black was a sin. The church never excommunicated members for being black. Just in terms of theology (politics aside), any “shift” in the Church’s views regarding the impropriety of homosexual conduct would require a transformation far beyond anything required in order to allow blacks to hold the priesthood and participate in temple ordinances. God can and will do what he wants. But I think we need to be careful drawing parellels where there are, in fact, sharp divergences.

    Finally, I think your comments regarding the necessarily fuzzy division between the religious and the civil and your insight regarding God’s judgment of nations (not just individuals) were spot on and touch on an area not much discussed in these fora.

  42. Nick Literski
    November 12, 2009 at 10:32 am

    #36:
    xinniemcgee, I’ll have you know that I am morally opposed to deleting objectionable comments as I truly believe in free speech and open discussion on this blog. But your comment has brought me the closest I have ever come to wanting to use my administrative power to make it disappear.

    I’m delighted to see xinniemcgee’s comment remain posted, as a true and accurate expression of the depth and intelligence of his or her beliefs.

    #34:
    True every person should be able to support themselves and earn a living for their families, however, homosexuals don’t have families unless they indulge in heterosexual behavior, either themselves or a heterosexual who provides the service.

    So offspring is what defines a “family?” That must be quite a revelation to all the childless, heterosexual couples in the world, to know that they don’t have “families” either.

    If you study history, which unfortunately most American’s avoid out of fear of being called intolerant, or uncultured, you will find that any nation which has “tolerated” homosexul [sic] behavior as a lifestyle has bit the dust.

    Ah, yes, the old “every ancient society that tolerated homosexuality has fallen” story! Of course, every ancient society that did not tolerate homosexuality has fallen as well! That’s why we call them “ancient” societies, genius!

    I also find it interesting that man is the only creation that practices this vice and I think its because he is the only creation with the power of “thought”.

    It would be uncharitible for us to suggest that homosexuality is attributable to rational thought. After all, that would mean that you are an (allegedly?) heterosexual person, because you’ve successfully avoided the damning plague of rational thought! Then again, we’ve all read your comments…..

    I have always found it curious that homosexuals and lesbians are never 2 women or 2 men, they are always one partner who adopts the role of the female and the other the role of the male.

    How insightful of you, to distinguish between homosexuals and lesbians! Can you elaborate on this for those of us who are too uninformed to understand what makes a lesbian not a homosexual?

    While you’re at it, please tell us more about your extensive research and observation, by which you discovered this remarkable pattern of “gender switching” by one partner in every gay or lesbian relationship! How can I tell whether it’s my partner or me that has “adopted the role of the female?” If my partner has put two would-be attackers in the hospital, does that mean I must have “adopted the role of the female?” Or does the fact that my partner likes to crochet while watching professional football mean that I’m the “real man” of the house? We need to sort this out now, before all civilization crumbles under the crushing weight of ambiguity!

  43. November 12, 2009 at 10:34 am

    It looks like John is wrapping things up and moving on. I hope that life is good to him.

    Over forty years ago the Lord gave me an invitation to follow Him. I accepted, made covenants, and have sought to live them. As with all those who would follow Christ–I have been given the necessary implements to complete the journey. The journey is fraught with peril, and difficulties of all kinds. Those willing to embark on this journey are outfitted with the words of living and dead prophets, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and a community of faith–the church.

    But the journey is designed to be arduous, and not all who set out will finish. Even with all the implements prepared for the journey the path is shrouded with a “mist of darkness” which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts, and leads many to broad roads where they are lost (1 Nephi 12:17).

    However, the scriptures teach that the Lord is infinitely kind and merciful (D&C 45:1-5)to those who who lose their way. For me, these are not mere words on a page, I’ve experienced them.

    I hope that all of those who are blinded, hardened, and moving–or have moved to the broad road will some how find their way back.

    The following link contains a painting I like. It illustrates on canvas, in part, what I’ve tried to say in words.

    Note: this is the best site I could find with this painting–sorry I couldn’t find a better link. Be sure to read the explanation at the lower right.

    http://www.blackshearonline.com/cgi-bin/globaltemplate.cgi?id=18

  44. Nick Literski
    November 12, 2009 at 10:35 am

    #41:
    The [LDS?] church never held that being black was a sin.

    No, but many LDS leaders taught that being born with a “dark” skin was evidence of pre-mortal sin, or at the very least, pre-mortal failure to be “valliant.”

  45. Cowboy
    November 12, 2009 at 10:41 am

    It looks like John is wrapping things up and moving on. I hope that life is good to him.

    …huh? Jared, are you trying to close this thread?

  46. November 12, 2009 at 10:46 am

    #39: As I was thinking about how to respond to Jared by email, I decided that perhaps it would be better to discuss it in an on-line forum that he (and others, if they wish) can participate in. So I plan to post my thoughts on this topic on my personal blog in the next day or two. Anyone who is interested in joining in the discussion is welcome to check in.

    Thanks, John, and Jared, too. I was just thinking how much I’d like to observe that discussion.

  47. November 12, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Hi Cowboy–

    Nope.

  48. November 12, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Excellent articulation of the complexities we gay Mormons face every day. Some, myself included, choose civil marriage because it’s the closest we can come to legitimacy in the Church. (And yes, Jared, it’s marriage and not “marriage.”) The blessing of a SLC ordinance that was going to pass anyway is a VERY small step and came with the statement, “The Church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage.” How can I not take offense to the suggestion that my marriage to a man does violence to anyone?

  49. brjones
    November 12, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    #48 – I have to agree with you, Buck. I have been surprised to hear anyone on the outside giving the church much credit for this.

  50. November 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    @Tim #30

    If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then it seems citing the Bible as a revelatory source would suffice.

    This has already been addressed by Andrew S in #31, but I’ll add that there are many, many teachings from the Bible (including some from the very same chapters that are cited as proof of God’s disapproval of homosexuality) that have been discarded (or superseded, if you prefer) in favor of newly revealed truth.

    There’s nothing in the Book of Mormon, D&C, or PoGP related to homosexuality, and virtually nothing from any modern prophet until the mod 20th century. If the prophet today suddenly began railing on the evils of clothing made from mixed fibers, without claiming any authority other than Levitical law, would you accept his decrees without question, or would you want a more definitive statement that his words were indeed God’s present will?

    The Proclamation to the Family was released as revelation.

    Again, this has been touched on, but The Proclamation was actually released at about the time when the question of gay marriage first surfaced. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for an unbeliever to claim that it was, in fact, a direct response to the first efforts to legalize gay marriage.

    Furthermore, despite the belief of many members of the church, the Proclamation is not scripture (thought that doesn’t preclude if from being revelation). God’s house is one of order, as has been noted in this comment thread, and there is a clearly-defined process by which a revelation becomes canonized scripture (and thus doctrine, which faithful members of the church are obligated to adhere to).

    The revelation must first be accepted and sustained by a unanimous vote of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. It must then be presented to the body of the church for a sustaining vote. We might assume that the Proclamation has passed the first of these qualifications, but it has never been presented to the church as a candidate for inclusion in the canonized body of scripture, and it is therefore not to be considered binding doctrine, as inspired and inspiring as it may be.

    Finally, to address the several suggestions that following the prophet will always be a safer course than following some personal path that goes counter to the teachings of the church: I agree that there is safety in holding to the iron rod. But why can’t some who let go still manage to find their own way to the tree? Especially if they are guided by the spirit? Their way might not be quite as easy, but perhaps it’s the only way that allows them the experiences they need to grow and progress, or to find happiness and joy in the journey.

  51. AndrewJDavis
    November 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I see this is late, but I’ll post it anyways.

    I remember hearing a talk (or reading maybe) by Elder Oaks about the role of General Authorities. He said something along the line of ‘since he was a General authority, he spoke in General terms. And thus, there would always be possible exceptions, but that the public discourse by a General authority is not the place to do it.’ It made me think of the answers to your prayers, John, and the … dis-connect … between them and the Church’s stance.

    Thank you so much for your post, it refreshened my faith in God, and in people in general after a very disheartening institute class where I saw the worse side of people come out.

  52. November 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    WMP – thanks for your kind words.

    For the record, I’m in full agreement that the theological issues related to homosexuals and the Church are completely different from the theological issues related to blacks and the priesthood.

    I’ve written elsewhere, however, comparing both issues to the issue that confronted the Church in Acts 10 — the inclusion of Gentiles in the early Church. Some (most famously Bruce R. McConkie) have compared the extension of the priesthood to blacks to the opening of the Church to the Gentiles, because they both seem on the face of it to be ending restrictions that were racially based.

    But if you look a bit more closely — Gentiles in the era of the early Church already could join the Church prior to Peter’s vision. They did so by undergoing a formal process of adoption into the House of Israel and by submitting themselves to the Mosaic Law. What was significant about the events in Acts 10 and following is that Gentiles were being baptized into the Church without being circumcised and without submitting themselves to the Law. In other words, the governing laws related to membership were revised in order to facilitate the acceptance of Gentiles. I would argue that that is much more similar to what might take place if the Church revised its rules/practices in such a way as to permit committed same-sex couples to be accepted as full members of the Church.

    Since the law most frequently cited to bar homosexuals from Church membership is, in fact, the Levitical Law (namely Leviticus 19), the Gentile precedent seems even more relevant.

    But, of course, the issues are still quite different. I don’t believe — as some apparently do — that the issues are insuperable. Such issues always “look” insuperable before they’ve been resolved. The issues related to blacks and the priesthood certainly seemed insuperable to many in the Church (including Elder McConkie) prior to 1978. Still, the issues related to gays and the Church would — I think — require revelation in order to address them “in good order,” just as would any major change in Church practice.

  53. November 12, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    And no, I don’t consider the thread closed yet! Still reading with interest and responding, as long as others continue to converse.

  54. WMP
    November 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Johngw,

    Thanks for the response. I appreciate your points.

    Your comments also touch on interesting issues regarding whether the Church is/was “right” or “wrong” with respect to certain of its policies. If one accepts the proposition, for example, that the Church could not act on blacks in the priesthood until receiving a revelation allowing it to do so (which, regardless of the policy’s origins, Church leaders long felt was required to effect such a change), then I think it is inaccurate to say that the Church, in 1978, was simply rectifying a past “wrong.” Likewise, if the brethren at some point receive direction that results in a change in the Church’s policy wrt homosexuality, I still wouldn’t think it would be accurate to characterize the Church as “wrong” regarding its policy prior to the new revelation. Indeed, one could even imagine a situation where the brethren are asking precisely the right questions, but the answer is different at one time than another because of timing issues about which only the Lord is aware. I’m not at all suggesting that is the case here, but my understanding of continuing revelation certainly allows for this possibility.

  55. November 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    WMP – I’ve often wondered about this. I retain an open mind on the question of whether the black priesthood ban was the result of cultural/human error. We certainly do not have any revelation instituting it, and Brigham Young in 1857 as much as admitted that none had ever been received, and that he was enforcing it without the authority of a revelation.

    Logically, it seems to me that a revelation could be received to rectify past, incorrect practices. I can’t think why not. It seems to me that many of the revelations received by the early Church corrected doctrinal misunderstandings of the early Saints that came from the broader culture. The concept of good order implies that the Church is guided by revelation, whether that revelation is to correct wrongs or to institute new perspectives.

  56. November 12, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Andrew – I’m familiar with the talk you are remembering. It was Dallin Oaks. I think I even know where I could find the actual reference…

  57. WMP
    November 12, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Johngw — I think you’re right that revelation can be received to rectify past incorrect practices. Perhaps there is a distinction between traditions about which little revelatory guidance had been previously requested or received, policies for which additional instruction had been sought but none received (maybe blacks in the PH pre-1978 falls in this category??), and policies/principles/doctrines which had been confirmed and re-affirmed through revelation and which were only changed through additional revelation (arguably plural marriage??). Not sure, just thoughts…

  58. November 12, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    WMP – Thanks so much for a very interesting discussion!!

    I think it goes without saying that even if the 1978 priesthood revelation was received to correct a past wrong, that does not necessarily imply that a future revelation on homosexuality — were one to be received — would necessarily be in the same category. (Or vice versa.)

    But in some sense, it doesn’t matter so much why a revelation is given. There was hot debate in the 1970s over whether a revelation would even be needed to alter the priesthood ban since, as many pointed out, a revelation had never been received to institute it in the first place. Many believed the policy was an error that crept into Church practice due to prejudice; many subscribed to the “war in Heaven fence-sitters” theory, and believed that blacks were being penalized for pre-mortal lack of valor. The 1978 revelation did not address either of those theories; and Church leaders have more or less studiously avoided any comment on why the revelation was given. Only that it was given, and the Saints needed to modify their attitudes and practices accordingly.

    (Incidentally, I was just re-listening to Gordon B. Hinckley’s April 2006 Priesthood Session talk, in which he gave as vigorous an over-the-pulpit denunciation of racism in the ranks as I’ve ever heard from a Mormon pulpit. He specifically cited the 1978 priesthood revelation as the basis for denouncing and rooting out all forms of racist behavior and beliefs — an application of that revelation that certainly seems directed at correcting incorrect behavior.)

    But the point is, once a revelation is received, the reasons become sort of moot…

  59. November 12, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Paul’s writings are the most interesting, first because they are so black and white, and second because he is addressing Greek practices involving married heterosexual couples and birth control options. That leads to all sorts of interesting implications.

    No offense Johngw, but that entire area would make an interesting post here as well as on your blog, if you are interested.

  60. November 12, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    When I worship in sacrament meeting at my LDS ward in Minneapolis, the thirst is quenched. I don’t know how to put it differently…

    Thanks for sharing that.

  61. November 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Stephen — I am intrigued by Paul’s writings on gender and sexuality as well… Though I’m not sure my thoughts about them are fully formed. I’d be interested in participating in a discussion, though I’m not sure I would be the one to lead it!

    Elaine Pagels, in Gnostic Paul, suggests that much of Paul’s writing about sexuality and gender is actually written as a kind of code, using discussion of widespread cultural practices and mores as a means to transcend convention, and make the case for a radically egalitarian and inclusive Christian community… Hellenistic culture of the day, as you are probably aware, was extremely male-dominated, with sharply drawn class and racial boundaries… I love her take on Paul.

  62. Rigel Hawthorne
    November 12, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Johngw,

    It’s very nice to make your online acquaintance and I thank you for sharing some information about yourself in this format. I’m curious about the logistics of your worship in your Minneapolis Ward. Some members who have been disciplined with an excommunication report that members shun them or keep their children away from them. I have only known of one person in my church life that was attending church as an excommunicated Mormon and that was back in a college ward.

    In countering those arguments that excommunicated Mormons are shunned, other members say that they are welcomed back with open arms if they wish to return. Do you find your congregation welcoming, shunning or mixed? Do you feel welcome to participate in socials and service projects? Does your Bishop assume an ecclesiastical role in your spiritual welfare? Your EQ president? I would expect that in exercising their priesthood calling of service to you as a regular member of the congregation, love would increase, attitudes softened. Most Bishops develop a love for members of their congregation that is greater than they previously experience. For the Bishop that kicks out the gay man and he becomes out of sight and out of mind this is obviously not going to happen

  63. WMP
    November 13, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Thank you, Johngw. It has been enlightening.

  64. November 13, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Rigel – My excommunication took place in the fall of 1986. (I didn’t become sexually active until about 1990, and entered a committed relationship in 1992.) At the time, I was a member of the Georgetown, MA ward. That was my home ward, though I barely ever attended there. When I began attending Church again in the fall of 2005 in Minneapolis, MN, nobody knew my history. So that may have facilitated people interacting with me in a more positive way.

    As people gradually got to know me, to learn that I was both gay and in a committed relationship, and excommunicated, there were a couple of members who treated me a bit oddly (at first), but nobody “shunned” me. Even those who seemed a bit uncomfortable with me gradually got over their discomfort as they got to know me better, and learned my reasons for being there: namely that I had a testimony, that I loved the gospel, and that I wanted to learn and partake of the Spirit just as they did.

    My bishops have generally been supportive, and have encouraged me to follow as many of the commandments as I am able. They have (tactfully) observed the rules of the Church, reminding me that full admission as a member of the Church would be contingent upon terminating my relationship with my husband; though they have not pressured me to do this. They have also upheld rules about excommunicated members (I can’t speak in Church, hold formal callings, pray in meetings, partake of the Sacrament, etc.). But they have assigned me home teachers over the years, encouraged me to participate in Sunday School and Priesthood discussions, allowed me to sing in the ward choir, and encouraged me to engage in Church-related service such as assisting with the Church’s genealogical data extraction program.

    My Elder’s Quorum is amazing! I have felt totally loved and accepted by and encouraged by them to continue in the path of faith.

    Perhaps I would be treated differently if my excommunication had been more recent or closer to home… But maybe not. I know of a situation of a gay man living in Las Vegas who recently requested excommunication so he could enter into a committed relationship. Both his Bishop and his Stake President were very understanding of his motivation (he didn’t want to live alone for the rest of his life!!) They excommunicated, but — as my church leaders have done — encouraged him to participate as fully in the life of the Church and obey as many of the commandments as he is able to. From the reports I’ve seen from him, his ward has really embraced him and encouraged him, much as mine has…

  65. November 13, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Johngw–

    We have a couple of things in common. When I was living after the manner of the world I experienced the Lord’s mercy. I felt, but turned away for a season, the enticings of the Spirit (Mosiah 3:19). Nonetheless, the Spirit strove with me.

    When I did return, and committed to follow Christ, I struggled keeping the commandments. I felt the Lord extending great love and patience when I fell short of my commitment (D&C 62:1). It’s not easy giving up the ways of the world. The chains of sin are not easily undone.

    Because of my experience, I believe you when you say the Lord is your companion, but we also are taught the Lord won’t always strife with us. There comes a time when we need to follow Him or reject Him (D&C 1:33).

    Where we part company(on matters of faith)–is when you part company with the prophets by justifying sin.

  66. November 13, 2009 at 9:40 am

    For those who are interested, I’ve now posted on my personal blog an essay on my understanding of how the scriptures relate to the issue of homosexuality.

  67. November 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I hope it’s okay if I chime in with my own experience in answer to #62 Rigel Hawthorne’s question about the acceptance or rejection of an excommunicated member. My experience isn’t directly analogous because I haven’t been excommunicated, but I have some experience with rejection.

    First, some brief background: I’m gay, but wasn’t able to admit it even to myself until about a year and a half ago (I’m 35). Coming to terms with my orientation was an intensely spiritual experience, and within a couple weeks I had shared it with my wife. She was understandably shocked and hurt, but she was able to quickly turn that hurt into understanding and acceptance.

    A few months later she and I both felt a strong prompting that I was to come out to my ward in testimony meeting. I informed my bishop that I would be doing so (so that he wouldn’t be caught unprepared) and then bore my testimony of my Heavenly Father’s love for His children, explaining that that testimony had been strengthened when I had come to terms with the fact that I am gay.

    At this time, and for many months afterward, I was a faithful and active member of the church. I attended my meetings, went to the temple regularly, etc. In fact, I felt like part of the reason for coming out was to provide evidence to members of the ward that it is possible for a member to be gay and still be righteous and in full fellowship in the church.

    The only thing that had changed was that people had learned something new about me. I was still the same person I had always been. But that didn’t keep many people from changing how they interacted with me. A neighbor who had always called me for help in blessing his children when they were sick immediately stopped doing so (I heard from his kids that he had called Brother So-and-so to help give them a blessing). A few people quite obviously avoided me in the halls at church, when prior to my coming out they had been friendly and talkative.

    Not everyone was like that. Some went out of their way to make it clear that their feelings about me hadn’t changed. Many treated me no differently at all. Still, it was hard to feel rejected by people who I had considered friends for several years.

    (It didn’t help that I also felt rejected by my bishop. He had called my wife and I in for an interview when he first heard from someone–I don’t know who, because I wasn’t out to many people at that point–that I was gay. The interview was full of accusations and demands that I try to change who I was, and the bishop had refused to even attempt to understand any point of view other than his own).

    At this point, I’m not regularly attending church anymore. The attitudes of members of my ward have probably contributed slightly toward that, though I don’t think their rejection is the main issue. I’m still entirely faithful to my wife and have still never acted on my attractions. Apart from my recent inactivity, I still consider myself temple worthy, though my leaders disagree, believing that my support for same-sex marriage constitutes not “sustaining the prophet”, so I am without a current recommend.

    I think that living in the heart of Zion makes a difference. I think that the Saints in Utah are generally quicker to judge and to reject those who are different than are the Saints who live in more religiously and culturally diverse areas. That probably explains to at least some extent the difference between my ward and Johngw’s.

    Anyway, I hope I haven’t been out of line in sharing my own experiences when the question was directed at Johngw. I’m happy that his ward has been so accepting–I just thought that another viewpoint might be useful.

  68. November 13, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Scott – thanks for sharing your experience here.

    My parents live in Springville, UT, quite possibly the most ultra-conservative municipality in the world. One of the few truly very negative experiences I had at Church was while I was visiting their ward with them. I think you’re right, the Utah culture does put a different spin on this.

    (Maybe all the more reason why Church support for this ordinance is that much more significant. It may actually open the door a crack for ultra-conservative Utah Mormons.)

  69. brjones
    November 13, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    #67 – Scott, thanks for sharing your experience. Utah definitely brings with it its own set of challenges. I hope your experiences take a turn for the better.

  70. Henry
    November 13, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Scott
    I’m gay, but wasn’t able to admit it even to myself until about a year and a half ago (I’m 35).

    Evergreen International puts a different spin on this.
    1. You are not born gay.
    2. SSA desires can be eliminated or diminished.

    Satan is fooling you into thinking that you are born gay. Lisen to the prophets rather than to the world.

  71. brjones
    November 13, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    #70 – Henry, are you saying you believe these things, or just that Evergreen does?

  72. November 13, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    @Henry (#70),

    Yes, I’m familiar with Evergreen International and with their precepts. If others have found comfort in what they promote, that’s wonderful. I don’t personally have any interest in attempting to change who I am.

    As I indicated, coming to terms with my orientation involved an intensely spiritual experience. I felt God’s love and acceptance more strongly than I have ever felt it before. Accepting that I am gay put an end to years of struggle and self-loathing. Even though I would never acknowledge or admit the feelings, even to myself, I was still aware of them, and I hated them, and I did everything I could think of to rid myself of them.

    Interestingly, accepting them has made them far easier to live with than anything else I ever tried. As I said, I’ve never acted on them. Why should I struggle to diminish or eliminate these feelings, when it’s the struggle that brings unhappiness and misery? There’s nothing negative in thinking “wow, that guy is cute!”–the negative comes when I beat myself up for having had that thought. I refuse to do it anymore.

    I’m convinced–thanks in no small part to a witness of the Spirit–that this is simply who I am. Of course it’s up to me to choose what to do with my life, and for the forseeable future my choices lie in loving my wife and raising my children. But I’ll do it honestly and authentically, secure and confident in the knowledge of who I am, not in denial and frustration, trying to be something I’m not.

  73. Ray
    November 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Henry, first, the Church no longer teaches that all gay members can change their orientation and, in fact, recognizes openly that that is not the case. If I have the choice to side with Evergreen or the Church right now on this one, I’ll walk away from Evergreen – or run, if I must.

    Second, why in the world are you even implying criticism of someone who admits homosexual attractions but doesn’t act on them? If you’ve never had a lustful thought, then I guess you can cast a stone, but I’m not about to do so.

    Frankly, and I don’t mean to pick on Henry in saying this, that comment is one of the reasons I was so glad to read of the Church’s position with this. Church members need to STOP taking stances that are even more strict than the Church itself has taken recently – and we need to start accepting and loving others who are different, no matter the nature of the differences. We still can hold to core beliefs, but we simply MUST learn to separate general beliefs from judgmentalism and condescension.

  74. Martin
    November 13, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Johngw,

    Thank you for your post. I too am very interested in reading the scripturally-based post you are planning. Not to challenge you, but to understand your reasoning. I’ve sometimes wondered how I would have handled it if I were gay, and I don’t know that I would have done so well.

    Also, I’m glad BiV stuck to her principles and left xinniemcgee’s comment. I could have imagined myself saying something so ignorant a decade ago, and I think such sentiments should be addressed, not ridiculed and certainly not ignored.

    Scott, I don’t want to be a judgmental ignoramus, but the way you stated “for the forseeable future my choices lie in loving my wife and raising my children. But I’ll do it honestly and authentically, secure and confident in the knowledge of who I am, not in denial and frustration, trying to be something I’m not.” makes it sound like maybe, in the future, staying with your wife might be “denial and frustration”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that none of us knows what the future may bring, but generally the accepted mindset of marriage is that, barring unforeseen circumstances, it isn’t up for periodic review. My question (which I fear is truly ignorant, since I haven’t read Carol Lynn Pearson or the similar), is this: how is realizing one is gay (after several years of marriage) different from deciding, say, that one is truly not attracted to one’s wife (say she put on 50lbs)? I mean, I suspect most marriages lack all the elements one or both partners would find necessary for a completely fulfilling relationship, and yet looking elsewhere isn’t usually a good option. Is it different when it comes to being gay?

  75. November 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    #73:
    Henry, first, the Church no longer teaches that all gay members can change their orientation and, in fact, recognizes openly that that is not the case.

    Yes and no, Ray. “God Loveth His Children,” the most recent standardized LDS publication on the subject, states: “While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life.”

    The pamphlet presents a three-step “recipe” for “overcoming” homosexuality: (1) individual effort, (2) exercise of faith, and (3) reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement. The pamphlet indicates that many LDS members have “overcome” homosexuality by following this formula. (This “recipe” is repeated in other recent LDS statements, such as an Ensign article by Jeffrey R. Holland.)

    Now, who are the “others” referred to, Ray? As our resident parser of language, and as an honest man, you have to admit that the implication is clear. The “others” are those who fail to “overcome” homosexuality during mortality—and why do they not become “free of this challenge in this life”? Because, suggests the pamphlet, those “others” have failed to properly or adequately apply the recipe.

    So yes, Ray, you can say that the LDS church recognizes that not all homosexual persons will “overcome” homosexuality during their mortal lives. What you can’t honestly say, is that the LDS church “no longer teaches” that every homosexual person can change his or her sexual orientation. You’d have to seriously “wrest the official publications,” to sincerely reach that conclusion.

  76. Martin
    November 13, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Nick, “others may not be free of this challenge in this life” doesn’t sound to me like an indictment to me. In fact, it seems to me a big stretch to extrapolate it the way you did. I read the rest of the pamphlet too, and if what you say about it is true, then I sure missed it.

    http://mormonmatters.org/2009/11/11/the-gay-rights-paradox/#comment-116512

  77. Martin
    November 13, 2009 at 8:15 pm
  78. Ray
    November 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    What Martin said, Nick. 🙂

  79. November 13, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    @Martin, #74: Scott, I don’t want to be a judgmental ignoramus, but the way you stated “for the forseeable future my choices lie in loving my wife and raising my children. But I’ll do it honestly and authentically, secure and confident in the knowledge of who I am, not in denial and frustration, trying to be something I’m not.” makes it sound like maybe, in the future, staying with your wife might be “denial and frustration”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that none of us knows what the future may bring, but generally the accepted mindset of marriage is that, barring unforeseen circumstances, it isn’t up for periodic review.

    I didn’t express myself very clearly. I’ll try again.

    For the forseeable future I choose to love my wife and raise my children, and I’ll do it honestly and authentically, as a gay man (who loves his wife and kids), rather than in denial and frustration, trying to pretend to be straight.

    I didn’t mean to imply that “honesty and authenticity” would of necessity mean, sometime in the future, leaving my wife and kids to pursue a different life as a gay man (or that refusing to do so would necessarily result in frustration)–though, as you say, none of us knows what the future may bring, so I won’t absolutely state that it will never happen.

    As things stand right now I’m reasonably happy. I wonder sometimes what I might be missing. I wonder how being in love might differ from the (very real) love that I feel for my wife, and how physical attraction might affect the emotional aspects of a relationship. But wondering aside, I do love my wife, and I count myself lucky to have such an accepting and understanding woman at my side–one who will actually happily compare notes with me on which waiter or TV show character is the cutest. 🙂

    All that said, I do wonder if there might actually be some difference in our situation versus, say, your example of a couple in which the wife has gained weight. In our case the incompatibility existed from the beginning, and our inability to see it was due in large part to the same religious upbringing that led us to marry in the first place. The entire contract was based on faulty information, so to speak.

    I certainly don’t fault any mixed orientation couple who decides that divorce is the best option–especially those in which the husband was specifically counseled to marry and told that doing so would “cure” him of his attractions (this was the common approach twenty years ago, and I don’t doubt I would have been told the exact same thing if I had had the courage to admit my attractions to a priesthood leader when I returned from my mission).

  80. Ray
    November 13, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Oh, and “Henry” –

    It’s not kosher on a site where you’ve posted at length under a different name to change monikers so others won’t know it’s you who is posting the same stuff as always. Since you never comment on any topic other than homosexuality, and since your comments are consistently the same, why bother changing names to do so? That just smacks of intentional deceit.

  81. November 14, 2009 at 12:29 am

    #76:
    Nick, “others may not be free of this challenge in this life” doesn’t sound to me like an indictment to me. In fact, it seems to me a big stretch to extrapolate it the way you did. I read the rest of the pamphlet too, and if what you say about it is true, then I sure missed it.

    #78:
    What Martin said, Nick.

    I can only assume that neither of you have the slightest inkling of the anguish experienced by gay and lesbian individuals who attempt to live in accordance with the teachings of the LDS church. Neither of you comprehend the tears, the prayerful begging, the fasting, the extreme tactics, and the mental punishment engaged in by persons who literally want nothing more than to “overcome” what they’ve been taught from the cradle to hate within themselves, all in a desperate attempt to be acceptable to their church’s understanding of deity. You have little or no idea of the mental conditioning which your homosexual brothers and sisters have been subjected to, and how that mental conditioning almost invariably determines how they will understand teachings like those in the pamphlet.

    Perhaps it’s effortless for the two of you to convince yourselves that the words in question are filled with assurance and benevolence. Perhaps your own choices preclude you from seeing how anything out of LDS HQ could cause mental anguish to well-intentioned souls. I can only hope that neither of you ever have to experience the feeling that a core aspect of who you are makes you filthy and loathesome beyond all but murderers in the eyes of deity, only to have that same deity refuse your years of begging and pleading for a miracle that would make you acceptable to him.

  82. Ray
    November 14, 2009 at 12:46 am

    “I can only assume that neither of you have the slightest inkling of the anguish experienced by gay and lesbian individuals who attempt to live in accordance with the teachings of the LDS church.”

    and you would be wrong. That’s why assumptions are so dangerous.

    You know I don’t agree 100% with the Church’s political stances on homosexuality, and you certainly know I don’t like the Church’s former positions regarding the “treatment” of homosexuals. I disagree with your assertion that the Church still teaches that all homosexuals can change their orientation. It doesn’t, and it has left a door open for sexual orientation to not condemn someone. I wish there was more at the moment, and I understand why you also wish there was more, but to state that I have no inkling . . .

    You are wrong.

  83. Ray
    November 14, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Oh, and Nick, I’ve always defended you and your comments throughout the Bloggernacle. I’ve agreed with many and disagreed with many, but I’ve never once called you clueless or breezily unconcerned and deluded. Please grant me and others who don’t see everything exactly like you do on this issue the same courtesy.

  84. November 14, 2009 at 1:03 am

    #82:
    I disagree with your assertion that the [LDS?] Church still teaches that all homosexuals can change their orientation.

    Perhaps I can be more specific for you. You’re right–the LDS church does not teach that all homosexuals can change their sexual orientation. Rather, the LDS church teaches that those homosexuals who sufficiently demonstrate “individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement” can change their sexual orientation.

    Those “other” homosexuals—the one’s who fail to reach that ill-defined bar of sufficiency, get a polite pat on the head—sort of like the mentally handicapped daughter in the Oaks-Wickman interview.

  85. Ray
    November 14, 2009 at 1:14 am

    and I disagree with your interpretation.

    Good night, Nick. May God continue to bless you and yours.

  86. November 14, 2009 at 1:26 am

    You’re entirely missing the point then, Ray. It’s not about how you would interpret the paragraph. It’s about how the gay or lesbian LDS member, who has spent years desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to “overcome” their sexual orientation in order to please deity, will interpret the paragraph. To such individuals, this passage comes across as an authoritative statement of why they’re not good enough to be “blessed” with the change they believe they must experience.

    Why is that so hard to understand?

  87. Ray
    November 14, 2009 at 1:36 am

    It’s not. I already said I wish there was more. I said that explicitly.

    I understand the difference between what is written and what is interpreted from what is written. I understand that. I never claimed they are the same. I didn’t say that the words couldn’t be interpreted that way; I said that it’s not how I read them.

    I disagreed with one specific statement you made – and you didn’t make the same claim initially that you just made in your last comment. I agree with what you just said, but I disagree with what you said previously. I apologize if that wasn’t as clear as I tried to make it – if it was hard for you to understand.

  88. Holden Caulfield
    November 14, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Nick—“Now, who are the “others” referred to, Ray? As our resident parser of language, and as an honest man, you have to admit that the implication is clear. The “others” are those who fail to “overcome” homosexuality during mortality—and why do they not become “free of this challenge in this life”? Because, suggests the pamphlet, those “others” have failed to properly or adequately apply the recipe.”

    I usually feel like when you get involved in these discussions about gays that the cavalry has arrived. This time, though, I think you are overreaching. So many conflicting things have been said by the church (most recent Hafen’s DNA talk) that it’s hard to really talk about the real teachings of the church. As anti-church rhetoric as I am on this issue, I don’t believe the church now (they have historically) feels gays don’t change because of a lack of effort. I think the Church’s basic thought is same sex attraction is a cross to bear but it doesn’t get presented that way because they don’t want to plant the idea that all shouldn’t at least try. And in that they do a great injustice to those who can’t change.

    By the way, ever since Elder Wickman was chosen to be part of the Oaks-Wickman “interview”, I have felt he was chosen simply to use his daughter as the example of someone who will never marry. I know he has a connection (don’t remember what it is) to dealing with LDS gays. But that’s what I though as soon as I read him mention her. Very cynical, I know. He didn’t need to interject her personal situation, but did.

  89. November 14, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Bless your heart.

  90. November 14, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Hmm. Sometimes I wish the Church was more clear on exactly what LDS doctrine is concerning homosexuality, and then sometimes I am glad they are elusive so we can make what we want of it!

    There is no question to me but that the Church has changed their stance on homosexuality, as Ray pointed out. But I do read the statements similarly to Nick. In addition, with the comparison that Elder Wickman made and the statements in the Proclamation on the Family about gender being eternal I get the impression that current LDS leaders are beginning to define homosexuality as being an affliction or a handicap or something that has gone wrong in the individual which may or may not be able to be corrected in this life. And that if it is not, the afflicted person just has to live with their handicap, a life without sexual intimacy, until they are “healed” in the next life.

    I can’t give an opinion on whether or not I think homosexuality is eternal. However, it seems that GLBTs do better in the here and now if they are able to accept and embrace their sexuality as a whole and healthy person, rather than regarding themselves as deficient or handicapped. That is why I see the current Church statements and explanations as being damaging.

  91. November 14, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    My view on this is similar to BiV’s (#90). I think the Church’s ambiguity is intentional. By not being clear, the Church allows for change to occur incrementally. Hardliners and progressives can co-exist in the same framework of orthodoxy.

    Another example of this kind of intentional ambiguity is the evolving doctrine of patriarchy, where we now have the puzzling situation of a husband who presides over his fully co-equal partner. It shouldn’t surprise us that the current position toward homosexuality isn’t completely self-consistent. In fact, I’m not even sure the leaders of the Church are of one mind on the subject of homosexuality. You get a very different vibe from Elders Holland and Oaks, for example.

    In general, I’m willing to live with the ambiguity and understand its institutional importance, but in this case there’s a deadly cost. As Nick points out, many young gay Mormons will struggle needlessly to change what can’t be changed, and the Church will do next to nothing to help them. Some of these young people will end up taking their own lives. Others will enter into into ill-advised marriages that bring sorrow not only to themselves but their spouses. Again, this misery is preventable, but it would take clearer guidance than is currently provided by the Church.

  92. November 14, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I haven’t made it a point to keep up with all that’s going on with the gay community. The last I read the authentic-gay community represents about 4% of the population.

    I have no idea what it’s like to be gay, I imagine it can be a crushing burden to bear. Is it the most difficult of all burdens to carry that mankind are called on to bear? Those in the gay community who have a testimony of the restored church (Mormons) certainly have an added burden. Is it bearable? The Lord tells us it is. He promises His followers that He will bless and support them in their difficulties and trials (many scriptures could be sited).

    I don’t understand what it is like to be gay, but I do understand sin. And sin is the real issue for a follower of Christ, no matter what kind of sin it is.

    If a follower of Christ is going to overcome temptation and sin, the scriptures, and the Book of Mormon in particular, in conjunction with an inspired bishop, will get the job done. But I can say, based on my experience, be prepared for a difficult struggle.

    I hope Mormon Matters will seek out those who have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ to conquer sin, and invite them to relate their experiences.

  93. Holden Caulfield
    November 14, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    “If a follower of Christ is going to overcome temptation and sin, the scriptures, and the Book of Mormon in particular, in conjunction with an inspired bishop, will get the job done.”

    For all of the inspiration we would like to think bishops are imbued with, I’ve talked to three bishops regarding homosexuality. They have been of no help whatsoever. Two of them said as much, to their credit. One had been a long-time LDS chaplain. The one who thought he knew the answers felt simply in-depth conversations with my son would help him see the errors of his chosen path.

  94. November 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Holden Caulfield–

    I carefully included the phrase “inspired bishop”. My experience with bishops is that inspiration can come to a bishop when those who seek their help have the Lord’s ear.I mean by this that when the Lord gets involved, the inspired bishop will show up. The Lord will make that happen.

    Part of the struggle, based on my experience, is getting the Lord involved. That doesn’t happen automatically. There might be a season of trial before the powers of heaven will be manifest.

  95. November 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    #92:
    I have no idea what it’s like to be gay, I imagine it can be a crushing burden to bear. Is it the most difficult of all burdens to carry that mankind are called on to bear?

    Actually, Jared, I don’t see being gay as a burden, let alone a crushing one. It’s true that some gay men and lesbians carry enormous burdens as a result of their religious/social beliefs, but those burdens are not the direct result of being gay. In my own experience, hiding my sexual orientation was a huge and constant burden, always causing me to worry that someone would figure out the truth, or that my friends and family would reject me if they knew that I was gay. If you’ve ever carried on a deception for any significant length of time, you know how heavy that burden can be, in terms of worry, self-loathing guilt, and investing more time and effort to prevent discovery.

    The only way for a person who has deceived others to be free of that burden is to repent of that deception—to come clean with the truth, apologize to those who’ve been deceived, and deal with the natural consequences stemming from the newly-revealed truth of the matter.

    In my own case, this repentance took the form of coming out of the closet, and beginning to live my life as an openly gay man. It was then that I discovered that it was the deception that weighed me down, not the fact that I was gay. Rather than a burden, I’ve found that being gay is a blessing in my life, in inumerable ways.

  96. November 14, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    FWIW, I read the pamphlet the same way Martin and Ray did: some people can overcome same-sex attraction if they try really hard, some people can’t. OTOH, I can see that Nick’s reading is not only reasonable, it’s probably the most likely way somebody actually struggling with the issue would read it.

  97. xinniemcgee
    November 15, 2009 at 12:04 am

    My,my, my. What a folderol I have created by my post. How dare I express an opinion that is not sensitive,compassionate,understandingand tolerant of Johngw’s dilimma. I was not aware that those were the criteria. You all must be very young and educated by the public school system.
    The contitution grants property owners their rights, and as long as their actions do not infringe on someone else’s rights they can discriminate. As far as giving you an example of “homo” hating societies that have bitten the dust, I can’t, but you might want to study the histories of Sodom & Gomorrah, Greece, and Rome which were “homo” loving societies. How is the statement that same-sex relationships always have one partner adopting the female role, while the other adopts the masculine role, be a sterotype? And they cannot reproduce. Have you ever considered what would happen to mankind if this alternative
    Human beings are the only creation that has the power of thought, and
    the ability to implement that thought into action so how can that statment be considered as “knowing more about human homosexuality than homosexuality in animals?” Unless I am mistaken, so far, no money has been paid out by our government to study the homosexual habits of animals, and I haven’t seen animals marching, protesting, or campagning for rights, coming out of the closet,demanding a cure for aids, or living an alternative lifestyle. Satan is having a field day. John doesn’t have a marriage,what he is doing is no different than the man and women that “shack up”. Fornication is Fornication in the eyes of God and the law, even though it isn’t enforced anymore. And yes “leaders” are becoming “whimps”. They don’t take a strong stand on anyting. We no longer produce statesmen who live principled lives, instead we have politicians who seek to be politically correct and self serving. An immoral man cannot make moral decisions.
    Bored in Vernal, I can tell you really are, bored. As to the scriptures not being specific, you better go back and read the letters that Paul wrote, and do a little research of the lifestyles of the societies he was preaching to and that finally killed him. As far as checking my facts, I have studied the history of civilization for over 30 years, I am an avid reader, a published writer and student of the United States Constitution. If you can say the same, I suggest you brush up on your disciplines.
    And Johngw, I’m not throwing “sticks and stones”, I saying your wrong. I don’t know what your judgement will be, I don’t care, but your wrong. And if that hurts your feelings, that’s what you opened yourself up to by making the choices you made.
    As far as my comments being so “morally” objectionalble. What makes them so? Because I don’t march to your tune? I simply stated what I thought the same as you did. I guess my sin was “disagreeing”. Well all you beautiful people need not concern yourselves. I will not darken your sunshine again. The gospel of Jesus Christ requires change, not acceptance, it requires submission to Heavenly Father and His will, not our own. And “truth” is not based on our debates, thoughts, reasoning, or desires, and no matter what we do, we can’t change it. It will make you free, but the price to be paid will make you miseralbe first. Goodbye and good luck.

  98. November 15, 2009 at 1:02 am

    How dare I express an opinion that is not sensitive,compassionate,understandingand tolerant of Johngw’s dilimma. I was not aware that those were the criteria. You all must be very young and educated by the public school system.

    I’m not sure what sort of educational system produces people who aren’t aware that being sensitive, compassionate, understanding, and tolerant are criteria for being a decent human being, but I’m awfully glad that I wasn’t educated in it.

  99. November 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Martin – Again, thanks. I’m glad this dialog has been helpful to you, and I look forward to more.

    Ray (and Nick) – When I first read the pamphlet “God Loveth His Children,” I had a similar reaction to that of Nick when I read the section he quoted above, for many of the same reasons Nick cited. I think at the time I was coming to terms with my sexual orientation, I was much harder on myself in relation to this issue than anyone else. My interpretation of what Church leaders said about this much more literalistic and uncompromising than anyone else. That’s probably partly why, when after 13 years (from the time I first was aware of sexual feelings, around the age of 11 or 12) of trying to change by being as faithful as I could and nothing happened, I was left with only one desperate final solution: suicide. I agree that so many gay men and lesbians, coming from a similar framework and personal history, would read those words and be unable to see them as anything but an indictment and condemnation that they have still failed when “some” succeeded.

    Still, I also agree that the intended sense of those words was to provide reassurance. I am now a bit more aware of some of the behind-the-scenes efforts that produced those words, and I know that the intention was to teach members of the Church that gay people do not choose their sexual orientation, and that it is beyond the capability of most to change it. I think that in practice, the pamphlet is being used in pastoral situations to provide the reassurance that gay men and lesbians in the Church desperately need. I suspect that as time goes on, those words will be used to open more doors, not shut them.

    BIV – Again, thanks for your compassion and openness!! XOXOXO

  100. brjones
    November 15, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Xinniemcgee, I’m curious as to whether you employ proper spelling, good grammar and punctuation or use of paragraphs in your extensive published writings. I would normally never call someone out for petty things like these, but the substance of your comments is entirely unworthy of consideration, let alone a response, and I really wanted to retort in some way. I guess I’ll just have to be saitisfied with pointing out the delicious irony of such a pedantic ignoramus smugly boasting about his or her writing credentials, education and even being a published author in a comment riddled with bad spelling, punctuation and grammar. I have to disagree with BIV at this point. By all means you should continue to comment. Comic relief of this caliber is few and far between on this site.

  101. Henry
    November 16, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Scott:
    You definitely have an unusual woman. More often than not, the wives simply leave when they find out something like this.
    The Savior taught us that as a man thinketh, so is he. So for now you might think it’s funny to be in a restaurant with you and your wife discussing the cuteness of this guy or that guy, one thought leads to another and another and another. If you keep this up, chances are your wife will become frustrated in the future and throw in the towel.
    May you have success in your endeavor!!!

  102. November 16, 2009 at 10:39 am

    @Henry #101: So for now you might think it’s funny to be in a restaurant with you and your wife discussing the cuteness of this guy or that guy, one thought leads to another and another and another. If you keep this up, chances are your wife will become frustrated in the future and throw in the towel.

    It’s not something I do because it’s “funny”… my wife points guys out and asks me my opinion on them because she’s genuinely trying to understand me, and also because she has come to believe (as I have) that it’s healthier to give my feelings an innocent, non-threatening outlet than it would be to try to suppress them and deny them.

    She’s more worried that I will get frustrated with the situation and leave her than the other way around. I do my best to be conscious of her feelings and to not abuse them, but I’m also trying (with her help) to find the right balance between not suppressing my attractions and not focusing on them too much.

    re: the phrase in God Loveth His Children that’s been the topic of discussion: FWIW, I read it the same way Nick did, and nearly every gay member of the Church I’ve spoken to has read it about the same way.

  103. Henry
    November 16, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Scott:
    Interesting perspective. Thank you!

  104. alice
    November 16, 2009 at 11:21 am

    #97

    What a sad screed!

    There are many here who make various cases for what they feel is the error of same sex attractions and they manage to do it with civility, logical persuation and minimal discursive skills. You might take a lesson from them because you do your own argument no service by displaying your lack of knowledge and personal bitterness.

    Since you are conversant with Paul’s letters I remind you what he said in 1 Thesalonians 4:8, “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.”

    I am utterly offended by your unwarranted and vitriolic attacks on Bored in Vernal and john but anyone who has read their contributions and yours already knows everything they need to about what they add to this community.

  105. Henry
    November 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Scott:
    Just be careful!! Eternal vigilance is the price we must pay!!!

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