Eternal Gender

One of the great things about being a Mormon is that you stand a very good chance of sitting close to small children in church meetings.  Over the years, I have made many friends among the under five set by discreetly going cross-eyed, pulling faces, wiggling my ears, and not ratting them out to their parents when they take second helpings from the tray of bread as it passes by.  Paper Rock Scissors is a lot more fun when you need to play it so as not to be detected by authority figures.

Two Sundays ago, I sat near a family consisting of a mother and a father, a five year old girl, a three year old girl, and a newborn girl in a pink onesie.  The older daughters were constantly wanting to sit cross-legged in their dresses, and mom and dad were constantly instructing them to sit quietly with their legs together and their hems over their knees.  During the meeting, the mother fed the baby, then placed her on her shoulder and began to gently pat her back.  Soon enough, the child’s esophagus produced the expected burp, but it was more like an eruption.  It was a BUUURRRP! that caused heads to turn and faces to smile, and probably moved the needle on the nearest seismograph.  Mom handled the sudden attention by cradling her baby daughter and saying in a whisper:  “Goodness gracious!  That wasn’t very ladylike!”

Let me hasten to say that I find no fault with these parents.  If I were in their situation, I would undoubtedly do the same things.  But I’m guessing that if the two older children had been boys, sitting cross-legged would not have been a problem, and if the infant had been wearing a blue onesie, mom and dad might have just shrugged and said:  “Well, he’s certainly all boy!”  Dad might have even tried to give his son a high five.

It was interesting to see how we teach our children about masculinity and femininity, even when they are only six weeks old.  And there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that, in itself.  But why do we make such an effort to indoctrinate and teach gendered behavior if we believe that gender is eternal?   When those girls are Beehives, they will hear lessons telling them that feminine refinement is a natural part of their identity which they brought with them from the pre-mortal life.  That will certainly be news to their parents, who have had to work really hard over the years to get them to stop pulling hair, belching, and picking their noses.

Traditional gendered behavior from 150 years ago looked like this:  The women raised the children, kept the house and the farm, raised pigs and chickens and milked the cows.  When the family needed cash, she sold butter, cheese and eggs.  Meanwhile, the men roamed the mountains, exploring, hunting, and fishing.  Two decades ago I was  taught by a stake president in stake priesthood meeting that we men should avoid floral print neckties and briefcases which come with a shoulder strap because both things were effeminate.  Fast forward twenty years, and my current stake president wears, you guessed it, floral print neckties and carries, yes, a briefcase with a shoulder strap.  Our construction of gender is so transitory that it seems foolish to want to freeze it and make it eternal. 

The Proclamation to the World on the Family is the primary document that sets forth the idea of eternal, gendered spirits, but it provides little insight into what that might mean.  We are a literal-minded folk, and we sometimes try to map behavior that is an accomodation to a fallen world onto eternity.  I reject the idea that women will nurture small children and men will be providers, bringing home the bacon in the afterlife.  If I awake after the resurrection to find myself seated at a conference table listening to 3rd quarter budget projections, or explaining that the accounts receivable for the big Kolob project are past due, I’ll know I’m not in heaven.

I think we can explain almost all of the observable differences between the ways males and females behave by accounting for physical differences, evolutionary biology, and the surrounding culture.  What, then, is left?  When our church teaches that gender is eternal, what does that mean? 

Comments

  1. I’m not so worried about who will bring home the bacon in the post mortal world as I am concerned that there actually be bacon there. It is sooooo tasty.

  2. Mark IV says:

    So true, J. And with celestial bodies, cholesterol won’t be a problem. But don’t forget, somebody has to be in the kitchen, frying that bacon.

  3. I’m perfectly happy frying bacon, now and in the eternities.

  4. Maybe the bacon will come out of something like the replicators on Star Trek.

  5. John Scherer says:

    Maybe we’ll have heat vision in the next world and we’ll be able to cook bacon just by looking at it.

  6. “When our church teaches that gender is eternal, what does that mean?”

    A question for the ages. I have no idea, really. Sometimes I wonder if that teaching is more about preserving a cultural status quo than anything else — but then I had kids and there are real, vast differences between my son and my daughter, and I didn’t teach it to them!

  7. I thought all the bacon cooking would be done by the Terrestrials or Telestials.

  8. Sorry to be dense, Mark, but I need you to elaborate a bit more on what you mean by your question: “Why do we make such an effort to indoctrinate and teach gendered behavior if we believe that gender is eternal?”

    At first blush, it seems an answer to your question is actually contained in the question: Given that gender IS an eternal principle, we ought to spend some effort in the here-and-now thinking about and dealing with it. But I suspect that that’s not what you’re really getting at.

    When you say gender is “eternal” are you saying that you think gender is innate, instinctive, intuitive? Please elaborate a bit more.

  9. Hunter, I think the idea is that if gender is an eternal thing, it wouldn’t need to be taught or indoctrinated.

  10. Mark IV says:

    Hunter, Steve is correct. We speak of gender as if it were innate. If it were, why then is it necessary to teach it?

  11. Steve,
    But you could just as easily say the gender by nature is eternal and does not need to be taught, but we now teach it now because the ‘world’ teaches that it is not eternal or essential.

  12. Will bacon in the afterlife be as messy, and splatter all over the kitchen when you fry it?

  13. mmiles, I agree — I’m just here to clarify Mark! But really, if gender really is essential and eternal, the world’s teachings are not going to change that, are they?

    Are we saying that, say, we only have homosexuals in the world today because the world teaches that homosexuality is a choice? There are many, many problems with that view.

  14. Dear Mark, thank you for creating the opportunity for me to rant:

    I think that there are some differences that map to gender. I don’t think that femininity is one of them. Femininity is a learned behavior (knees together, don’t belch). It comes more easily and naturally to some than to others.

    Unfortunately, GA statements about girls’ essential loveliness and gentleness and sweetness seem to equate femininity with female.

    Women are certainly free to use femininity as a tool to create a space and identity for themselves. But it’s not an eternal characteristic of woman, and it’s a huge obstacle to women functioning as actors in their own lives when it’s defined as one.

  15. We put our own social constructs on the genders. I agree with Steve- my boy children and my girl child are very different- and they came out that way. But those difference have nothing to do with how they sit or if thier knees are covered. Those are OUR ideas.

  16. The differences between my first, second, and third sons canvas a wider chasm than any generalizable cross-gender differences. Individual difference is much more significant and much more real than any imagined essential differences between males and females.

    The problem with the PoF is that it treats “gender” as though it were the same thing as biological sex, ontologizing both (the former by virtue of its indistinguishability from or intrinsic, eternal connection to the latter) in the process. Gender and sex are not the same things (and sexuality is a third, equally separate feature), but I suspect that blurring the lines between them underlies the PoF as much as eternalizing gender does.

  17. Mark IV says:

    Ann, right, what we thypically think of as femininity is mostly learned behavior.

    Many women (and men) are almost in a state of panic with their first-born child. Nurturing often doesn’t come naturally, so the skills need to be learned. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think we should acknowledge it.

  18. Chad Too says:

    What becomes of the TK Smoothie is gender is eternal? Is it eternal if “it” can be taken away?

  19. Stirling says:

    “When our church teaches that gender is eternal, what does that mean?”

    That we project onto the unknown of afterlife the details of our experiences in this life? (and in so doing should probably be very tentative about reaching any conclusions)

  20. Allison says:

    I like bacon.

    Steve (#6): “…there are real, vast differences between my son and my daughter, and I didn’t teach it to them!”

    Sure, but you could say the same thing about any two brothers or sisters. I would say all my kids are vastly different from each other. They also display striking similarities to each other when compared to kids outside our immediate family. With genetics, environment, hormones, birth order, etc. all playing a role, I really find it impossible to tell what’s spiritually innate.

  21. Allison, precisely right, and my views are hardly scientific in any event. Beyond saying that my girl sure acts girly and my boy really acts like a boy, my statements are meaningless (perhaps typically so).

  22. I love the post, Mark! We seem to spend a suspicious amount of time policing people into doing what we claim is “innate.”

  23. NorthboundZax says:

    Very good thoughts, Mark – in that you spark a number of great questions! It’s almost as if the proclamation on the family is more of an eternal defense of marriage act rather than something that provides insight into the eternal nature of being.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    When I attended my very first Sunstone Symposium (a regional one in Chicago maybe 15-20 years ago), a medical doctor (I forget his name; I want to say it was “Hatch”) gave an absolutely terrific presentation on the phenomenon of intersex, which I hadn’t known anything about before. He included lots of graphic slides.

    As I recall, part of the point of the presentation is that it’s pretty tough for doctors who deal on a regular basis with intersex to take claims of eternal gender seriously. A very thought-provoking angle on the question.

  25. Mark IV says:

    Kevin, I saw pretty much the same presentation in a freshman anatomy class at BYU, complete with slides.

    The process of deciding which sex to “make” a child was referred to as a fielder’s choice.

  26. Oh, oh oh! I was just going to write a post about this same topic! Since you beat me to it, I’ll try to summarize my thoughts in a nutshell- though it may be a coconut shell.

    This past weekend brought a visit from a general authority to our stake. In our adult session he spoke on the PoF. When it came to nurturing he told an all too familiar story of an adult daughter calling home and wanting to share good news with mom because she knows how to respond in a way dad doesn’t. Blah, blah, blah, point was the ending comment, “That is because I cannot nurture as well as my wife.”

    Huh? You mean you don’t? You can’t now, but you’re striving to? What do you mean “cannot”? This view is problematic for many reasons. My husband’s reaction was to lean over and say, “I wish he’d read the next line about equal partners.” It was a bit hurtful to him as a father is who more often the better nurturer in our home. Gentleness and charity come more naturally to him than me at present.

    Here is my thinking: If nurturing is a primarily female trait, why are we as woman given virtually no female example to follow in what we are told will be an eternal part of our role? Further, how is it that the Savior, a male, knows how to succor his children? How is that we cry out to a male deity when we are in need of deepest comfort and nurturing? Why do we not cry out to a Mother?

    We are taught the Savior is the Way. There is no stipulation for gender. If he is the perfect example of how to fulfill our purpose, how can our roles really be that different? Did God send only an example of male roles and leave women to stumble in darkness? I would imagine not. Therefore, we must understand that our roles have very little to do with actions and activities and everything to do with principles, covenants, and obedience. And they are not so different.

    The changing of diapers, cleaning of the house, and kissing of the boo-boos have little or nothing to do with eternity, only in that in the doing of these things we can learn principles of Godhood. Changing a tire, earning a living, and going on high adventure have little or nothing to do with eternity, only that in doing these things we may be provided the opportunity to learn eternal principles. The principles we learn are the same. Principles of selflessness, charity, sacrifice, obedience. How can they be different? There is but one gospel.

    As for the division of labor here on the earth, I do not profess to understand it. Sometimes I think, maybe it’s learning style. Does one gender learn principles better in one environment than another? But that answer is too simplistic and does not account for the innate individuality of Father’s children. Some females have patriarchal blessings that specifically address career and leadership within those careers. How can that be in keeping with what we are taught?

    I guess we could look at it this way: There really is a difference. All principles are the same, but the way we carry them out are different. Therefore, I can learn from the Savior the principle of charity, but I would carry it out differently than He did, just as any man or woman would carry it out differently. Maybe there are eternal characteristics and even duties. Maybe genders are there to provide an easy separation of who will do what in the eternities. Maybe we are called on to learn the same principles, take upon us the same covenant, and be obedient to the same commandments, yet what we do with that knowledge and devotion will be different in the eternities because of gender. Therefore, actions here have little to with eternity, only as they teach principles. Just as the Savior’s actions are not color-by-number directions of how we are to act, but the principles involved in those actions are (Ex: I don’t wander dusty streets and heal people, but I can lift the hands that hang down or help lead people to the Source of all healing.). In this way, our division of labor here does not translate to the same division of labor there. But it does teach us to do the work that needs to be done while supporting one another.

  27. In reading my last paragraph I see problems. This comment is especially simplistic and stupid:

    Maybe genders are there to provide an easy separation of who will do what in the eternities.

    I guess my point would be that this life and eternity have everything to do with principles, covenants, and obedience and almost nothing to do with activities, else why would we as women not have a visible female example to follow in carrying out our “women-duties”?

  28. Teaching gender might be necessary because the gender awareness of some gets caught up more than others in the veil of forgetfulness. Hence gender confusion and the wearing of hermaphrodite pantaloons.

    Is Sexual Gender Eternal?

  29. #16:
    The problem with the PoF is that it treats “gender” as though it were the same thing as biological sex…Gender and sex are not the same things (and sexuality is a third, equally separate feature)…

    Exactly! I’m informed that the Ensign editorial staff once changed Dallin Oaks’ use of so-called “same-sex attraction” to “same-gender attraction.” Some have suggested that the Ensign editorial staff thought using the word, “sex,” would make readers uncomfortable. This makes me wonder whether the usage of “gender” in the Proclamation Against Certain Families was also subject to some sort of editorial influence. If it came from alleged ecclesiastical inspiration, it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of homosexuality, similar to earlier LDS leaders’ usage of “gender confusion” as a euphamism. The gay men I know vary widely in terms of traditionally “masculine” or “feminine” characteristics, just as do heterosexual men. It’s just this sort of confusion that leads to the goofy methods of Exodus and Evergreen, wherein gay men are taught so-called “masculine” behavior (playing basketball, dressing more “butch,” etc.) in order to supposedly make them heterosexual. The funny thing is, a sizeable portion of the gay community not only glorifies masculinity, but portrays it in a very exaggerated way.

  30. berrykat says:

    Its difficult to sit cross-legged in dress or skirt without showing underwear. maybe it was just about modesty?

  31. The Proclamation Against Certain Families

    …this is exactly why, no matter how many times I think about trying it, I cannot hang it in my home.

  32. How does everyone clarify the difference between gender and sex? These terms seem to be used synonymously my many, but I am left confused. I am also confused by the use of the term “gender” in the Proclamation. Did the FP and Qo12 use this term to separate male and female (i.e. sex). Or did they mean gender as defined by Merriam-Webster, “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex”?

    Certainly if we use the dictionary definition, then concepts of gender have changed over time and in different circumstances. Women-warriors and matriarchal societies are part of mythology and history. Mark, in the original post, even makes the point of how different we view gender today compared to 150 years ago. So how can gender be eternal, if it can change so much in just a couple of centuries, or differ between cultures currently? And what about the fact that for current cultures and for most of the recent world history gender has been defined by men?

    And if the proclamation should read sex instead of gender, then so what? I have no problem believing that sex may be eternal, that a man on earth was a man in the pre-existence, and will be a man still after death. That’s not such a big deal, and the few intersex people born in the world I can let God sort out when the time comes.

    The Proclamation only becomes problematic then, when it becomes a document of 15 men imposing current western civilization ideas of gender onto sex.

  33. Berrykat (30) Of course it’s about modesty, it’s just a very specific sort of modesty that little boys almost never have to learn.

  34. Mark B. says:

    Did our foremothers 150 years ago really milk the cows and keep the farm, while the menfolk were out hunting, trapping and fishing?

    I doubt it. I would imagine that tasks were generally divided on the basis of (1) strength required–so that men would be clearing land, plowing, harvesting, milking (an hour or two a day of tugging on cow teats would have made great-grandma’s hands and forearms look like Barry Bonds’), (2) proximity to the house, so that mothers would be near to infants for feeding (for which men are woefully ill-equipped), etc., and (3) fineness of the work–women’s hands are generally smaller and that gives some advantage in delicate work (and, to the extent that men were wrangling cattle, chopping wood, etc., their hands would have developed callouses that would have made fine work even more difficult.

    I’m ready to have someone tell me otherwise (someone must have written a history of such things).

    As to gender/sex. It’s all squeamishness, that began sometime when the whole world became saturated in sex talk. I blame it all on Deep Throat.

    I just imagine those poor little German girls worrying that if they die while still das Mädchen, they’ll be stuck being neuter for the eternities. Thus the hope for early marriage, when they can change gender and ride off into the sunset as die Frau. It must confuse them to hear that gender is eternal, when they know darn well that boys and girls all start off neuter as

    das Baby

    , the girls remain neuter as das Mädchen, and then they settle into masculine and feminine as married adults.

    Let’s go back to sex.

  35. Mark B. says:

    Starfoxy

    Only the little Scotsmen who have to be reminded to keep the sporran in place while wearing the kilt.

  36. Mark B. says:

    Kari said it more clearly, and posted while I was writing.

    As to those whose sex can’t be determined, just follow Duane Jeffery’s suggestion: Name the kid Francis and worry about the spelling later.

    (It works better spoken.)

  37. Great post. I dig the engaging comments. I just wanted to comment on the lead-in to the body of the initial post. Mark, I think that is awesome that you play with the kids in sacrament meeting. When a new counselor was called into the bishopric, and he was new to the ward, he really rubbed me the wrong way. Any way, my negative attitude and opinion of him melted away as soon as I saw how cool he was with my kids. It certainly takes a village to raise a child and I am really grateful to those that may not know me, but they sure know my kids.

  38. Mark B.,

    Women certainly did milk cows. Earlier this century (prior to milking machines) the job of milking was usually the responsibility of the women and children. My mother and her siblings had to do it as kids growing up on a farm in Idaho in the 50’s and 60’s. And when I was growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s, my friends frequently milked the family cow by hand. It’s not as hard as you think, and requires more coordination that strength.

    Where do you think the term milkmaid comes from?

  39. #32:
    And if the proclamation should read sex instead of gender, then so what? I have no problem believing that sex may be eternal, that a man on earth was a man in the pre-existence, and will be a man still after death.

    Good point. The Proclamation (which we know was prompted by the prospect of same-sex marriage in Hawaii) seems to rely on the “eternity” of sex (despite using the term, “gender”) as some sort of answer to any and all questions on homosexuality. Still, even if biological sex is an eternal characteristic, what does that prove about homosexuality? Absolutely nothing. The fact that a man is gay has nothing at all to do with whether his spirt was male or female prior to mortal birth. Using eternal sex OR gender as a determination to criticize homosexuality simply reflects a complete misconception–the false idea that being gay is somehow female/feminine. Think about it. How does telling a gay man that he’s always been male have any impact at all on whether or not he’s sexually and romantically attracted to men???

  40. Kari,
    The way I read it, biological sex is eternal, but gender is deployed as a more user-friendly term (sex is so scandalous). But the linguistic conflation leads to conceptual/doctrinal confusion, and from the fact of biological sexual distinction (which #24 and 25 demonstrate are not clean cut and binary) the text extrapolates distinctions of social roles and essentialized non-biological traits.

    Contemporary sociological/anthropological theory: Biological sex is not a neat and tidy binary; gender is socially constructed, a set of culturally reinforced, changeable and malleable expectations of how sex is to be mapped properly onto human behavior; sexuality is also socially constructed in similar fashion.

    PoF Authors: Not so fast… We are all eternally boys and girls, the distinction between sex and gender is not meaningful the eternal scheme of things, and we are all naturally (read: eternally) heterosexual; further, any worldly practice or philosophy that complicates or challenges any of these points is undermining God’s great plan of happiness for His sons and daughters, mocking Him and calling down His wrath.

    Based on my recent experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if traveling GAs received a talking points memo that read very similarly to what I outlined above.

  41. P.S., I really, really don’t want to have to police comments here. For example, poo-poohing the Proclamation on the Family sure is fun, but I’ll edit or delete comments if they cross the line in terms of respect.

  42. Clearly, since this is now 2008, I should have said earlier last century. And even could have said in centuries past.

    And just as an FYI, with the concept of women milking cows being unrelated to the discussion Mark Brown meant to engender, I found the following on Wikipedia.

    “In previous centuries, before vaccination became common, milkmaids were sometimes cited as the example of someone with good skin. This was in part due to the fact that their exposure to cowpox gave them immunity to smallpox, so they did not have the “pockmarked” complexion common to smallpox survivors.”

  43. Nick (39) – I guess I had never read the “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” statement as an argument against homosexuality (but maybe against sex-change operations or “gender confusion”?).

    Brad (40) – I don’t think my dad ever got one of those memos. I don’t think he ever taught it the way you did, either. :) He did, however, share several times that Pres. Packer thought it useful to understand the import of the proclamation by looking at the opposite of the statements in it (which could give way to interpretations about what exactly certain phrases were “preaching” against).

    Kevin & Mark (24)&(25) – Interesting thoughts regarding intersex. Though I imagine that it poses no more problems in the eternities than how to resurrect someone that wasn’t born with an arm. Yet it does leave open the question of how gender (sex?) applies as “an essential characteristic of individual…_mortal_…identity and purpose.”

  44. Nora Ray says:

    Maybe homosexuality is like a birth defect- that is, a male spirit accidently born in to a female body or a female in to a male. If so, the perfected eternal body should be corrected for sex as well as other things.

    By the way, nurturing is more than rocking the baby to sleep. I did a sacrament talk on this not too long ago and it probably wasn’t very popular with some people. Nurturing means “to help grow or develop, to nourish or feed, or to educate or train”. Women can do this without being delicate, ladylike flowers and men can do it as well. It takes a strong person, male or female, to do nurturing well and I am flattered to be the gender given primary responsibilty for it.

  45. “Maybe homosexuality is like a birth defect”

    Sound bite of the year.

  46. hawkgrrrl says:

    Great questions. I generally come from the perspective that PoF is true. So, if something related to my and my daughter’s girlness is innate and eternal (and same goes for my husband and sons’ boyness), great. What are those traits? Uhm, not so sure. My daughter takes great delight in making others smell her feet.

    The only characteristic I can really see clearly is that my daughter is socially attuned in ways her brothers are not. She innately understands what’s going on with other kids and how relationships work in a way her brothers haven’t clued in to (and frankly don’t really care about). And she is quite capable at manipulating those relationships to achieve her ends whereas they have typically taken a more straightforward course toward their aims.

  47. Despite all of the intelligent comments I would still like to hear some opinions regarding Mark’s original question.

    I think we can explain almost all of the observable differences between the ways males and females behave by accounting for physical differences, evolutionary biology, and the surrounding culture. What, then, is left?

    Indeed, what is left? In order to simplify the matter let’s just say that most the observable differences in behavior and attitude between males and females are essentially caused by hormonal differences. The differences in gender that are innate vs. the ones that are taught is a topic obsessed over by many many researchers. Even just six days after birth some generalizations can be made about the differences in behavior between male and female infants. Of course there is not a hard and fast line drawn in the sand, but there are generalizations that hold true very much of the time.

    Considering that we know and recognize the role of hormones, genes, and physical observable phenomenon that contribute to a person’s “gender,”. . . . what’s left? What else is missing that can possibly be explained by some eternal element? What makes me . . .me, beyond my genes, chemicals, and learned behaviors? What is this ineffable substance that gives me eternal identity, setting me apart from those around me? The scriptures seem to refer to this identity as an “intelligence.” I have been wondering what exactly this is ever since elementary school.

    Besides gender, I find that people frequently lump things like tendencies, talents, and preferences into this eternal identity. I don’t really buy into that considering how much we know about the intense effects of genetics and environment. Or should I? I would love to hear some comments addressing this very question, the question, I think, that Mark initially raised.

    What, then, is left?

    With the many very practical, physical, and relatively indisputable answers to the question of my identity, what makes me eternally me?

  48. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 45 I have flipper arms, too.

    Interestingly, the idea that homosexuality is caused by a spirit/body gender mixup has become politically accepted in Iran under the fundamentalist regime there. If you’re homosexual, you either get executed or can have your gender reassigned.

    Think I’ll be staying here in WeHo, thanks.

  49. If Wikipedia is correct, and gender identity is “an individual’s self-conception as being male or female, as distinguished from actual biological sex,” then maybe the Proc IS correct, and our self-conception of what and who we are is actually eternal. So the whole transgender/intersex problem goes away, at least in an eternal context.

    But that would only be the case if when they say gender, they mean gender. I think that’s probably not the case.

  50. Nora Ray says:

    I suppose my comment could have been offensive to some and I apologize for that. It wasn’t my intent to put anyone down. I am just attempting to reconcile two opposed concepts: that gender/sexuality is eternal and that there are some people in this life whose gender does not match their sexuality.

    Nora

  51. Mark B. says:

    Kari,

    I’ll vouch for the children part of the milking–my dad milked the family Jersey every day for years.

    I don’t know if my grandmother or aunt ever did any milking. I’ll have to ask my dad.

  52. Nick Literski says:

    I am just attempting to reconcile two opposed concepts: that gender/sexuality is eternal and that there are some people in this life whose gender does not match their sexuality.

    This comment reminds me of another odd idea I’ve heard from religious people. Some religionists actually theorize that gay men are gay because they’re posessed by female demons. I’ve even come across a very few LDS who buy into this claim, and they’ve even spread stories of the alleged female demon being cast out, after which the man was no longer gay.

    There certainly are individuals whose “gender does not match their sexuality.” They are called transgendered people, because they believe they essentially believe that they are (as you suggested) male spirits born in female bodies, or vice versa. A very, very small percentage of homosexuals happen to also be transgendered.

    As a gay man, I can assure you that I am in no way confused about my gender. I am absolutely comfortable being male, both in terms of biological sex and gender. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fact that I’m sexually and romantically attracted to other males does not, in any way, mean that my gender does not match my genetalia.

  53. Ewww. Nick said genitalia.

  54. Yeah, but you spelled it better, Ann!

  55. Plowing through the comments at 1:00AM – always dangerous. Having said that, AMEN to #19. We have no clue about almost anything in the here-after, but we project so much.

  56. MikeInWeHo says:

    This thread gives me the willies. :)

  57. OK, the parser rears his head again.

    What is left? We have no idea, since we have no idea what the actual sentence in question means.

    Since I’m not an apostle, I can speculate and not risk destroying testimonies or perpetuating incorrect doctrine – so here goes:

    When we lived in the pre-existence, we were male or female; during mortality, we are male or female (with very, very few exceptions that prove the rule); in the after-life, we will be males or female. Logic says the first and third will be the same – that our immortal physical body will match our immortal spirit body; logic says the second might be different.

    Well, not anything profound there, but that’s all the actual words give me.

  58. Mike, getting the willies over this thread is a manifestation of your birth defect. :)

  59. Nora Ray says:

    My comments were purely speculative and no doubt the reason we have been cautioned against such things. Other peoples private lives are their own and no business of mine. Again, I apologize for any offense.

  60. No offense taken, Nora. I just consider it an opportunity to clarify some things. :-)

  61. Ray (57) – Thanks for bringing it back down to earth. That’s how I’ve always understood it, and I wonder if that’s all the FP & 12 were trying to say.

  62. I really wish people wouldn’t observe traits of their own sons and daughters and try to generalize that to everyone. I’ve been told all my life that I’m a tomboy, not feminine, etc. because I love math and science, like building things, liked playing outside as a child, climbing trees and being active. I didn’t like dolls at all, nor playing house, though building block cities and playing with Lego or k’nex was always something I enjoyed. I’m not good at understanding social dynamics. I’m open and straightforward.

    Yet I am very female. This is what female is. I reject any characterization of me as masculine. Femininity is not as narrow as people would like to make it. It overlaps masculinity to such an extent that the differences between individuals are vastly greater than the differences between the sexes.

    So please don’t try to say that girls understand how to manipulate social interactions or that girls prefer to be clean or that girls ANYTHING AT ALL. I’m telling you, I’m very much a girl, and I don’t fit your preconceived notions. When you say “girls are like this” you’re essentially saying I’m not a girl, and that’s insulting and rude.

    Thank you.

  63. Tatiana,

    You have outlined in a personal way the very issues many of us have with the PoF.

    One can take a very literalistic approach to the words, as does Ray in #57, or one can view it as a response to political and social changes, as does Nick in #29 and #39.

    In my opinion it is a document intended to promote mid-20th century ideas of gender and gender roles as the way of God.

    (I about said sex roles, but that would have really given me the willies)

  64. no-man says:

    re: 44/45: ‘Maybe homosexuality is like a birth defect’

    This is essentially what the official church publications are leaning towards. If you read the “interview” with Elders Oaks and Wickman on the lds.org newsroom page, and the “God Loveth His Children” pamphlet, both teach that the honorable way to live as a gay Mormon is to assume that one is defective but can learn to live happily in that defective state, and live without giving any expression to one’s homosexual preferences (including, amazingly, associating with or talking to other homosexual people).

    This is an idea that is comforting to people who otherwise cannot get their heads around the idea that a man could love a man and find satisfaction in that. It is, however, an insulting idea to people who are healthy, intelligent, and spiritually mature but who do not have it in them to love and marry someone of the other gender.

    So, to return to the original question of the post, I don’t know what it means that “gender is eternal,” except maybe that God doesn’t have any spirit children who are anything other than male and female, and heterosexual in orientation. As I read it, all the current literature assumes that those who are gay in this life will wake up in the next life fully restored to a heterosexual orientation. Whether they’ll be pleased about that is another question.

  65. Btw, for all of you arguing about whether the sentence should say that “sex” is eternal, do you really want that to be the subject of a discussion like this? We already have to deal enough with people (inside and outside the Church) who think we teach eternal sexual intercourse. Do you really want that belief to be solidified by saying “sex is eternal” – when you know 90% of the people who read it won’t be analyzing it like we are doing with “gender”?

    Now THAT would give me the willies.

  66. As I read it, all the current literature assumes that those who are gay in this life will wake up in the next life fully restored to a heterosexual orientation.

    Yes, that seems to be the doctrine de jour. It was newly introduced in the Oaks/Wickman “interview.” While some feel that it’s a reasonable conclusion from other existing doctrines, it is, nonetheless, a new doctrine of LDS-ism. It conflicts directly with The Book of Mormon’s teachings, which point out that the attitudes, beliefs, values and habits of our spirits will not suddenly be changed after death.

  67. Ray, where’s the shame in the Mormon belief that sexual relations will continue through the eternities? To pretend that Mormonism has not historically taught this is deceptive. Are you suggesting that LDS-ism has rejected yet another Mormon teaching, in the desperate quest for acceptance by so-called “mainstream” christians?

  68. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, take a break.

  69. Thomas Parkin says:

    When we have overcome all, and all the oppositions in our personality are reconciled and resolved to each other, and we are whole (holy), we will have developed a full repetoire of traits and behaviours. Like Jesus, we’ll have all the traits generally considered feminine and all those considered masculine, in perfect balance and in a positive relation to reality. Then we will still have charateristics that lie at a deeper strata, that continue to make as individual and distinct, and among those traits will be deep gender. Masculine and feminine cannot be described using any other adjectives.

    my 2 cents. ;)

    ~

  70. #64, no-man I heard a gentleman discuss this issue in a way which I found thought provoking, because I also am somewhat troubled about gay issues. I hope you do not find it offensive.

    In reference to the plight of gay members he made the point that he felt as though he had been born an adulterer. Kind of like Oaks/Wickman discussed being born with a temper. But a little more on point, and possibly offensive.

    He made the point that although he loved his wife, there was nothing intrinsically within him that told him having an affair would in anyway affect his love for his wife. Just as other men go fishing, or bowling or whatever, he could spend time chasing skirts and it had no affect on his commitment to his family, or his love for his wife.

    He did admit that on an intellectual level he knew that such behavior would destroy his relationship with his wife, but only because we live in a society that teaches that. But he, in his heart, saw no connection.

    He then went on to say that if he wanted a successful marriage and family he had to shut down that side of himself. He could never have the fulfillment of acting on his most basic nature.

    He had to accept that his innate feelings were wrong and he had to live his entire life as a lie. Acting like a faithful husband and father, when in reality he was a partying man. Disciplining himself to avoid thinking about or acting on his impulses. He hoped that in the resurrection he would finally be rid of such urges.

    But he made the point that if he spent his entire life defending such feelings as being appropriate and acting on them that he would probably continue to have such urges in the next life.

    How is the situation of a gay person any different?

  71. Mark Brown says:

    In general, I favor allowing a conversation to go wherever it goes. In this case, however, I’m going to shut off comments. I realize that our interpretation of gender and its impact on sexuality and sexual identity is very difficult for many of us, and I appreciate the tone we’ve been able to maintain.

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