In this follow-on episode, we discuss equal partnering and “presiding” in LDS marriages and raising gay LDS children.
- Ann Porter
- David King Landrith
- John Crawford
- Today’s Moderator: John Dehlin
In this follow-on episode, we discuss equal partnering and “presiding” in LDS marriages and raising gay LDS children.
John, John, David and Ann,
thanks for today’s podcast… I always look forward for the next. About the 2nd half of the podcast… I was surprised to find that one perspective was left out completely, and that was the more traditional view espoused by the rank and file member – that homosexuality is not based entirely on biology, but that environmental influences also contribute (or as some believe – that ‘nurture’ is the only cause). I sometimes feel that the podcasts (speaking to JD now) have a progressive tilt that belittle the traditional views of church members. I’m a molecular biologist and have had gay friends all my life. My parents defended homosexuals over the pulpit during testimony meetings when others unfortunately used that forum to gay-bash. I also saw the hurt many homosexual members were experiencing while serving my mission in the San Fran singles ward years ago. So while, I too, am for a change in the behavior of church members/leaders towards gays, I don’t believe that homosexual actions should be excused or legitimized. I think that most members would agree that there is personal responsibility for controlling thoughts or actions. Perhaps you could address in a future podcast the recent story of a Gay-rights leader’s conversion to Mormonism …
As one of the discussants, I agree with you that all people are personally responsible for their thoughts and acts. That said, the stance of the brethren themselves has recently softened and I think that the rhetoric you heard reflects that softening. While I think that those who hope for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are being unrealistic and are ignoring the troubling moral issues living in an unauthorized relationship brings, I don’t believe that the brethren currently teach or believe that homosexuality can be deprogrammed or that feeling homosexual temptation is inherently sinful. That said, I think that they would argue that indulging homosexual temptation, while not physically acting out, could be harmful (as they would with heterosexual temptation). As has been noted, the Brethren are beginning to acknowledge that the LDS approach to homosexuality as it now stands makes it very difficult for a same-sex attracted person in the church. Hopefully, we can make it easier without having to change our stance on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. That, at least, is what I was trying to get across.
Regarding Michael Glatze, I wish him well. I know that there are many religious homosexuals who are able to reconcile their lifestyle with belief in the Christian god. I know that there are many who are not. I don’t have that particular problem, so I don’t feel a great need to comment, except to say that we should probably understand Mr. Glatze’s experience as only his experience.
That said, one thing that he said that struck me is the oversexualization of teens and adolescents. So much emphasis is given to sexuality at a strange time for the development of the individual human, it does seem like it would distort our understanding of sex and intimacy. I believe that this applies all teens, no matter what their sexual orientation.
I always enjoy doing these, and every time I listen, I’m more anxious about my performance.
I was intrigued by two insights by my co-panelists. The first was David’s statement that presiding is largely ceremonial (the reason #1 for presiding in Julie M. Smith’s post on the Hafen talk at Times and Seasons). I’ve got a point/counterpoint podcast with Taryn Nelson-Seawright in the vague planning stages about this concept, which I’d never thought of before.
John C.’s comments about how we may have the will to admit homosexuals into full fellowship, but the doctrine to support that change just isn’t there, are also not something I had considered. The eternal nature of the family unit and the necessity of temple sealings to maintain that eternal bond is a key doctrine now, and is probably not going to evolve away any time soon.
You do a great job, Ann. As far as the “ceremonial” character of “presiding” goes, I’d love to hear your and Taryn’s thoughts on the subject. What is the substance behind the ceremony? For all intents and purposes, the Prime Minister of England runs the country, but the Queen still has the power to dissolve Parliament on her own, for example. And the PM has to ask for the Queen’s permission to hold elections (inside the 5 year statutory limit). Ceremonial or not, there’s still power to be wielded.
Another way to consider the presiding idea is to consider the American, Democratic idea of the president. Although he does wield power greater than the average Jane, the president is not considered inherently better than everybody (and is often times considered to be much much worse). Further, if a president misuses power in America, he is impeached or not re-elected, ie. he is removed from power. I think about this in terms of the “amen to the priesthood” passages in the D&C, and all the qualifications attached to the use of the priesthood there. It is impossible to preside over people who do not want to be presided over.
If for no other reason, they may be keeping the presiding language as a test for men.
Interesting point. Unfortunately, impeachment and re-election don’t stop presidents from wielding their presiding power to wreak significant havoc at home and around the world.
I’ve heard Bretheren talk about the negative consequences of sin, in the pragmatic sense like in the case of sexual promiscuity you would have things like disease and emotional confusion in relationships. They encourage people to avoid these activities because they want them to avoid the pain that comes from these consequences. In some cases, this can possibly become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the practical consequence of the activity is actually generated by the act of preaching against it.
When you think about the practical negative consequences of a committed, monogamous, homosexual relationship you are pretty much limited to that person feeling pain because they will be treated as freakish in their community, and that they will not be able to fill the traditional definition of a family. Yet, what is freakish in their community has been fired by the heat of the rhetoric proclaiming that relationship evil. The pain of not being able to fill a traditional family only exists because of how that concept has been defined. Consequently, that same pain is also felt by the perpetually single who have broken no church laws at all.
I know that there are some things that are just true and they stand against social trends, but when we are speaking strictly about practical consequences it becomes hard to defend that argument when the consequences have been created by those trying to protect us from their creation.
I don’t know personally that I can accurately gauge God’s attitude towards a relationship that invokes strong guttural reactions in us. We each have our own likes and dislikes sexually, and we’ve been built to respond to those feelings so intensely that I think its very possible for those strong reactions to taint our will to be humble and teachable in listening to God’s voice. Really, the notion of the conflict between our personal emotions and genuine Holy Spirit communication is probably my biggest struggle. If it was super clear, if I could be certain that some things I took to be the Spirit weren’t contaminated with my own desires or peeves, I would have a much better chance of having a “knowing” testimony. Are church leaders immune from that conflict? I would think not, since they are still human. That would certainly explain things like the priesthood ban. Could the “gross-out factor” be affecting the lack of doctrinal support to change views on faithful and monogamous homosexual unions?
Clay, it is possible. But I still feel that the idea of the eternal family is central to all of our ideas of salvation. It is possible to imagine post-Millennial marriages and so forth for the temporally single. It is harder to imagine such for the homosexuals among us. I would be happy to not have this failure of imagination; Please feel free to correct me if you can find an eternal place for the homosexual relationship in our current understanding of the meaning of salvation.
What intrigued me about John’s comment was the idea that our will to change is really not enough. For many, many of us, the will to change is there. But the doctrine will have to change, too, in order for “full fellowship” to truly exist.
On the upside, doctrine does change. I don’t have the same limitations on my imagination as John C. does, so I can visualize what eternal marriages regardless of gender would look like. I think we’re probably many decades away from the revelation that would make it possible, though.
John C., I do see where you are coming from. I suppose the issue ultimately sits with our understanding of how current human biology stands in the spectrum of the overall eternal progression of God’s children? I say biology because I think the wall we hit when talking about how homosexual couples are different than a single who gets married in the millenium, or an infertile couple whose bodies are restored to full operation, is the lack of biological ability to procreate, correct? Other than that, I see no other limitation in their potential as a family.
So in order to cut the imaginitive line between homosexuals and eternal families is to assume that humans, as we exist today, are biologically matured and have no more Godly evolution ahead of us. Since I don’t have anything to base that assumption on, I have to allow that we might not be finished biologically, and I mean even more than in the flesh and blood – to – flesh and bone sense. We certainly believe that we are not finished evolving spiritually, so why would it not be possible that our progression in the bodily sense could include the ability for homosexuals to procreate when their bodies become transfigured, just like the infertile?
I think if there is one thing we could take from our historic practice of polygamy, as Mormons, is that there certainly must be some differences between what we feel comfortable with sexually and socially and what could be acceptable to God. Especially when our sexual and social comfort levels have so much to do with our cultural frameworks.
Fair enough. But certainly that is speculative. We simply don’t know what direction that our eternal biological evolution might take and, therefore, we cannot say one way or the other. In the meantime, it does seem theologically important to consider our Heavenly Father a father and our Heavenly Mother a mother (especially when considering our believe in the eternal nature of gender/sex). If they are a model (and they are the only model we currently have), they may set a standard. Then again, they may not…
I don’t want to seem like I am throwing in the towel. At the moment, everything we know about God is that he acts in tandem (in some way) with other people. In one group, he acts in tandem with Christ and the Holy Ghost. In another, he acts in tandem with Heavenly Mother (we assume). The manner in which these two groups interact is completely undescribed in the scriptures at present. All we have to go on is that, as we understand the eternal family at present, our only go-to example is a hetero couple. I don’t see how to move beyond that without further revelation.
ECS, to the extant that the Queen actually welds power over the British state, she’s more than a mere ceremonial figure. The term ceremonial as I intend it refers to a mere formality, to the exclusion of anything substantive. No power. Zip.
John C., actually I would say its not even speculation. It is only a possibililty that I have to allow. It is a window that remains open until it is closed by fact. Also, I don’t agree that it is theologically important to consider Heavenly Father as male and Heavenly Mother as female in the sense that we understand gender in our mortal state. I’ve never heard of one’s understanding of that subject as being important to salvation. Really, salvation and eternal life centers around changing our nature to be one of love, in the model of God. All these other details are fascinating and fun and can help us advance as intelligences, but a person can be becoming good and loving equally while believing that God is a man married to a woman, or some other form of existence which we might evolve into.
Also, I think one thing that is clear is that there really isn’t an “our belief in the eternal nature of gender/sex”. The fact that there are various opinions and beliefs is the reason for discussions like this.
I will agree with your original point that the church body would probably not be able to accept homosexuality as other than sinful without revelation or declaration from the First Presidency. Even with a revelation, it would probably be a greater struggle for many members to accept it than the 1978 priesthood revelation.
Excellent discussion! liked it. Especially the second endownment bit.
I would add that the church is today opening up more probably because those who wanted to close the church, the ‘hardliners’, are gone: Apostles’ Josepth Fielding Smith, Harold B Lee, Mark E Petersen and especially Ezra Taft Benson. These have being replaced by more ‘liberal’ apostles who ‘preside’ today and hence we find those more open & liberal acceptance of gay children -who previously would have just being ex’ed and ignored- and also hear that apology over the Mountain Medows issue, after JFSmith spent most of his life blaming the savage indians.
The church is progressing and opening up because the modern apostles are allowing it to be so.
I just finished listening to the entire podcast (in bits & pieces) and its excellent and I’ll listen in every week now, but your hope that one day gays will be allowed to raise children and hold callings is way off ……and doctrinally incorrect. Dude wtf ??? When “gays couple gets married legitimately and legally” ???How can a “sin” ever become OK? or be gay and go to celestial exaltation??? Strange opinion that one.????
Why would they condem homosexuality? is because it is a sin and they actually DO have control over that just like the unmarried/divorced person can control their sexuality -and are never allowed to hire a sex worker without risking excommunication.
Clay/John C., I would imagine that Church leaders fully see the solution in the Millenium/Resurrection/Afterlife. This is because, with knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, they do not view biological difficulties in this very short mortal probation (compared to eternity) as determinative, except to the extent that people allow those biological or even genetic issues to determine choices that affect eternity. But, the theory goes, even when they do that, they will hopefully be able to trust the Atonement that has been performed for them and count on forgiveness of their sins given sincere repentance. So, I would guess that although Church leaders sympathize with the struggle that homosexuals face, the position that they would take is that the biological difficulty of being homosexual that they face in mortal life simply will not be part of their resurrected physical body. That is, if they are true and faithful to the Gospel in this life then they will be heterosexual in the Afterlife, capable of being sealed heterosexually to a spouse at that time together with all other singles who never married for whatever reason but who have currently received assurances from Church leaders that they will not miss out on that relationship in the Afterlife.
Because this is likely the view of many Church leaders about how the issue of biological or genetic homosexuality will be resolved, there is likely little possibility that the doctrine itself about eternal marriage will change any time soon.
Pretty much all Latter-day Saints agree that someone born with a disability will not have that disability in the Resurrection. My guess is that Church leaders at the highest level simply view biological/genetic homosexuality as a physical disability like autism or blindness or deafness or even genetic predisposition to alcoholism or depression and other such genetic conditions.
It seems that Church leaders are beginning to express their awareness of the extra burden that living chastely poses for people with biological/genetic homosexuality. One LDS blogger has referred to what is expected of homosexual brothers and sisters in the Gospel as super-chastity — not a bad way to describe the challenge that they face.
I can understand that theory, and it is even plausible. However, the problem is more than just super-chastity. It is the realtionship itself between same-gendered partners that is also not accepted. I don’t really see any reason why the church, even with the current doctrinal stands, couldn’t allow homosexuals to have affectionate relationships for companionship and still retain full fellowship as long as chastity was maintained. What the church currently asks of gays is not just a life of celibacy, but also of loneliness.
Great podcast, everyone.
I was a little surprised by the answers to John Dehlin’s final question, “What is your ultimate hope or aspiration for gays in the Church?”
Your answers ranged from better understanding/acceptance/tolerance of gays to the hope that they might be able to hold some basic callings and perform some duties. Implicit in such answers is the notion that homosexual sex is a sin, and that being gay is wrong, or at least not as good as being heterosexual. Gays are still assigned a kind of “second class” status.
I don’t know, this just feels shortsighted, more like a transition or limbo strategy than an “ultimate hope.”
To me, the ultimate hope is nothing short of full fellowship, up to and including the ability to hold the priesthood, hold any calling (bishop, apostle, prophet, etc.), marry in the temple, be sealed to adopted children, and so forth.
While still acknowledging the (likely secondary) role of nurture and environment, you all seemed to accept that sexual orientation is largely biological, that gays (and heterosexuals) are likely “born that way.” Anecdotal and experiential evidence seems to support this notion, and the pendulum of public opinion has been gradually swinging in that direction for years. Is there any reason to think that the pendulum will stop, or worse, swing back in the other direction? I don’t see it happening, just as the pendulum of racial equality didn’t stop once slaves were liberated, or when blacks were given a seat on “whites only” busses.
Societal paradigms shift one person at a time. The paradigm of homosexual orientation as equally valid or equally normal in comparison to heterosexual orientation is alive and thriving with some percentage of the population. Individual paradigms will continue to shift, and those that don’t will eventually die. Even the religious will come to the logical conclusion, “If gays were born that way, then God must have wanted them that way,” and adjust their doctrines accordingly.
At some point, the pendulum will swing far enough that the percentage of people who accept the validity/normality of homosexual orientation versus those that do not will be so great that the holdovers will be seen in the same light that racists and white supremacists are seen today, as anachronistic and fringe.
And as this shift happens, the gap that separates society and the church with respect to this issue will become so wide that the church will be seen as anachronistic and fringe, just as it was seen in the late 1800’s with respect to polygamy, and in the 1970s with respect to racial equality. When the gap becomes too wide, don’t be surprised to see that some future prophet, (raised during a time when gays are as normal a part of society as blacks are today), suddenly receives a “revelation.”
I don’t know, to me it is inevitable. If we haven’t already reached a tipping point, we will soon. Questions of doctrine are interesting, but largely irrelevant. Religions, including Mormonism, have always adjusted doctrine to the norms of the day, and to correct past wrongs, especially those that involve inequality, injustice, and discrimination.
Again, great podcast. Would love to see you take up this topic again in the future.
boy, I dont know what to say about the podcast, of course I enjoyed it and wanted to say something mulitple times, as I’m running while listening I’m talking and wish I could have made some comments at the time of the broadcast.
I guess, some of the things I really agreed with, but there was some things that I thought did not align with my beliefs….may I share them with you? Or does it even matter?
Well, I will.
I think that the stigma of being gay is unfortunate, but I dont want our compassion for these people with this plight to overshadow the seriously of the illness. Yep I called it that. I dont believe that being gay is part of the ‘plan’ and I dont foresee anytime soon it becoming acceptable. That doesnt mean that they should be cast off or shunned, and I would like much more openness, but I dont think that any sin will be accepted by God, or should be accepted by His authorized leadership.
So is it my place to judge someone? Nope, not unless I’m their bishop.
We all got problems, we all go to church because we are sick, I got my demons/addictions that I battle. It doesnt have to be broadcast to everyone and that should be ok with everyone. So I want gays, to be welcome to come to chruch. and feel that they can take part in the ‘good news’ and as they dont ‘act out’ they can partake in covenants. Otherwise you mock God. And we all know that does not work well. 🙂
So its a sin, and it needs to be given up, but its not the end of the world, really thoguh, as I type this, its so difficult via typing on this internet to really communicate what I’m saying and the depth of feeling I have about this.
I guess I just want it to be treated as sin and dealt with the same measure of compassion, if not more than other serious sins. I cant fathom the pain it must cause people, but I know that Christ does understand and He is there for them. We too should do our part to be loving.
As for the presiding thing, I dont really understand what the problem is, Presiding doesnt mean being a despot. It doesnt need without compassion, or unrighteously. It means that theres a level of responsibility that ultimately someone is responsible for. A man’s family is a gift and should be protected, this along with Ephesians 5, makes sense. why is there an issue?
Matt, I don’t think that my answer to the question, “What is your ultimate hope or aspiration for gays in the Church?” implied that same-sex couples are not as good as mixed-sex couples at all. In fact, other people’s feelings that same-sex couples are second class is exactly the factor that causes me to doubt that the circumstances that I describe are possible.
I’m glad you liked the podcast. Thanks for the kind words.
DKL, I probably should have worded my statement better.
The question was “What is your ultimate hope for Gays and the Church?”
It appears that you answered the question not from your personal point of view or hope, but based on what you predict or think might happen. The answers to those two questions may or may not be the same. My answer is the same for both questions: I hope for eventual full fellowship of Gays and Gay Couples, and I expect/predict that it will eventually happen, by the year, oh, say, 2048, when President Bednar, age 93, receives the necessary revelation.
So I did not mean to suggest that you or any of the other panelists actually think/believe that same-sex couples are not as good as mixed-sex couples… but if the ultimate, end-all “answer” for gays in the church is that the best they can hope or aspire to is better understanding/acceptance/tolerance from the church or the ability to hold some basic callings and perform some duties, how can such an “end result” not imply that same-sex couples are not as good as mixed-sex couples?
This is a similar question to Margaret Toscano’s “Are Boys More Important Than Girls?” question that has recently been kicked around at the Sunstone Symposium and in the magazine, but at least the apologist argument that women have an equal-but-different role than men, and are therefore equally important, makes some sense. There isn’t an equivalent equal-but-different role or argument for gays or gay couples.
sorry to revive an old thread, but I just think that Matt Thurston’s comment is, from a Mormon perspective, putting the cart before the horse. LDS folk believe that the brethren make the policy decisions they make because of a combination of divine revelation and personal experience, not because of societal pressure. While it may be inevitable, I don’t believe that outside pressures will lead to a change in policy. I simply don’t believe a change is possible without further revelatory insight and no demographic is going to convince me otherwise. Finally, I am skeptical of people who consider themselves to have more accurate moral compasses than the Brethren. I think the tentativeness with which the subject was broached is due to an acknowledgment that the Brethren (and Jesus Christ) are the ones making the decisions, not us; and that we are generally okay with that. And, as I noted, the doctrinal foundation for arguing that same-sex couples should enjoy full fellowship in the church is sketchy so long as we continue to teach that sexual relations outside of marriage and same-sex relations in particular are sinful. Which we do teach.
Thanks for your thoughtful response to my comment #19.
Your description of the origins of church policy/doctrine as “a combination of divine revelation and personal experience, not because of societal pressure” doesn’t go far enough, I think. A few thoughts:
First, societal influence is a significant variable of what you call “personal experience.” It cannot, nor should not, be avoided. Evidence of societal influence can be found in virtually every church doctrine and policy.
Second, revelation almost always results from an outside impetus rather than a bolt out of the clear blue sky. Joseph Smith was something of revelatory “jazz musician,” riffing on themes gleaned from his surrounding environment. The Word of Wisdom and many aspects of the temple ceremony are two such examples, but there are dozens of others as well. Even his First Vision was triggered by questions and pressure from his environment. Such a definition of society/enviroment-inspired “revelation” is not only accepted, it is encouraged.
Third, outside pressures absolutely lead to changes in policy. As a temporary “policy change” (today, often refered to as a “revelation”), the discontinuation of polygamy came about almost entirely due to outside pressure. It would be extremely naive to suggest otherwise. And while the church was not “forced” to extend the priesthood to blacks, outside societal pressure played a very strong role. At a minimum it forced church leaders to question their assumptions about the priesthood ban and petition the Lord. (See Greg Prince’s D.O.M. biography or Ed Kimball’s S.W.K. biography.)
Fourth, we need not necessarily assume societal pressure is a bad thing. The church accepts truth wherever it is found and does not hold its leaders to be infallible. Societal pressure (both from within and without of the church) has already lead to changes in the way the church talks about those with same sex attraction, as well as the advice give to those with SSA. For sure, church leaders are learning everything they can about same sex attraction from leading scientists, psychologists, physicians, etc. who have studied this field. Such study is accompanied by prayer. By such means is revelation brought to pass.
Finally, I have a few things to say about your statement, “I am skeptical of people who consider themselves to have more accurate moral compasses than the Brethren,” but it will have to wait for another time…
The church as just released some new material for members on SSA. I thought you all might be interested. The material is thoughtful and almost feels conflicted – It does seem like a step forward – one part I thought was interesting is that is clearly states having SSA is not a sin but acting upon it is.
I don’t necessarily disagree with any of your well-stated points. However, it continues to fail to understand the dynamic of change in the church. The least effective method of change in the church is active, vocal lobbying. This is because it operates from one of the following assumptions: that the leadership is either unaware of the ethical/social/moral issues involved in a given controvery; that the leadership is too stupid to see/understand the issues in the enlightened manner that the lobbyist does; or that the leadership is actively trying to engage in immoral behavior. Not a one of those is a charitable notion as regards the Brethren.
In effect, when one engages in active, vocal lobbying, one is dismissing the right to ecclesiastical authority that the Brethren hold, which is based on assumptions regarding what motivates the Brethren in addition to claims to revelatory and priesthood keys. As an act of a faithful member, it is hopelessly contradictory. For those outside of active faith, who have rejected that model of authority, it is no big deal. It is this attitude that most inspired my “moral compass” statement.
“This is because it operates from one of the following assumptions: that the leadership is either unaware of the ethical/social/moral issues involved in a given controvery; that the leadership is too stupid to see/understand the issues in the enlightened manner that the lobbyist does;”
And yet, that’s exactly what the Mormon apologists on the Sunstone panel that is the subject of Mormon Matters episode 12 on “Inoculation” said in defense of the Brethren–that many of them are completely ignorant of the difficult issues, especially the difficult historical issues. That was in part their defense of the Brethren’s failure to address the thorny issues head on–a lack of awareness. Blake Ostler at one point said he thought President Joseph Fielding Smith was clueless on the subject of evolution (and Pres. Smith had obviously researched the issue, having written a book on the subject). I’m sure if I were to say President Hinckley was “clueless” on something or other, I’d be labeled an anti-Mormon or “bitter apostate” and that such a notion would be deemed uncharitable. Doesn’t apologetics operate from the same basic assumptions as external criticism, namely, that the Brethren are not adequately addressing the issues within the institutional framework, leaving the work to be done by those outside the official chain of command? If the Brethren are clued in, so to speak, why all the talk about the need for inoculation, and why the need for FAIR and FARMS?
I don’t exactly know how to address your concerns (in part because I haven’t yet listened to that podcast). I have heard the current Brethren forcefully state that they are aware of the thorny historical issues, but obviously I can’t speak for Prophets and Apostles beyond the scope of my experience. I personally would be reluctant to describe any general authority (especially an Apostle) as “clueless” but the excesses of Blake’s rhetoric are not something that I am in a position to address.
I suppose that the difference between apologetics and outside criticism is that an apologist will see a prophet as a human and think that makes him more of a prophet while the outside critic will see the same and think that makes him more of a human. I don’t know that there is any way around that. Regarding the differing reception you might receive (as opposed to Blake), all I can say is that our words don’t appear magically in isolation. You and Blake both have a history and a stated agenda. If I find his more congenial to my approach than yours, that’s all there is to that.
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I think the last thoughts were cut off, but making peace didn’t make sense to me. I think the most obvious dream and hope are someday, the church support gay marriage. Then gay and straight have the equal right and challenges. The gay couples should also strive for fidelity and have the same kind of joy. As for bring children, they can of course adopt the children just like any other couples if they can’t have children, if they choose to do so. Infidelity isn’t sin and not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is gay is not allowed to have the same kind of happiness as straight people in this church.