The Easy Way Out

I’ve skimmed the last few years of general conference talks, and a clear pattern emerges. We are repeatedly admonished by church leaders to “love and honor”, “reach out the hand of fellowship”, “seek out and befriend”, and “welcome into church” a particular group of people. Our leaders are speaking about gays and lesbians.

In every instance I can find, whenever we have been instructed on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, we have also been taught about our obligations that I quoted in the previous paragraph. President Hinckley sometimes said that he wanted to emphasize those obligations. Why does this matter? Answer: Because in recent weeks, every most of our discussions that have taken place in the bloggernacle e-ward have taken the easy way out. We make it pretty clear that we not only hate reject the sin, we hate reject the sinner, too.

When the topic is Heavenly Mother or the origins of the priesthood ban, folks who fancy themselves to be orthodox admonish the rest of us about going beyond what the church has explicitly taught. Why, then, are those same good and smart people so quick to go beyond what the church has said about the recent California supreme court ruling? The church’s official statement reiterated its position that male/female marriage has traditionally been the foundation of society, and that the California decision is unfortunate. That’s all. Our online community immediately went into overdrive, churning out all kinds of dubious slippery slope arguments that the church has the good sense to avoid.

I invite you to read through the hundreds of comments of the past two weeks, if you have the stomach for it. Then ask yourself these questions: Does it sound like these people are loving and honoring homosexual people? Is there even a remote possibility that any of these comments can be seen as welcoming, and as an extension of the hand of fellowship?

The church has taken an official position against same-sex marriage. It has simultaneously emphasized that its members are to befriend, love, and honor gay people. That is a tightrope than many of us find difficult to walk. Let’s be careful about taking the easy way out. Until we are prepared to keep both parts of that counsel, we probably ought to be careful about saying anything at all. In particular, we ought to be careful about styling ourselves as humble followers of the prophet when we choose to ignore half of what he says.

Comments

  1. Oof Mark, some great thoughts here — thanks. Your last sentence is particularly challenging.

  2. Great post Mark. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  3. Heretic! Burn him!

    (Very nice, Mark. Great food for thought, and very challenging, as Steve says.)

  4. Very good, Mark.

    Um, do you by chance have links to the talks in question? Not that I’m going to use them to hit anyone over the head with . . .

  5. sister blah 2 says:

    Word.

    I always ask myself how I would feel and act if my son or daughter were gay. What would I want ward members to say in the presence of my son or daughter? What kind of comments would I want my son or daughter to read on LDS blogs? We can sustain our prophets’ counsel without needlessly creating a cruel and hostile environment.

  6. I found “seek . . .befriend” here, talking generally about “those that were lost . . . the lonely or those who are less active.” I’m not finding it with specific reference to gays and lesbians (though they certainly could come under the larger category).

    http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=0a000d034ceae010VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1#footnote17

    Okay, enough scripture chase, back to work for me . . .

  7. MikeInWeHo says:

    There’s a stake high counsel member in a neighboring state who works closely with my partner. He and his wife have generously opened their home to us as a couple, offered us a guest room with a double bed, and comfortably introduced us as a couple to their five children. I know that they solidly support the Church’s views on gay marriage but we agree to disagree and it’s absolutely fine. They have a daughter the same age as ours and we compare notes.

    So these conversations are really tough for me. I like to think this couple represents the Mormon people in 2008.

    But then I wonder over to Times & Seasons and am left temporarily comment-less. Clearly there are plenty of Latter-day Saints who have no qualms about closing their door on my “immoral,” “lesser,” “indecent” and “reprehensible” family because in our “selfishness” we are “obstacles to the preferable family unit.”

    You’ll see no comments from me over there today. Anything I want to say would likely be quickly deleted by the moderator. Indeed, my very presence there might represent an “attack” on “revealed sexual morality.”

  8. Yes, I’ve never seen any point in commenting on threads where the moderator states at the outset that the conversation can only go the way he wants it to.

  9. Mike,

    I’m sorry that you felt unwelcome. Your choice not to comment seems prudent enough.

    Which face is Mormonism of 2008? In my experience, both (and many more).

    Bill,

    Heaven knows, I’ve had my share of disagreements with Adam Greenwood. But it’s not like he has a monopoly on unidirectional discussions; those aren’t uncommon at most major nacle blogs. It’s somewhat of an occupational hazard, perhaps.

    (And in my experience, most commenters’ assessments of the propriety of any particular unidirectional thread do tend to be highly correlated with the level of agreement that commenter has for that thread’s substantive position.)

  10. (The prior parenthetical is not intended as an assessment of Bill’s comment specifically — it’s a general observation only.)

  11. Mark, I love the message of your post, but I have to call your attention to two quotes in it, with my own emphasis:

    every discussion that has taken place in the bloggernacle e-ward has taken the easy way out. We make it pretty clear that we not only hate the sin, we hate the sinner, too.”

    That simply isn’t accurate of every discussion, and certainly not accurate in that it appears to be sweeping condemnation of all of those discussions. Off the top of my head, at least two that I have read were in defense of the ruling, and MANY of th comments defended gays and lesbians openly and forcefully.

    “Is there even a remote possibility that any of these comments can be seen as welcoming, and as an extension of the hand of fellowship?”

    Definitely. Many of them.

    I have told Mike directly that I would LOVE to have him and his family sit with me and mine in church if they ever are in the Cincinnati area, and I know that sentiment is not close to unique in the Bloggernacle.

    Again, I really like this post, but I can’t let those statements go unaddressed.

  12. I don’t know that an invitation to Cincinnati can really be viewed as welcoming, Ray . . .

    :P

  13. Btw, Mike, I hope your reference to “reprehensible” does not mean that you thought I was using that word over on T&S to indicate that’s how I feel. I was using it to speak of how others view and treat you relative to others – that they are inconsistent and hypocritical when they apply that standard selectively. I meant that IF they make that claim, based on that standard, they should apply it to heterosexual activity, as well.

    I apologize sincerely if that was not clear and misunderstood.

  14. Yeah, you are right there, Kaimi – when it comes to this particular issue. I’m north of Cincinnati, however, so maybe that makes it acceptable.

  15. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 13
    I agree, Ray. My experience in the Bloggernacle has been fantastic. It has been incredibly moving and faith-affirming at times. Nobody has ever attacked me personally or directly, and I suspect (GASP!) that even Adam Greenwood and I would get along just fine if we ever met in person.

    FWIW, I know may gay people who are equally ignorant about and hostile toward the Latter-day Saints. I defend the Church surprisingly often, oddly enough. (“No, they’re not really like that at all!”)

  16. (I have such a soft-spot for you Mike. Really. You and my son can hang out and play with our Easy Bake Oven any time.)

    Earlier today, I wrote an ascerbic comment over on the T&S thread, and I was so disgusted with the intolerance and lack of compassion, charity or even humanity (in some cases), that I deleted my comment and stomped off in a huff.

    What I wanted to say was an angrier version of this:

    I have three gay family members. Close family members- and my kids have never batted an eye at Uncle Mark and Uncle Todd- it’s just our family to them. Uncle Michael doesn’t have anyone special at the moment, but when that day comes he does, they won’t notice then, either, I imagine.

    Children don’t inately pick up on the things grown-ups agonize over. I’ve noticed watching my own kids, they don’t notice skin color, hair texture, or who Uncle Todd is holding hands with- they notice and love people. It isn’t until we teach them our prejudices and show by our potential uncomfortable example that they learn to single out different. It’s us the emmulate.

    If I were to behave like some commenters on other blogs thing I should, my children would quickly pick up on my bias, lack of charity, and see me as a hypocrite. No thanks. I’ll err on the side of love, every time.

  17. Is it a commandment to ‘honor’ gay people? I don’t hate them but I have found myself needing to repent of hating what they stand for. I think the biggest issue is perhaps they insist what I consider to be wrong and immoral to be normal and deserving of approval, even praise (honor?). Marriage is just one/the way to codify this approval through governmental means.

  18. Sam,

    I believe that the “honor” in Mark’s list comes from this quote from a President Hinckley talk:

    Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.

    http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=ff1b6a4430c0c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

  19. Latter-day Guy says:

    Seeking equal protection under the law, through marriage, is not asking for approval. There are many things published, of which I might not approve, but which still ought to be defended by the first amendment.

  20. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 18 Thanks, Tracy. That’s very sweet of you. The funny thing is this: In person, I’m the most ordinary guy around. My family makes the Osmonds look like the Osbornes.

    re: 19
    “What they stand for…”
    What on earth do we stand for, anyway???! Affordable yet fashionable home decor? Matching accessories?

  21. Mike, the Star-Spangled Banner?

  22. I don’t know that an invitation to Cincinnati can really be viewed as welcoming, Ray . . .

    Bah. Cincinnati’s a dump. You really must go further north, to the Cleveland suburbs (not Cleveland, mind you.)

  23. Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered a new gospel, in which Jesus goes out of his way not to mingle with sinners. Should be popular.

  24. While I think Mark Brown’s post is clearly good advice and we should follow the prophets counsel in this regard, I don’t find it very convincing as an argument.

    First, he seems to denigrate those who hold on to statements by prophets, which he presumably thinks should be disregarded (and I would agree with respect to priesthood ban, etc.). Then he finished the post by stating that we shouldn’t ignore or dismiss half of what the prophet says.

    How is the “orthodox” person bad for not going beyond what the prophet says, and then bad again for going beyond what the prophet says.

  25. Randall says:

    Mark,

    I add my voice to Ray and Mike. I joined BCC several months back, mostly because of the acceptance of diversity I found here. Yes, that diversity includes some hardliners and some people who have already tottered off the Mormon precipice, but that IS the point. Regarding treatment of gays and lesbians, I believe this community has done an admirable job of straddling a very difficult issue.

    This issue played itself out similarly in my own family. A dear family friend came out of the closet about 12 years ago and sent ripples through my entire conservative family. However, their response embodied the recent instructions from church leaders. Our friend eventually left the church, fell in love and had a commitment ceremony at a different church. I was the best man. This event was difficult for my family, and many chose not to come. For some who did come, seeing the kiss at the end was over the top and left them with a bad spirit. However, they came, and they continue to invite the couple and their adopted son to family events.

    They would still prefer that he be straight, but knowing a gay person as well as they know him has challenged many of their assumptions and has given them a much better appreciation of the difficulty of Jesus’ challenging injunctions.

    This is an issue for which the church will struggle for many years to come. People of sincere faith and gracious fellowship hold very different opinions. The same is true of church leadership, and it is reflected in the softening of their stance. I, for one, am very appreciative of the current leadership’s willingness to enter the fray. Yes, I would have them move more quickly than they do, but I respect their approach that aims to sustain faith and cohesion while expanding room for other people within the stakes of Zion.

  26. My general bloggernacle participation has declined of late, but I still hang out here and at FMH. Frankly, I’ve been shocked at the level of support I’ve seen for the California Supreme Court decision here, even if it’s been subtle rather than overt. I’m inclined to think that most of y’all are probably going to Hell. Which is fine by me, because at least it’s warm, and I won’t be lonely.

  27. Mark IV says:

    Bob, # 26,

    There is a better than 50/50 chance tht I have not communicated clearly, so I’ll take another whack at what I meant, in an attempt to clarify.

    First, I do not object, at all, to the idea that we should follow church leaders. I believe we are under obligation to take what they say seriously. I object to the recent ostentatious displays by people who claim to be following counsel, but who appear to my admittedly limited perspective to be disregarding half of it. That’s all. There was certainly no denigration intended, and the original post characterized these people as both smart and good. If that is denigration, let’s have more of it!

    My larger point is that gospel living is often difficult. Think of our story about Adam and Eve. They had to struggle through and find a way to keep commandments that appeared to be in conflict. Almost all of us go through life with blinders on, and an awareness of that fact ought to help us be at least a little humble in our claims of righteousness.

  28. Mark,
    I appreciate the frustration, and I respect you, but I think your post is another way of taking the easy way out. You chastise a whole group of people, “these people,” for evincing hatred of homosexuals yet you don’t tell us what you think is appropriate and inappropriate in these discussions. You don’t give examples of what crosses the line. Nobody knows if you’re talking about their comments or comments like theirs, so nobody can learn anything or be convinced of anything. And nobody can defend themselves, which is why I think you’re taking the easy way out. Absent specific, substantive criticisms, you’re engaging in little more than sanctimonious posturing. We know you think everyone except you is ignoring the prophet. That’s it.

  29. Mark,
    Rereading your post I notice that maybe you do tell us what crosses the line. You say,

    The church’s official statement reiterated its position that male/female marriage has traditionally been the foundation of society, and that the California decision is unfortunate. That’s all.

    Is that all we should ever say on the matter?

  30. Mark,
    Tom kind of has a point. We get irritated around here when people publish broad-brush rants against evil apostate bloggers without being specific. Name names, man! Publish your enemies list!

  31. Mark IV says:

    Tom, nope, you’re misreading me.

    I acknowledged that this is a tightrope walk that is usually difficult for me. I don’t have any suggestions, either. I’m just expressing a hope that the overall tone of our conversations reflected more of the welcoming and fellowshipping part of the counsel.

    Ronan,

    Believe me, hermano, the first draft of this post was pretty vitriolic, and would have probably gotten me kicked off this blog. Same goes for the second, third, and fourth drafts. Pretty stupid, given that my goal was to create good will.

  32. Mark IV says:

    Tom,

    To address your point more specifically, I think I actually do offer a kind of test. Can our conversations be characterized as loving, honoring, and welcoming gay people? If not, then I believe we are out of order to some extent.

    That applies to me as much as anybody.

  33. “In particular, we ought to be careful about styling ourselves as humble followers of the prophet when we choose to ignore half of what he says.”

    Mark, I take it this means we can expect your post arguing against same-sex marriage in the next couple days, along with admonitions to Kaimi and Steve to do the same?

  34. Randy B. says:

    Mark, I too love this post, though ultimately I suppose your argument applies as much to me as those you’re pointedly called out. I too only buy half of the counsel from the church on this issue — just the opposite half.

  35. To be fair, Matt, I don’t believe that Mark has styled himself as a humble follower of Christ.

  36. “To be fair, Matt, I don’t believe that Mark has styled himself as a humble follower of Christ.”

    ??

  37. Steve Evans says:

    Matt E., you chime in for the first time in months, and that’s the best you got?

  38. Steve, is the bar higher for infrequent commenters? I guess that would explain why you comment so much…

  39. Mark,
    I’m sorry, but you do much more than express hope that our conversations reflect love and respect for homosexuals. You said that our conversations, all of them, reflect hatred of homosexuals. You question whether any of the hundreds of comments written by “these people” can even remotely be considered to reflect the proper attitude towards homosexuals. That’s broad brush chastisement of other people.

    I think I’m reading what you wrote just fine. I believe you, though, if you tell me that what you wrote doesn’t reflect what you’re trying to say. That happens to me sometimes.

  40. Her Amun says:

    How about just following what Jehovah/Jesus Christ tought: love your neighbor as yourself.

  41. By which I mean, that Mark is saying he struggles with this issue too. He wasn’t holding himself up as a model of decorum or obedience.

  42. Her Amun says:

    That being said, love does not preclude the fact that “gay marriage” is abominable and should be fought.

  43. Steve Evans says:

    Frank, I guess T&S must really be defunct if all you losers are commenting over here all the time.

  44. Steve Evans says:

    …but to address your point, I comment frequently because I care, Frank. I CARE.

    But seriously, Mark’s post is in a wonderful spirit and I don’t mean to detract from it any further. I would appreciate it if we all could try and to likewise.

  45. Matt Evans, there is another solution: not to style oneself as a humble, literalist follower of church leadership. One can acknowledge that, like everybody else, one picks and chooses the messages that seem most important. Perhaps this is good, or perhaps it is bad, but it’s what we all always do.

    Mark, good on you. This is inevitably a difficult and painful set of issues to discuss. I think one starting point would be for all of us to agree that many, many people’s hopes and dreams are crushed by existing marriage laws. I don’t think an honest discussion is possible unless that human cost is brought into clear focus. That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to change the laws; it does mean we ought to be very vividly aware of the people we’re hurting if we don’t.

  46. Whenever BCC publishes a post admonishing cafeteria Mormons, I’ll be there! :)

  47. As an example, the following comment, while not directly related to gay marriage, is inflammatory, bone-headed, and hateful. It did appear on a gay marriage thread and appears to be some sort of justification for excluding gay people from our lives.

    I do not recognize cohabitation as an acceptable alternative to marriage, but what sort of recognition do I personally confer or withhold? Well, when a co-worker invited me to a housewarming party at the house she and her boyfriend had moved into, I didn’t go because that’s not something I celebrate. Similarly, I decided I wouldn’t invite the cohabiting couple across the street into my house.

    Comment by John Mansfield — 5/28/2008 @ 2:53 pm

    You may, of course, read it in its original context here.

  48. Matt,
    When I meet a living, breathing example of a Mormon who isn’t a cafeteria Mormon, I will hop right on that.

  49. John, there are many Mormons who accept all of the church’s counsel.

  50. Mark IV says:

    Pssst, Matt. We’re all cafeteria Mormons, and we’re all sinners. So there’s no need to take sides.

    By the way, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in his article entitled Same Gender Atraction in the October, 1995 Ensign, admits that while we LDS fold do an unusually good job of making our opposition to homosexuality known, we do a lousy job of loving and reaching out to gay people. So Matt, as a self styled follower of the brethren, I admonish you to get with the program and follow the prophet, just like me!!! It’s easy!!!

  51. What, like the cafeteria Mormons who parse beyond all recognition the church’s compassionate statements about illegal immigrants? Yeah, those cafeteria Mormons kindle my fierce anger.

  52. Adam Greenwood says:

    Mark,
    if you can point to any part of my recent SSM posts or my comments in the threads that shows hatred for people who are gay, please do so and I’ll remove the post. Also I’ll eat my hat.

  53. Mark IV,
    Don’t look at me, man. As a great man once said, “I’ve done everything the Bible says; even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! What more could I do?”

  54. Mark IV says:

    Matt,

    To answer your # 51 seriously, I will agree that many of us do try to accept all prophetic counsel.

    The difficulty arises when we have to assign it a priority in our lives, because it can’t all be at the top of the list. What is more important, the counsel to store food or the counsel to avoid anger? My answer to that might be different from yours, given our different circumstances. That is why president Lee said that the most important prophetic counsel we can follow is the counsel that applies to each of us at the moment.

  55. response to #49. Elder Oaks makes similar kinds of comments. I normally find most bloggernaccle discussions on this topic to be seriously out of touch with the mainstream members that I have lived around my entire life. Essentially you can comfortably make a comment similar to the quote from JM #49 in EQ, in SS, from the pulpit, in a HC meeting and nobody will bat an eye at it. Or at least will publicly bat an eye at it. The reverse is also true of course. If Mark B attempted to fashion a SS lesson or a EQ lesson like his opening post it would be highly controversial and likely he would be openly challenged by numerous members.

    From the public affairs interview at LDS.org

    PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At what point does showing that love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?’

    ELDER OAKS: That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer.

    I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”

    There are so many different circumstances, it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all.

  56. Matt,
    If you are a victim of that delusion, its a matter to take up with your psychiatrist, not with me.

  57. Adam Greenwood says:

    So there’s no need to take sides.

    If this post is any evidence, you don’t confine yourself to doing only needful things.

  58. bbell,
    That’s kind of Mark’s point: why is such hostility toward our gay neighbors acceptable in LDS circles, while Mark’s post would be unacceptable? Mark’s not trying to be descriptive of LDS attitudes: he’s trying to point out that they derive from one set of prophetic counsel while explicitly ignoring another set. How to negotiate between the two is the question; like many people here and on the other thread, I don’t find the approach quoted in 49 satisfying or, really, in line with our moral duties.

  59. Mark IV says:

    Adam, please re-read my post, then return to the comments and tell me where I use the word hatred. If you can, I’ll eat my hat. If you can’t, you’ll not only need to eat your hat, but your straw man as well.

    I maintain that our conversations have been heavy on rejection of homosexuality without the counterbalance of a loving and welcoming spirit that our leaders have placed us under obligation to project. Do you disagree?

  60. “Essentially you can comfortably make a comment similar to the quote from JM #49 in EQ, in SS, from the pulpit, in a HC meeting and nobody will bat an eye at it. Or at least will publicly bat an eye at it. The reverse is also true of course. If Mark B attempted to fashion a SS lesson or a EQ lesson like his opening post it would be highly controversial and likely he would be openly challenged by numerous members.”

    Is it really the case that saying “I will not let gay people into my home” is less controversial than “We should show compassion to gay people”? If this is the case, isn’t that demonstrating Mark’s point?

  61. FWIW, bbell, your description of what is acceptable to mainstream members based upon your lifetime around them doesn’t resonate with me, based on my lifetime around them. I rarely, if ever, hear anything over the pulpit, in SS, or otherwise in church, about my homosexual neighbors and I have never heard it suggested in church that we should not allow our gay neighbors into our homes. In practice, in fact, I’ve never seen such rejection occur. So I have high hopes that the virulent comments I read about (and read) on the Bloggernacle represent a small (and fading) attitude within the Church. It certainly doesn’t reflect the attitudes I’ve seen from our leaders.

  62. Adam Greenwood says:

    You say that in recent weeks, every discussion in the bloggernacle has made it clear that “we hate the sinner too.”

    Granted, “hate” is a verb and “hatred” is a noun.

  63. Matt #51: John, there are many Mormons who accept all of the church’s counsel.

    I don’t believe this to be an accurate description, Matt. I think there are many Mormons who have constructed an edifice in their minds that they label “all the church’s counsel,” and they accept that edifice. However, the construction in question is always partial. The church’s counsel is wild and varied, it covers a vast range of topics, and, yes, it has even contradicted itself from time to time.

    Mark’s original post might just as well have gone back to the New Testament to look at Jesus’s choice of dinner companions. Hate the sin but not the sinner might be a starting point, but we ought to add to that the point that judgment and justice are God’s. It’s not even our job to decide which actions of other people’s are sins.

  64. Adam Greenwood says:

    Is it wrong to make judgments about people making judgments, JNS? Is or is not Mark Brown judging the recent discussions in the bloggernacle?

  65. Mark Brown says:

    Adam,

    Thank you for your comment 64. Upon reflection, I agree that my formulation was too strong for what I meant, and I have amended the post to reflect that. Thanks for contributing in a substantive way.

  66. John C, Mark, Sam

    Please address the Elder Oaks comments. They undermine your position.

  67. Adam #66, interesting point. My personal preference in this kind of discussion is usually to phrase things in the abstract so as not to have to decide whether any particular person is sinning (other than myself; I’m a sinner, although I’d rather not be). But Mark’s post does have a kind of Old-Testament prophetic quality that I admire.

  68. FWIW, bbell, your description of what is acceptable to mainstream members based upon your lifetime around them doesn’t resonate with me, based on my lifetime around them. I rarely, if ever, hear anything over the pulpit, in SS, or otherwise in church, about my homosexual neighbors and I have never heard it suggested in church that we should not allow our gay neighbors into our homes. In practice, in fact, I’ve never seen such rejection occur. So I have high hopes that the virulent comments I read about (and read) on the Bloggernacle represent a small (and fading) attitude within the Church. It certainly doesn’t reflect the attitudes I’ve seen from our leaders.

    Can I ask where you’ve lived?

    Because I heard this repeatedly growing up in Ohio, heard this frequently at BYU, and heard it stated on a couple occasions here in North Texas. The frequency is growing less and less, but I heard this repeatedly from the pulpit and in classes taught by priesthood leaders (not just run of the mill GD teachers).

    bbell lives less than a gallon of gas from me, so I imagine he may have heard it in his stake as well.

  69. Mark (#56),

    There actaully isn’t very much tension in the church’s counsel, so it really isn’t tough for Mormons to strive to heed the counsel to store food and to control their anger.

    The willingness of members to openly reject or oppose church counsel is a feature of the bloggernacle that turns off many members I’ve talked to. They see the failure to follow church counsel as a weakness.

    Sam B. (#60),

    If Elder Oaks thinks it’s okay for parents to say, “Please don’t do that,” to their own child asking to bring a gay partner for the holidays, it would appear seem he’d also think it okay for John Mansfield to decline a party celebrating a gay or cohabitating couple’s house warming.

  70. Come to think of it, I heard it also in SLC, in California, and in South America (perhaps most virulently there).

  71. bbell, regarding Elder Oaks’s comments, they present us with a dilemma. Was he speaking for himself, or for God? Are these words inspired? Nothing in the quote you present resolves this issue.

    Jesus didn’t seem to usually go out of his way to avoid associating with sinners. According to the old, oft-recommended test of comparing statements with the canon, we have some reason to be careful here.

  72. bbell,
    No, they don’t. They demonstrate the point. That there is another approach available is Mark’s point. That we need to oppose sin while remaining compassionate to the sinner is difficult (which is Mark’s point). Erring on the side of opposing sin can be bad; as can erring on the side of compassion. If you want me to choose between Elder Oaks asking his gay relatives to not come to visit and Christ sitting with prostitutes and publicans, I can’t. I have to try to find a way to satisfy both. Choosing one over the other is where sin is generated in this scenario, I think.

  73. There actaully isn’t very much tension in the church’s counsel, so it really isn’t tough for Mormons to strive to heed the counsel to store food and to control their anger.

    Brilliant example of my earlier point, Matt. If you personally define the extent of church counsel, you can make it narrow enough that there’s no problem for you in accepting it all. But really church counsel consists of many hundreds of thousands of pages of sermons and publications going back nearly 200 years. There’s a lot more there than food storage and controlling anger, and, yes, there are contradictions and aspects of counsel we now see as wrong.

    Even food storage is becoming a murky issue, since the church has been in a process of backtracking from the universal one-year recommendation, by the way.

  74. bbell,
    Unless I’m seriously misreading him, he’s basically addressing the issue of what to do if a gay child comes to spend an extended period of time; he’s giving members permission not to let them sleep together in his house (which, I would assume, LDS parents would also do if their straight child came home with a boy/girlfriend).

    Now you address where he says, Don’t allow your gay neighbor into your home. (Hint: he doesn’t.) Or better, please address how you can be consistent with Pres. Hinckley’s admonition (in Kaimi’s #5) to love and welcome our gay brothers and sisters, even if we don’t approve of certain of their actions.

    Please realize that I’m not suggesting that there’s an easy solution. But I am suggesting that the solution proposed in #49 is a bad solution and, if Church members are comfortable with that and not with the concept of loving and welcoming our gay brothers and sisters, they’re not following prophetic counsel and they need to repent. (Note that I’m also not following all prophetic counsel–it’s hard to do, in my experience–and I need to repent, too. In fact, a good portion of prophetic counsel is just that: that we, as individuals, as a church, as a community, as a nation, and/or as a world, need to repent.)

  75. Greenwood, dude — you can strain at syntactical gnats and try to discredit Mark all you want. Are you really trying to argue against the substance of his main point — that the tone of many of the anti-SSM comments and posts in the bloggernaccle, including yours, represents the opposite of extending the hand of love and fellowship to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?

    The leaders of the Church have made clear that while the Church institutionally opposes SSM, the members may freely take a different political position and that one’s position on this particular question is not a benchmark for righteousness or temple-worthiness. No such caveat or qualifier exists for the injunction to treat even those we consider to be sinners in a Christ-like manner.

    I completely support the Church’s choice to take the political position it has, and the Church supports my choice to take a different one. The Church does not support the choice of any of us (myself) to to act like self-righteous, self-satisfied, superior jerks.

  76. Brad, you’re a scholar and a gentleman.

  77. Adam Greenwood says:

    Well, thanks for taking what I said seriously. I don’t think that opposing SSM shows a ‘rejection’ of people who are gay anymore than it shows a ‘hatred,’ but baby steps, baby steps.

  78. Geez, Mark, I pointed out to you twice that you said that we are all displaying hatred of homosexuals and only after Adam Greenwood points it out do you agree. Is it the sweater vest? Because I can get a sweater vest.

  79. Mark Brown says:

    Matt, 71,

    When you described the church’s official statement posted on lds dot org on stem cell research as incoherent and stupid, did you see yourself as being in opposition to prophetic counsel? I’m asking that as a serious question, not in a spirit of calling you out or finding fault. I guess that is what I mean about us all picking and choosing.

  80. Mark Brown says:

    LOL Tom, actually it was the combination of you, Ray, and Adam that caused me to reconsider. But thanks to you, too!

  81. What was the point of the original post? I’ve forgotten as I’ve plowed through the comments. :)

    “Do unto others” seems like a pretty good rule to me.

  82. I’m inclined to think that most of y’all are probably going to Hell. Which is fine by me, because at least it’s warm, and I won’t be lonely

    .

    ann, no need to worry, Mike says there will be glow sticks and we will be there to keep you company.

    love,

    m

  83. queuno (#71/72),
    Southern California, BYU, Brazil, New York, and Virginia.

    Matt (#60),
    Certainly John may not attend housewarming, etc., parties. I don’t attend parties all the time (mostly because I’m not invited, but sometimes because I’m busy or I don’t like the person). But in the refusal to let a child come for the holidays, or the refusal to attend a neighbor’s celebration, we are choosing between counsel that is in tension with other counsel; I think choosing not to invite a child (or not to attend the party because the couple in question is gay) is the worse option. Certainly Elder Oaks allows members to make that choice; I am not convinced, however, he is advocating it. (Similarly, the church allows us to get divorces. It unequivocably does not recommend it, however.) If you read his last sentence, though, that seems to me to be the clincher: there are so many different situations that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

  84. And Tom — get that sweater-vest!

  85. crap!!! my link didn’t work.

  86. Steve Evans says:

    What kinds of hats are we talking about eating here, anyway? Porkpie? Bowler? I mean, the stakes need to be good.

    Here is my beef with the trend in this conversation: I see Mark’s post as being largely about compassion and a call to treat others with more love and respect. I see many of the commenters as insisting upon the need for solid moral standards and doing what is right in the face of iniquity. Neither perspective is wrong, quite frankly, but what is wrong is for any of us to use these sentiments as a wedge and a divider.

    Using our words as weapons against each other to score some sort of internet victory? I’m as guilty as anyone, but just going back and re-reading this thread I feel a little stricken. If anything this thread is illustrative of just how far away we are from Zion, personal purity and good intentions notwithstanding.

  87. Adam Greenwood says:

    Dude, Brad, yes, of course I am. I reject the idea that opposing gay marriage or thinking that gay relationships should not be promoted means rejecting our brothers and sisters who are gay or lesbian. Simple as that.

    I simply don’t see anything in the gospel that says ‘hate the sin, but don’t oppose public validation of the sin in public policy discussions without adding how much you love the sinner.’ For the most part that formula strikes me as pretty cheap and artificial, like those anti-mormons who preface their stuff with a statement that, of course, they love their Mormon neighbors.

    Of course its possible to take a Westboro Baptist approach in public, which would obviously be hating the sinner, but for the most part the way we love the sinner is how we conduct ourselves towards people we run across in our daily lives. Jesus ate with the Pharisees but to my knowledge he never went out of his way to talk about how much he loved them while condemning their pharisaism. Talk about straining at syntactic gnats.

  88. JNS #65, the difference is that the views of the devout members are always contingent on the church’s counsel. They’re views are so contingent that they’re baffled by people who claim to know the church is wrong. If the church were to counsel them to do four hours of community service weekly, they’d strive to do it, and if the church said it was immoral to have debts of any kind they’d sell their house. If the church tells them to support gay marriage amendments, they’ll support gay marriage amendments.

    That conformity maddens outsiders, of course, and is the basis for many religionists-are-fascists-in-waiting arguments, but it exists in numerous caferteria-rejecting Mormons. I’d estimate that the moral views of a majority of recommend holding Mormons are “church counsel contingent”.

  89. #83 was posted after catching up on the comments – but also after not reading the last dozen or so that appeared when I posted it.

    The internet can be SO fun.

  90. As the comments fly quickly, I would suggest reading #88. Steve nailed my concern perfectly.

  91. Adam, I never argued that opposing SSM in itself means rejecting our gay brothers and sisters. I don’t think that for a second. My argument was about the “tone” of the posts and comments opposing SSM, not the fact of their opposing it. If I’m misreading the tone of the posts. If you intended (or can in good faith impute the intention to others) to convey a spirit of outreach and loving fellowship with your posts and comments, then I humbly withdraw my criticism.

    That said, my point about caveats and qualifiers still stands.

  92. We had a gay member start coming out to church after his long term partner had died of AIDS. He was also starting to exhibit many of the symptoms himself. Our bishop counseled us from the pulpit to befriend and welcome this man back into our ward. I’m glad he did. It was a blessing to all of us to get to know this man before he also died.

    That, plus getting to know gay coworkers and acquaintances, has helped me to be more compassionate, to the extent that if asked to work actively for a defense of marriage act or law again, I will politely decline. One of the most meaningful experiences I have had was to meet with a group of bishops, and hear from a man who had been a singles ward bishop in Seattle for several years. He talked about the gay members of his congregation, their struggles, and how they tried to help them fit in. He showed me how better to try and bridge the gap that Mark is talking about in his post. We obviously have a ways to go, and I don’t want to condemn others who are maybe faithful, with good intentions, but farther back on this curve. I know I still have a lot to learn about the example the Savior set for us.

  93. btw, I fixed your link, mfranti.

  94. Adam Greenwood says:

    Steve E., #88,

    a good reminder. Let me say the following, and I’ll bow out:

    1) We should hate the sin and love the sinner, including when it comes to gay marriage and gays.

    2) It is OK, even praiseworthy, to put up arguments on the internet against giving legal validity to gay marriage, or to condemn giving legal validity to gay marriage.

    3) It is OK, even praiseworthy, to remind the Saints that we are required to love and embrace our brothers and sisters who are gay, and to urge us to think of ways of making that clear even in our internet postings.

    4) It is not OK to argue that the majority of bloggernacle posts against gay marriage have shown a refusal to love and embrace our brothers and sisters who are gay.

    5) It is not OK to make posts that do show such a refusal (i.e., invective against gays as a class, condemnation of the *state* of homosexuality and not just the *action,* etc.)

  95. Matt (90),
    How are you defining “devout” members? People who interpret and prioritize Church counsel the same way you do? Because your argument implicitly suggests that anyone who disagrees with some view (presumably yours) isn’t devout; I think that’s a wrong and a bad definition of devotion, even if it were the definition used by the majority of the Church.

    A better explanation, I think, than debt = sin means sell my house is, if the Church counsels that debt = sin, they fast and pray (1) to determine if that is the Lord’s will and (2) if it is, to determine how they best should act to follow the counsel.

  96. Adam Greenwood says:

    Brad,
    Tone is pretty subjective. Are you saying that if we sound vehement or angry in our posts about gay marriage, that shows we hate gays, or what?

  97. Adam Greenwood says:

    Oh, sorry, forgot I was bowing out. Brad, have your say here and I’ll email you if I have more.

  98. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks Adam.

  99. Mark #81, the stem cell research statement I ridiculed began with words something like, “While the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelves Apostles have not taken a position on stem cell research, . . .”

    We never figured out who in the church PR department decided to make a statement not supported by the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve. Thankfully, the statement had a short life — all evidence of it was removed from LDS.org a little while later.

  100. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for posting it. There is a reason many gay and lesbian members of the church are leaving. It is because we do not have “ears to hear” the second part of what the prophets are asking us to do, which is reach out, rather than put down.

  101. Matt,
    The majority of devout, recommend holding Mormons I know would never ridicule any statement posted in an official church forum, short-lived or not. Welcome to the dark side, mate.

  102. Adam,
    I recognize that tone is subjective. Still, subjectivity can only extend so far. It’s impossible to read Mansfield’s comment as attempting to convey a spirit of outreach or loving fellowship to those he believes to be sinners. (Can a resurrected deity still “roll” in a proverbial “grave”?) This is why I asked what you intended by your posts. Clearly, I have read them as not intending to convey love and fellowship. I have read them as, at a minimum, indifferent to the question. If mine is a misreading, I’ll bow out as well.

  103. Sam #97, feel free to replace “devout” with any other shorthand word for “church counsel contingent” members. My purpose of this tangent was only to show that there are, indeed, members who do not pick and choose which counsel they will follow. They try to follow it all.

  104. For the record, Matt, my second and third paragraphs in #77 were directed more at you than at Adam.

    Thoughts?

  105. As for Elder Oaks’ statement, there is only actually one firm injunction, viz., “that’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration.” All these “counsel-contingent” Mormons would do well to note this, I would think.

  106. They try to follow it all.

    As do I.

  107. Matt,
    I think that saying that your stipulation of “counsel-contingency” is a false flag. As I don’t know any active members who aren’t cafeteria Mormons, I don’t know any active members who feel they can blithely disregard church counsel.

  108. Brad,
    Does every discussion of gay marriage have to have the intent of displaying love and a welcoming spirit to homosexual people? Can’t it just be about gay marriage as long as it doesn’t violate standards of love and respect?

  109. Matt,
    Right. There are certainly people who try to follow all of the Church’s counsel. But at some point it collides (a la Adam and Eve: don’t partake of the fruit vs. multiply and replenish the earth: gramatically, the two aren’t in opposition, but practically they were).

    If you argue that there are members who try to do everything they have been counseled to do, I’d probably agree with you (and I’d like to think most of the time that you, that I, that Steve and Ronan and Adam and everyone else here fits into that category). If you are arguing, however, that there are members who actually do do everything they’ve been counselled, I disagree. And if you’re arguing that we can’t prayerfully evaluate something we’ve been told and receive revelation that it isn’t for us to do at this time, you’re clearly wrong (see, e.g., Nephi with Laban: I’d argue that we won’t receive such revelation, and shouldn’t trust it, but it is scriptural evidence that personal revelation sometimes does trump scriptural counsel).

    And I’ve wasted too much time on this today, so adieu.

  110. Can’t it just be about gay marriage as long as it doesn’t violate standards of love and respect?

    Absolutely. The contention of this post is that much of the naccle posting and commenting in opposition to SSM does not live up to this standard.

  111. (by “such counsel,” of course, I mean we shouldn’t trust revelation that we should kill somebody)

  112. Eric Russell says:

    “I don’t know any active members who feel they can blithely disregard church counsel.”

    How long have you been reading the bloggernacle now, John?

  113. Brad,
    Actually, the contention of this post is that ALL of the posting and commenting in opposition to SSM does not live up to this standard.

    The reason I asked my question is that you asked Adam to point you to a post whose intention was to convey love and fellowship. I don’t think all anti-SSM posts have to intend to convey love and fellowship. They just can’t violate standards of love and respect.

  114. I get it, Tom. And I agree that Mark’s rhetoric here probably outstripped his intent. That said, I think I accurately described the basic sentiment that underlies Mark’s desire to write this.

  115. church counsel contingent

    Matt, this is an incredibly low threshold. The only way to not be “church-counsel contingent” is to completely disregard everything any church leader says. There’s a wide range of stances within the category of people whose positions are influenced by church leaders’ statements. Some people are influenced but hold strong priors on many issues; others are influenced but only hold strong priors on a few issues. Nobody is influenced completely on all issues. In my experience, people who think they follow church counsel strictly on all points in fact tend to deviate quite sharply in at least a couple of areas, although the areas differ from group to group. In the Salt Lake area where I went to high school, many of the people who felt they were closest to following church counsel on all points in fact departed sharply from church counsel on the matter of paying income taxes: these people believed that the church wanted them not to pay.

    More generally, the family group of reasoning you use to get away from the stem-cell statement can apply to most statements from the church. What is binding on all members is the canon that has been accepted by common consent; anything else may potentially be the teachings of our leaders as men rather than as prophets. It’s my view that most faithful Mormons implicitly understand and believe this, which is why (for example) they don’t get too worked up about Joseph Smith’s blunders in finance and his failed political endeavors.

  116. Eric Russell, who do you think blithely feels that all church counsel should be disregarded?

  117. Eric Russell says:

    JNS, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I was just curious about John’s internet history. Maybe I was planning on putting together a little awards ceremony for the folks who have been around the longest, who knows.

  118. Dear Eric,
    Long enough.

  119. Brad, in President Hinckley’s statements Mark referenced, he always speaks in first-person plural. “We love them as sons and daughters of god . . . [but] we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation.” (LDS.org on Homosexuality)

    Hinckley makes no distinction between the church and its membership, and actually says that the people who must love gays and those who must defend God-sanctioned marriage from same-sex marriage are one and the same.

  120. #79:
    I don’t think that opposing SSM shows a rejection’ of people who are gay anymore than it shows a ‘hatred,”…

    So, Adam, if I spent millions of dollars in an effort to convince Congress that LDS temple sealings should not be recognized as legal marriages, would you conclude that I am not “rejecting” or being “hateful” toward LDS members? Or would your consistency disappear when the standard applies to someone else?

  121. Matt,
    Are you saying that the church has not said that it allows people to make up their own mind on this matter?

    All,
    Since I brought it up, the reason that Bro. Mansfield’s comments are potentially hateful is that he isn’t keeping his family safe from sin by his actions, but rather he is keeping them safe from sinners. The possibility that his children might see role-models in cohabiting couples (gay or straight), as opposed to only seeing gross caricatures of such people, seems to be the motivation behind his self-inflicted segregation. That is, of course, unless he genuinely suspects that these neighbors are going to commit sex acts in front of his family is some sort of effort to corrupt them. If that was a real possibility, I would also keep myself and my kids at home. As it is not, I cannot think of a single good reason to do as Bro. Mansfield has done.

  122. I can appreciate the desire not to pick and choose, Matt, but like others here (John, Brad, Ronan, Mark), I think we all do pick and choose. Pretending otherwise is silly.

    I’d rather not name posts and instances, but I’m absolutely *positive* that you’ve engaged in pick-and-choosing, yourself.

  123. Nick, speaking strictly and narrowly about #122, I think it would show a rejection of our teachings, but I don’t think it would show a hatred of us in all cases.

    In a way, it’s like the discussion of the Catholic Church’s statement regarding temple ordinances for the dead. It shows a rejection of Mormon doctrine, but I don’t think it shows a hatred of Mormons.

    Understand, I am NOT saying we should spend millions fighting gay marriage. I just don’t think it shows a hatred of gay people.

  124. Jeremy Jensen says:

    So, Adam, if I spent millions of dollars in an effort to convince Congress that LDS temple sealings should not be recognized as legal marriages, would you conclude that I am not “rejecting” or being “hateful” toward LDS members? Or would your consistency disappear when the standard applies to someone else?

    That’s not a valid comparison, because temple sealings aren’t a fundamental change to what marriage is. If we were still living polygamy, which is a fundamental change to what marriage is, and people spent millions of dollars fighting its legality, then, no, I would not consider that hateful toward Latter-Day Saints.

  125. Mark IV says:

    If I may step in here -

    Jeremy, 125 years ago, that is exactly what happened to us, and our predecessors did interpret the actions of other citizens and the government as persecution and hateful.

    I’d like to make it clear that I do not believe that arguing in opposition to SSM constitutes hateful speech towards gays. My point is that in making those arguments, we ought to be careful to try to project some kindness as well. It still is not clear to me why that is such a controversial proposition.

  126. “the only way to not be ‘church-counsel contingent’ is to completely disregard everything any church leader says.”

    JNS #117,

    That would be someone who is “church counsel indifferent.” Someone with “church counsel contingent” views can’t disregard anything the church counsels because their moral views are determined by the counsel itself. Only people with views NOT contingent on the church can discern whether the counsels are good or bad. People like Randy in comment 36 can critique church positions only because their views are independent of or prior to the church or gospel (i.e., NOT contingent on church counsel). Their independent and prior moral framework allows them to see which moral values are right and which are wrong. When the church’s counsel accords with his what his independent morality tells him, he accepts it (I’m using Randy only as an example here, sorry Randy to use you as a proxy!) Randy says he “buys the church’s counsel” about being accepting of gays, and that’s a good way to define cafeteria Mormonism — “buy” the church’s counsel when they’re selling messages that conform to what you believe already.

    People whose views are contingent on church counsel have no framework from which to critique the church counsel itself; church counsel defines morality. If the church counsels against drinking coffee or getting tattoos, it’s immoral to drink coffee or get tattoos.

    Other people could be consdired “church counsel influenced” — meaning that church counsel is one among various other sources undergirding their moral framework.

    It’s hard to identify legitimate moral priors that can form the foundation of an independent morality in Mormonism; Mormons believe conscience is the universal “light of Christ” — which the prophets have as well; Mormons believe the Holy Ghost discerns morality — but the prophets have that, too; there’s potentially tension between the church and the gospel — but Mormons believe the prophets understand the gospel, too. Etc., etc.

    This discussion may force me to write my post challenging the possibility of “private conscience” within Mormonism. Someone with “church counsel contingent” views is not able to critique the church’s position because the church’s position defines morality.

    John C #123,

    The church usually indicates that church members aren’t necessarily expected to work for specific political proposals, but Presidently Hinckley always talked about opposition to same-sex marriage as though it applied to all members — just like the admonition to love gays — as in the quote I cited above. I didn’t go looking for a supporting quote, it was the one on LDS.org under Homosexuality.

  127. I agree with the points made by Adam in #96, for the most part. I found Mark’s original post to be a bit too binary in arguing arguing against binary-ness, with generalizations that are, imo, unfortunate, and with an unintended tone of castigation.

    In agreeing with Adam, I wish he would have added the following:

    6) It is OK, even praiseworthy, to put up arguments on the internet in favor of giving legal validity to gay marriage, or to condone giving legal validity to gay marriage.

  128. sister blah 2 says:

    Um, can we all sing Kumbaya or something? Gettin’ a little hot in here for me. Let’s all take a moment to bask in the splendidly saccharin cuteness of “Baby falls asleep.”

  129. Matt,

    I’m going to pick on your language. What you’re describing is a person who is “church-counsel determined.” “Contingent” seems to mean that church counsel affects an individual’s probability distribution of beliefs. “Determined” suggests that the person has no beliefs outside of church counsel. Of course, no such person exists, and if such a person did exist, she would be condemned by church counsel. What a catch-22!

  130. Matt,
    If it were possible to understand church counsel in a vacuum, it might be possible to agree to your point re: “church counsel contingency”. But church counsel is presented in an actual context, you get endless discussion of gross vs. net in tithing, endless discussion of polygamy in the celestial kingdom. You are simplifying complexities beyond the realm of where we actually deal with them. Church counsel is almost never addressed solely in a context of “do it/don’t do it” for active LDS. Instead, it is addressed in a sense of “what does following it mean? How do I apply it? Does it apply in this situation?” Again, I do not know how you can argue that the church position “defines morality” when we are often uncertain as to what that position is.

  131. It’s hard to identify legitimate moral priors that can form the foundation of an independent morality in Mormonism; Mormons believe conscience is the universal “light of Christ” — which the prophets have as well; Mormons believe the Holy Ghost discerns morality — but the prophets have that, too; there’s potentially tension between the church and the gospel — but Mormons believe the prophets understand the gospel, too. Etc., etc.

    Oops. I’m pretty sure many or most Mormons don’t believe these things in the sense you suggest, Matt. We believe that prophets have recourse to God, conscience, the gospel, etc., just as we do. But we also believe that prophets are human and make mistakes. Otherwise, our belief system is sunk by every mistake any leader of our church has ever made — and we all know there are a lot. Our belief is that our leaders are given the gift of divine guidance — as we all are in our own lives — but with a different domain. The gift doesn’t differ, just the scope. Otherwise, the Kirtland Safety Society and so forth sink Mormonism.

  132. Kaimi #124,

    Whether or not I pick and choose (and I don’t know what church counsel you think I’ve spoken against), there are people who don’t. When the church counsels about a topic, they believe the moral question has been answered. Not everyone is a cafeteria Mormon.

    All,

    Temple marriages aren’t recognized as legal marriages in many countries. During my mission to Spain, for example, members are typically married by a government representative for their legal marriage, then travel to the Swiss temple for their sealing. I never heard any Spanish members complain about this arrangement, and don’t know if Spain didn’t recognize Swiss temple marriages because the marriage was religious, Mormon, or done in Switzerland.

  133. Randy B. says:

    Just so it’s clear, I am neither (as defined by Matt) either “church counsel indifferent” or “church counsel contingent.” Rather, like most every member I know, I am “church counsel influenced.” And frankly, I see no other viable alternative.

  134. back to the original post.

    Mark B. How does BYU’s honor code welcome homosexuals? How do discplinary councils for those members who engage in homosexual acts jive with your position? How does church financial and logsitcs support for ballot initiatives jive with your interpretation? Just asking cause I see a disconnect with your take on the counsel and the LDS Churchs actions in specific cases. Read the quote from LDS.org in #121 for an answer. In order to welcome people with homosexual tendencies into our congregations if we follow the counsel they need to be celibate and quiet.

    I really think your taking acceptance of homosexuality in the LDS Church way out of context both current and historical and in essence twisting what Pres H really said.

  135. Matt, generally Europe does not recognize religious ceremonies as a substitute for civil marriage.

  136. Mark IV says:

    Matt,

    I am interesting in pursuing this question, and I hope that the qestions I ask do not appear to you as antagonistic. They’re not, but I want to get to specifics, so it is clear what we are talking about.

    I simply don’t see how we can avoid considering counsel and calibrating our individual responses to it. When Spencer W. Kimball was president of the church, members of my extended family knew two different apostles. They lived in high rise apartment buildings, and they made no effort whatsoever to grow gardens, as SWK repeatedly counselled. By your reasoning, don’t we have to regard them with suspicion?

    A more current example might be the advice to place the family computer in a public place in the home. An 80 year old widow will approach this counsel differently than a family full of teen-age boys, don’t you think? I don’t see how we can escape the obligation to carefully consider how counsel applies to us individually and as families.

  137. …generally Europe does not recognize religious ceremonies as a substitute for civil marriage.

    Which is really the direction we need to head, to solve this for our country.

  138. tesseract says:

    Thanks Mark for the post. I struggle to find a way to straddle the chasm of following opposing message, it feels like it is getting harder. I think when you really know someone who is gay and love them, your attitude changes and you sense a certain hostility and intolerance in others when they are speaking out against gay marriage and homosexuality. I live in CA, and I have a feeling things are going to get crazy again here with church and SSM politics. I need to figure out what I am going to say, because if I don’t say anything when I hear people say hostile things in Church (not everyone comes off hostile, but some certainly do), I come home feeling horrible about myself for not defending my gay brothers and sisters. For the most part, when people say something at church that is hostile, I think they really don’t know better. I feel like I need to take that chance to maybe educate them in a way or at least let them know that I perceive their words as hostile and not conducive to the spirit or the teachings of Christ. I understand members supporting the Church’s official stance, but I wish the politics didn’t come up so much while at church and I wish there was some leeway for people like me who really struggle to make sense of it all. I just am not sure what to say when something confrontational is said. I love the Church and don’t want to be kicked out or anything when I express my confusion, but more importantly, I want to be true to myself and Heavenly Father and the teachings of Christ. The getting kicked out is a real fear – my mom was not allowed to be re-baptized because in her interview when asked if she would vote or support the Knight initiative she said no.

  139. Matt writes,

    Whether or not I pick and choose (and I don’t know what church counsel you think I’ve spoken against), there are people who don’t. When the church counsels about a topic, they believe the moral question has been answered. Not everyone is a cafeteria Mormon.

    Okay, Matt, I’ll say it outright: Your own preferred cafeteria is located just inside the Marriott hotel.

    Now, let he who has never eaten at the cafeteria himself (i.e., speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed by publicly saying that a general authority is a pornographer) be the first to cast stones at the cafeteria.

  140. Mark IV says:

    bbell,

    Elder Oaks himself has said that he wished members were more open and loving towards lesbians and gays. What is so hard to understand about that? I cannot believe that that is even controversial.

    I pointed out that church leaders usually balance their opposition to homosexual behavior with caveats about loving and accepting gay people. Those statements ar either meaningless drivel, or they are not. My question is: Can we not do that in our bloggernacle conversations as well?

  141. Mark Brown says:

    bbell,

    How does BYU’s honor code welcome homosexuals? How do discplinary councils for those members who engage in homosexual acts jive with your position? How does church financial and logsitcs support for ballot initiatives jive with your interpretation?

    BYU’s position on gay people has changed. Whereas we used to intimidate and expel them and subject them to brutal reparative therapy, we now allow celibate lesbian and gays to organize a club on campus. There is absolutely no question that BYU is more welcoming of gay people than it was even 20 years ago. I see that as progress. Do you?

    Disciplinary councils are pretty much the same for gay people as they are for anybody else who violates the law of chastity.

    As far as support for ballot initiatives goes, the church has changed tactics lately. When the issue came up two years ago where I lived, our SP read a letter over the pulpit encourageing members to participate in the political process and support the actions they believe will strengthen the family. Somebody from the congregation asked him what that meant, and wanted clarification as to what the church wanted us to do. The SP simply read the relevant paragraph from the letter and invited us to follow our conscience. Contrast the tone of the most recent public statement with the statements from 15 years ago, and you’ll see what I mean.

  142. Mark,

    I am simply asking if you can jive the acceptance and loving language with the actual policies and practices of LDS universities, HC dis councils etc.

  143. Re 88:

    My “beef with this conversation” is that they have have to deal with abstract generalities, since I don’t think anyone but Mark has any idea what it is exactly he found hateful about the comments.

    The original post reminds me of a boss I had once who got all of the employees in the room once and said, “I don’t want to have to talk about this, so I’m not going to mention what happened, but you all know what happened, and the people responsible know who they are, so I think it goes without saying that those people need to stop doing the thing that they’re doing.”

    In conversations with my co-employees later, I found out that not one of us had any idea what he was talking about.

  144. Mark Brown says:

    jimbob,

    I agree with you. I am asking questions that can only be answered subjectively. So I ask you, in your subjective opinion:

    Does it sound like these people are loving and honoring homosexual people? Is there even a remote possibility that any of these comments can be seen as welcoming, and as an extension of the hand of fellowship?

  145. Mark Brown says:

    bbell,

    I can’t jive, but I can boogie. Is that good enough?

  146. Bbell writes,

    I am simply asking if you can jive the acceptance and loving language with the actual policies and practices of LDS universities, HC dis councils etc.

    Hmmm.

    If the policies and practices of LDS universities are not in line with direct prophetic counsel about loving, honoring, and welcoming gays . . . which ought to change?

  147. Mark,
    So are you saying that any time we talk about gay marriage we should affirmatively state that we love and accept gay people? It’s not OK to just avoid disrespect and hatred?

    Personally, I don’t think we need to state the caveats all the time. I think they’re probably necessary and useful in Church leaders’ statements, but I think we can just give each other the benefit of the doubt as we’re talking about the gay marriage issue. I don’t see any reason to complain about conversations or comments that are respectful but don’t affirmatively convey love and acceptance. Always saying how much we respect and welcome gays as we talk about reasons we think gay marriage shouldn’t be legal would feel patronizing and a bit like protesting too much.

  148. bbell,
    W/r/t BYU, Mark just did that. At BYU, under a relatively recent change to the Honor Code, being gay is no longer violative of the Honor Code. Having homosexual sex is, but having heterosexual sex with someone to whom you are not married is as well. With regard to disciplinary councils, I think he did (but personally have no experience with them).

  149. #140 – tesseract, I simply would say quietly and gently that the prophets have begged us to be kind and loving to those whose actions we don’t accept – that we should be very careful not to say bad things about people even we can’t sanction their actions. If it is easier, I would print the comments from Elder Oaks and Pres. Hinckley (and perhaps a few from Elder Wirthlin’s talk about opening our arms and chapels to those who feel they don’t fit in) – and have them handy, if necessary. I would be careful about not getting confrontational or seeing offense where none exists, but I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to share the quotes in egregious situations.

    Also, “my mom was not allowed to be re-baptized because in her interview when asked if she would vote or support the Knight initiative she said no” should never have happened. That question never should have been asked in a baptismal interview. I only have one side in your comment, but IF it really was the only reason – IF she was worthy in every other way, it also was an abuse of authority. “Unfortunately, it happens sometimes” isn’t strong enough, but it’s all I can say.

  150. Mark Brown says:

    Tom,

    I agree, sort of. But I think conversations among Mormons who have been placed under obligation by their leaders to show fellowship to gay people should be qualitatively different than conversations among very good people who are not under those same obligations.

    Again, I’ll repeat that DHO has expressed regret that Mormons are good at expressing disapproval of gay behavior, but not so good at fellowshipping gay people. In which area do you think we need the most practice?

  151. #150 was not addressed to me, but my standard is very simple:

    I want to be judged only on what I actually say. I don’t want to be judged on what someone thinks I meant by what I didn’t say. Therefore, I try very hard to parse what others actually say and not condemn them for not saying what I would have liked them to say.

    That is an answer to #150; it is NOT intended as a comment on the original post or any other comment. (Given the content of this comment, it’s a bit ironic that I felt I needed to add that last disclaimer.)

  152. So I ask you, in your subjective opinion: Does it sound like these people are loving and honoring homosexual people? Is there even a remote possibility that any of these comments can be seen as welcoming, and as an extension of the hand of fellowship?

    I can’t answer that Mark, because I don’t know who “these people” are or who “these comments” are. You’ve not provided that information in your post. That’s part of my “beef.”

  153. Mark,
    So it’s not OK, in your view, for Church members to just talk about gay marriage respectfully without affirmatively conveying love and fellowship?

    To answer to your question in #153, I agree with Elder Oaks that we do better at condemning homosexual behavior than at fellowshipping gays. But I’m not sure that riddling all of our conversations with caveats is going to help. I think that speaking respectfully is enough in some contexts.

  154. JNS #131, “contingent” means “dependent on”. I think “church counsel contingent” is a workable description of moral views that are dependent on the church’s counsel.

    John C. #132, the church counsels against legalizing same-sex marriage, so CCCs have an answer there. If the church said tithing should be paid on gross or net, CCCs would believe they learned the right answer.

    JNS #133, that Mormon prophets are fallibile (though that’s less doctrinally clear when they’re acting in concert over moral matters) doesn’t help Mormons find useful independent moral guides.

  155. Mark Brown says:

    Tom,

    True enough. However, I disagree with you if you are saying that most of the recent conversations have been respectful.

  156. tesseract says:

    #152

    Ray, thanks so much for your thoughts and suggestion. I really value your opinion – you really emit such a good, sweet spirit in all your comments.

    Yeah, my visiting teacher the other day shared a message with me at church about the importance of marriage and it somehow turned into a rant on SSM and liberals ruining the country, and I found myself really flabbergasted as how to respond. Keep in mind, this same lady when visiting me the month prior told me she would let me go so I could get back to work. When I told her I was off work for the rest of day (it was like 6pm), she responded “I meant back to work.. in the kitchen, cooking for your husband.” :) She says some pretty funny things, but she really is a good person. And she is from New Zealand, my favorite place in the world, so she can’t be that bad.

    I know that the case with my mom is an odd one and under different leaders or different timing would probably have gone another way. I think the reasoning was that if she really wanted to be baptized and had repented she should have said she would support the initiative (I believe it was fairly commonly known she did not agree with the initiative, as she had shared a story about her gay, mormon friend who had committed suicide a week or so prior).

  157. Mark,
    I haven’t read or participated in all of the recent conversations. I am comfortable with my conduct in my own little post at Nine Moons last week and I wouldn’t characterize the conversation as a whole as disrespectful or hateful.

  158. Mark #138,

    The issue would be when something becomes “church counsel” as opposed to counsel from one or some of the brethren. Some people make a better faith effort to answer that question than do others.

    Kaimi #141,

    J. R. Marriott is not a General Authority, he’s an Area Authority. When Hinckley announced the new position of Area Authority he specifically said they were not General Authorities. So Marriott doesn’t qualify as Lord’s annointed, even assuming that all GAs do, an assumption I don’t accept. (And that’s assuming it’s evil to call someone who admits selling pornography to make more money a pornographer. Or even a pimp. :)

    More importantly, you’re charging me with a *sin*, but the issue of cafeteria religion concerns being selective in which church counsels we accept, not in our ability to live them fully. I agree Mormons shouldn’t speak evil of the Lord’s annointed, for example, even if you think I’ve not lived it fully.

  159. There is absolutely no question that BYU is more welcoming of gay people than it was 20 years ago. I see that as progress.

    But progress towards what, exactly?

    Part of the suspicion a lot of conservative Mormons (meaning, me, of course!) is that no one will tell us where this “progress” will take us other than to some utopian dreamworld full of “wecome” and “honor” and “love”.

    Well, isn’t it the antithesis of “love” to deny a temple sealing to a gay couple? Isn’t it “unwelcoming” to excommunicate a gay person (or any person) for having sex outside of marriage? Doesn’t it “dishonor” gays if we to continue to talk of the divine ideal as an exalted man and an exalted woman, without tweaking our theology to allow a place for exalted gay couples?

    “Welcome” and “honor” and “love” are important parts of the gospel in general, and the way we treat gays in particular. But to try to cast the entire gospel (or the entire gay marriage discussion) in those terms, exclusive of any others, smacks of indulgence in gospel hobbies. (And we all know where those lead!) ;)

  160. Matt (160):

    Hmm. I personally always interpreted “speaking evil of the Lord’s annointed” as encompassing anyone who had received the annointings given in the initiatory. (I don’t always live it that way, but I interpret it that way!)

  161. Matt,

    I suspect there’s room for disagreement on details, but I’ll avoid perpetuating that threadjack (which I kinda started, I know).

    Suffice to say, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Mark to point out portions of prophetic counsel that we may not be following as well as we could.

  162. Matt #156, defining “moral” becomes another loophole. The problem is that there are so many loopholes that people who think they are following the church on all particulars are always only following their personal reconstruction of what the church says. Attributing that reconstruction to the church affords a false sense of security. None of us knows God’s will in all particulars.

    “Contingent” does indeed mean “dependent on.” Any view which is influenced by a particular message is thus dependent on that message and contingent with respect to that message. Your position requires not just contingency but absolute dependence. Which is, incidentally, also the wrinkle that makes it a fiction.

  163. Matt,
    What is the church doctrine on civil unions?

  164. Also,
    If you bishop is just as called to his position as the Prophet, then I don’t think you can get around the “not evil speaking of the Lord’s Anointed” argument by saying Elder Marriott was not high enough up. However, you are providing ample evidence of your own cafeteria-ship.

  165. I’m glad that our church leaders today have moderated their tone towards many other groups, that we are to emphasize love and friendship more than what makes us different or distinct. It is a good reminder that we are all God’s children, and that every single human being born on this planet chose to come here in the pre-existence. Every single person here chose to follow God.

    Human beings are inherently good people at heart.We all get thrust into situations that are out of our control, and that includes gays, who didn’t choose to be gay.

  166. Eric Russell says:

    Mark Brown/Mark IV,

    You’re weirding me out with these handle changes. I know there’s another Mark Brown out there. I generally assume “Mark Brown” to be the other Mark Brown and “Mark IV” to be the BCC blogger. Is that right?

  167. I never suggested the post was unreasonable — only that Mark was being curiously selective. That raised the question whether he (or the others who commented favorably) were genuinely worried about bloggernaclers’ alleged failure to heed “prophetic counsel” or instead their failure to heed “the stuff I agree with that also happens to be prophetic counsel.”

    (And if the quote from John Mansfield is typical of bloggernaclers’ alleged failures, the post’s whole premise is misplaced.)

  168. Regarding the notion that some people accept “all of the church’s counsel” and are not cafeteria Mormons:

    I don’t think so. One big obstacle is determining what exactly represents official “counsel” from “the church.” But even if we accept fairly common orthodox understandings of “counsel,” it’s still not really possible. Let me add one example to what has already been given. Consider the following counsel that has been given by top church leaders speaking authoratatively in public settings in my lifetime:

    -Stay out of debt
    -Don’t get divorced
    -Don’t delay marriage
    -Don’t delay having children
    -Don’t unnecessarily limit family size (somewhat deemphasized in more recent years)
    -Get as much education as possible (men and women)
    -Don’t work on Sundays
    -Parents should provide for your children well
    -Mothers should not work outside the home

    I believe that virtually every member will have to compromise on at least one of the above ideals in order to attain some of the other above ideals.

    Of course, various leaders have given exceptions to these items. Emphasis has changed over time, and has varied from leader to leader. But that just helps prove my point. There has been counsel given from a wide variety of leaders to a wide variety of people in a wide variety of situations. It is up to each of us to prayerfully implement what we need right now.

  169. #158 – Thank you.

    “Unfortunately” even our leaders take the easy way out sometimes, since they too are human – and asking about something outside the approved interview questions that has nothing to do with worthiness is the easy way out, since it allows the interviewer a justification for a decision that is not in harmony with the Gospel and the Church’s own published standard for the ordinance. That is true of me and probably you and lots of the comments on this particular thread, which ironically highlights Mark’s original point about love and acceptance and tolerance.

    Everything really does come full circle if it goes on long enough.

  170. And experience has shown that there is enough material out there that members are able to validate widely diverse beliefs and decisions, all of which are purportedly in harmony with church counsel.

  171. I’m going to dump one of my favorite block quotes on the kind of dependence on church leaders that Matt Evans discusses. This is from Brigham Young in a Feb. 20, 1853, sermon at the Salt Lake Tabernacle (reported in the Journal of Discourses, vol.1, pgs. 312-13):

    Salvation is an individual operation. I am the only person that can possibly save myself. When salvation is sent to me, I can reject or receive it. In receiving it, I yield implicit obedience and submission to its great Author throughout my life, and to those whom He shall appoint to instruct me; in rejecting it, I follow the dictates of my own will in preference to the will of my Creator. There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. “I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own,” say they, “to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem.”

    I wish to notice this. We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moons and another glory of the stars. In the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, these glories are called telestial, terrestrial, and celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father’s house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the, celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them, They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer. Do you know what is right and just, as well as I do? In some things you do, and in some things you may not. know as well; but I will explain what I mean, in the following words—I will do all the good I can, and all I know how to do, and I will shun every evil that I know to be an evil. You can all do that much. I will. apply my heart to wisdom, and ask the Lord to impart it to me; and if I know but little, I will improve upon it, that to-morrow. I may have more, and thus grow from day to day, in the knowledge of the truth, as Jesus Christ grew in stature and knowledge from a babe to manhood; and if I am not now capable of judging for myself, perhaps I shall be in another year. We are organized to progress in the scale of intelligence, and the least Saint by adhering strictly to the order of God, may attain to a full and complete salvation through the grace of God, by his own faithfulness.

  172. Brad, in President Hinckley’s statements Mark referenced, he always speaks in first-person plural. “We love them as sons and daughters of god . . . [but] we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation.”

    That’s not the statements I’m talking about. I’m talking about statements made recently by the church specifically and explicitly stating that individual church members may take a different policy position than the Church and not have their good standing or temple worthiness jeopardized by that. If you think President Hinckley’s pronominal usage in off the cuff comments overrides said statements, that’s quite another question, but don’t pretend they don’t exist.

  173. Randy B. says:

    Amen, JNS.

  174. Single Sister says:

    When one of my gay colleagues at work a few years ago came to me to tell me his partner had AIDS, I hugged him and told him I was sorry. We had a number of discussions over the following months about sin and heaven and God and love. When his partner died, he called me to specifically invite me. Of course, I went, and it was lovely and I told him how sorry I was for his loss and hugged his partner’s mother and his brother.

    Now, over the course of the years this man and I also had many discussions about living the gay lifestyle, gay marriage and so on. He understands where I am coming from, and I understand where he was coming from. We don’t agree with the other, but we accept each other’s point of view and we continue to respect one another. I work with a number of gay people. I like most of them (one of them is a twit, but that has nothing to do with being gay, but with being human) and they all know where I stand. They have never called me homophobic or anti-gay and I have never called them sinners or anything else.

    And yes, I would have all of them in my home and I have been in their homes.

    Am I supporting the sin? No. Am I loving the sinner? Yes. (Well, with the possible exception of the twit). ;)

  175. We did support the constitutional amendment with respect to marriage being between a husband and a wife, and some of the people chose to not take that same position, but they’re good faithful members of the church, and they have responsibilities to their constituents as well as to their conscience and to what they believe, and they’re in full faith and fellowship with the church.
    –Elder Quentin L. Cook

    Church leaders had asked members to write to their senators with their personal views regarding the federal amendment opposing same gender marriage, and did not request support or opposition to the amendment.
    –”Care for the Flock,” LDS Church press release, 24 February 2008

  176. Brad -

    This is something that’s been bugging me about that press release. (Didn’t it come up in the wake of the Peter Danzig brouhaha?) Did anyone really think that the Church meant for its members to contact their senators to oppose the amendment?

    It seems a little–dare I say it?–disingenuous.

  177. Let me clarify–the press release itself seems disingenuous, not your reference thereto.

  178. JNS,

    Thanks for the quote. Essentially what I was trying to say here. At some point we need to be able to stand on our own spiritual and revelatory feet and trust what the spirit gives us.

  179. JimD,
    I agree — it does feel a bit have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too-ish, but that’s exactly what I did. I wrote both my senators a letter detailing why I hoped they would oppose the amendment and why I felt that the amendment would not strengthen the family as the central unit of society.

  180. #178 – only if it is read that way. I parse; therefore, I disagree.

  181. 177-178-etc. Except that opposing the amendment need not be taken as a failure to oppose SSM. I wrote to my senators opposing the amendment because I don’t like mucking around with the Constitution except in the most basic how-to’s of government. I still oppose SSM, and am waiting for someone to have the brilliant idea that will preserve marriage to a man and a woman without making the Constitution subject to heat-of-the-moment social passions.

  182. I agree, Ardis.

  183. Brad,

    The church has given members wide latitude when it comes to supporting specific political or legal proposals. (And I don’t know why you’d call President Hinckley’s talks in General Conference “off the cuff” — except to diminish it’s significance because you disagree with it).

    JNS,

    There are people who strive to follow all church counsel even though they may not know all of the church counsel, as you indicate. They genuinely want to know what the brethren think (your Brigham Young quote is off-topic — he’s obviously not celebrating the independent thinking of those who reject the unified counsel of the brethren) and, were you able to find church counsel they weren’t heeding, they would be genuinely interested in understanding it because they’re committed to following church counsel.

    CE,

    I know lots of members who strive to follow the church counsel you listed, and lots more that’s not there. There are probably lots in your ward, too.

    off the mark — you think he’d celebrate people rejecting the counsel of the brethren
    Would it be less controversial if we stipulated it as a negative — that many Mormons do not *knowingly* reject church counsel?

  184. Tom,
    I disagree with the idea that it’s okay to argue against SSM without expressing love for our gay brothers and sisters.
    Put yourself in the shoes of a gay Mormon man. The religion you’ve grown up in, which defines your outlook on the world, rejects another part of you, which is just as if not more powerful and compelling. You have to either: con some faithful woman into marrying you despite the obvious lack of desire for a crucial part of that marriage, or, you have to live a life of celibacy without even the hope of ever consummating that desire.
    Despite my cafeteria beliefs on this issue (thanks for the lingo, Matt the Threadjacking Pimp) I’m not going to take this further. The church has taken a stand on SSM, and that is it. But, don’t you think it would be prudent to be very clear that we don’t hate homosexuals?

  185. Matt,

    Um, assuming that indeed “there are people who strive to follow all church counsel” — so what? Do we know any of these hypothetical people? Where exactly does, “there are people who strive to follow counsel” get you, anyway?

  186. Steve Evans says:

    “Put yourself in the shoes of a gay Mormon man.”

    Jimmy Choos?

  187. Steve Evans says:

    Kaimi, to be fair I think that most members are striving to follow all Church counsel. It’s not that odd a standard. There aren’t a lot of members who actually do so, of course, and because so much is left to our judgment in terms of execution, one man’s striving mormon is another man’s cafeteria mormon.

  188. Steve,
    Well done! I knew you didn’t just loaf around in bunny slippers, eating chocolate pancakes and drinking Diet Coke all day.

  189. Matt Evans (#185)–

    Of course there are lots of members who strive to follow the counsels I listed. But I believe that most members will have to choose between one or more of those admirable ideals at some point in their life.

    And of course there’s lots more counsel than what I just listed. Lots and lots and lots and lots more . . . more than anyone could hope to keep track of. So you have to focus on what’s most relevant to you in your time and circumstance. Like eating at a cafeteria.

    And see my follow up comment in #172. Plenty of faithful members have validated all sorts of diverse ideas using church counsel. That is possible because there has been diverse counsel given by various leaders under many different circumstances since the church’s founding.

  190. Sometimes you hear grumblings that any white person who criticizes any minority person must be a racist, which is patently ridiculous. Similarly, I wonder if some readers are taking comments (such as mine) at T&S yesterday as automatically homophobic.

    This makes discourse difficult, when those who may sit on the other side of the fence on an issue might be inclined because of their personal vested interest in the issue to demonize those who voice dissent (i.e., “You affirm opposition to gay marriage too strongly–you’re a hatemonger!”). I carefully worded my comments yesterday (some of which are quoted above, disparagingly) to be sure they were free of any accidental whiff of disrespect. Alas, no amount of such editing will be enough when emotions run high.

    For what it’s worth, let me clarify that I do not “hate” gay people, nor (I’m sure) does anybody else here. Marks’s excellent post here phrases our stance very well, especially, “That is a tightrope than many of us find difficult to walk.” But then the bit about “avoiding the esay way out.” Friends, the easy way out is to downplay the seriousness of gay marriage as something that we need to oppose. As I said yesterday (and as at least one commenter has noted here today) we oppose gay sex just the same as we oppose unmarried straight sex. Does anybody assume that we must secretly “hate” everyone who has sex outside of marriage?

    That’s the politicization of the issue. The hurt feelings when this is discussed are understandable–we’re talking about things that are very private and natural to people. But the self-righteous outrage often seems calculated to cow opponents of gay marriage into shamed silence.

    How many comments here praise various Church statements and policies as “progress?” If it’s progress towards agreeing to disagree in good will and honestly hearing each other out, and even sincerely respecting and liking each other as people at the end of the day when our worldviews still conflict, then great. But if that means progress towards accepting gay relationships as positive, then you’re asking us to abandon what God has said.

    If the Lord ever tells the prophet to condone same sex marriage, I’d perform the first such sealings myself. But until then, don’t ask anybody to water down their defense of the traditional family unit. And please don’t try to guilt trip anybody into compromising. And, perhaps most important of all, please do not assume that those who reject your lifestyle choices must also be rejecting in any degree that wonderful, divine humanity we all share.

  191. Eric Russell says:

    Are there any disagreements of substance here or just disagreements on the terminology of ‘Cafeteria Mormon’? I would think that everyone agrees that there is a scale of strictness or literalness to which one believes on the statements of the church and that different people in the church are on different places on that scale.

  192. It’s been a long time since I’ve commented on this topic–I usually stay away from such discussions nowadays. But I have to chime in and say that one of the reasons that I’ve grown tired of these debates is that I don’t like being instantly branded as uncharitable because I believe homosexual behavior to be wrong. I’m a theater guy. I’ve been around gays for a long, long time–but I’m going to side with the brethren on this one. That is, I’m going to continue to associate with gays and love them like anyone else–AND I’m going to continue to believe that homosexual behavior is wrong.

  193. Jack,
    That’s not in conflict with what (almost) anybody has said here, provided you love them like anyone else. The argument that has been raised is that, when addressing homosexuality, we often forget that aspect of things: to love our gay neighbors like we love our straight neighbors.

  194. Eric Russell says:

    Like a Mormon version of the Seinfeldism, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

  195. Here is where I think we stand on the “cafeteria” issue.

    Matt seems to be arguing that there are some active Mormons out there who believe that they can pick and choose commandments based on their own preferences for them. He believes that on the other end of the spectrum there are those who strive to comport themselves in a manner indicated by all received genuine revelation. He further seems to imply that those who believe they can pick and choose their beliefs out of convenience in the manner just described are encouraged to comment here by BCC, although I don’t really understand why he believes that to be the case. You’d have to ask him, assuming I have correctly read his comments.

    I, and possibly others, have been arguing that everyone has to pick and choose among the commandments as part of the process of trying to keep all the commandments. I don’t see the one activity as being mutually exclusive to the other, nor do I believe that those two approaches (having to pick and choose vs. trying to keep all the commandments) are extremities on a spectrum. As Eric noted, we seem to be arguing about terminology here, not substance.

    That said, I’ve never heard the term “Cafeteria Mormon” used in a non-pejorative sense (just as I have never heard the term “Iron-rodder” applied to another in any charitable sense). In both cases, these terms appear to be used primarily to distinguish the speaker from some sort of activity that, when it comes down to it, is not a bad activity.

    I would also like to take this time to apologize for the excesses of my rhetoric today. In particular, I was an idiot for suggesting Matt needed psychiatric help over what was essentially a terminological dispute.

  196. CE,

    Everyone fails to perfectly LIVE the church counsel they know; cafeteria Mormons reject or oppose some church counsel outright.

    There are many Mormons (probably most when we include inactives) who pick and choose which counsel is legitimate. There are lots of Mormons who ignore the church’s counsel on church attendance, tithing, consumer debt, alcohol, or same-sex marriage, to mention a few.

    There are other members who seek out church counsel in the scriptures and church publications specifically because they strive to follow church counsel, and they actually WANT their views to conform with the gospel.

    The difference between fully-invested members and cafeteria members isn’t whether they know every form of church counsel (presumably few do), but their desire to know and follow church counsel.

    We got on this tangent because several people who reject or oppose the church’s counsel on same-sex marriage attempted to argue that every member similarly rejects or opposes one church counsel or another. I’ve been arguing that this is not true, as I know and have known many, many members who accept and strive to follow all church counsel.

  197. Matt,
    Does the distinction I am making between what you seem to be arguing for and what I am trying to say make sense?

  198. Sam B.,

    I haven’t read all the comments–mine was a response to the initial post. Mark’s attitude on this seems to be the same thing I’ve seen so many times when this subject comes up: point the finger at the other guy and tell him how unChrist-like he’s being for not saying what he has to say in a more sensitive (read: accepting) way.

  199. Jack,
    Since when is it bad to be accepting or to ask others to be so?

  200. Matt Evans #185: give me a break. Because you disagree with the quote, it’s therefore off topic? Furthermore, because you disagree with it, it doesn’t say what it says? Brigham Young clearly says in the offered quote that we should live up to our best personal light — and not rely for that light on other individuals, even high church leaders. If we do rely in the way that you describe and praise, we will never be exalted. This may come as hard doctrine to you. So be it.

  201. John C.,

    It’s bad when we cross the line from being accepting of other’s weaknesses to being accepting of sinful behavior.

  202. Steve Evans says:

    Jack, it’s not hard to be nice about things. It’s not tricky or complicated to be tactful. It’s not a sign of moral weakness to be kind and gentle with people. Talk about crossing lines and your theater background as you will, but your fatigue with the situation is showing — primarily in the form of not liking it when others preach tolerance.

  203. JNS in #202,

    If you take it that way then doesn’t Brigham Young’s statement contradict itself? You have to rely on Brigham Young’s light to believe the statement, but you’re stating that the statement says we shouldn’t rely on the light of others, even high church leaders. So we shouldn’t rely on Brigham Young’s statement. So the whole point is moot.

  204. John C.,

    Our comments are similar, but we’re making different claims. You seem to be suggesting that the commandments are inherently contradictory, and members have to choose which to follow. I was making a different point — that some people reject church counsel about particular topics categorically.

    JNS,

    It’s a great quote by Brigham Young. It’s inapposite to our conversation because Young doesn’t identify any independent moral source that can critique the church. We presumably agree that Brigham Young didn’t generally applaud the “independence of mind” of those who left the church to write for the anti-Mormon press, for example, which he would have done had he believed there exists a moral authority outside the gospel by which it can be judged.

    Unless we have evidence that Brigham Young applauded an ex-member for their personal “progress in intelligence” which led them to see beyond the brethren and to leave the church, then we can be confident he wasn’t saying there exists a source of moral authority superior to the gospel, or that sometimes contradicts church counsel.

    I think his quote is just an expansion of D&C 58:26-28; we shouldn’t be commanded in all things, and be anxiously engaged in good causes of our own free will. What constitutes a “good cause”, however, is still subject to definition by the gospel. The gospel defines the perimeter. This is why there is no moral authority independent of Mormonism by which church counsel can be judged.

  205. Steve Evans says:

    “some people reject church counsel about particular topics categorically”

    Matt, why would this be so? Do you think it’s possible that some people don’t view their acts as rejecting church counsel? Do some people see things as “church counsel,” while others deem the same things as some sort of irrelevant dicta? Or is this just rationalizing?

  206. Matt,
    I don’t know people who are active, engaged members of the church who reject counsel categorically, whether regarding particular counsel or not. I haven’t met such in any of the online forums in which I have participated. I don’t understand the source of your claim to having met such. I can’t and won’t deny you your experience, but it is entirely absent from mine.

  207. Matt,
    That was simply a mistake on my part. For some reason I thought the quote from President Hinckley was from an interview. Regardless, we’re still assessing the relative binding weight between his use of the pronoun “we” and the statements of unambiguous support from the brethren for me taking a political position different from the Church’s. Did the Church mean to say that Church members have permission to disregard the directives of the brethren without having their good standing affected, or that taking a political position different from the Church’s on a given subject does not constitute disobedience to God’s prophets? (Note that by arguing for the latter, I’m also arguing that you’d be justified in taking issue with the Church’s SSR statement even if it still was up on the site.)

  208. John,

    I think I’m the one to blame. I haven’t told you guys this, but actually, I’m the one Matt’s referring to when he talks about people who reject church counsel categorically. That’s been my approach for several months now. I started out just rejecting church counsel sporadically for a while, but then I thought, hell with it, why not go all the way. Categorical rejection it is.

    Categorical rejection is a lot harder than it sounds, you know. For instance, I can’t really tell people that I reject church counsel categorically, because I’m not allowed to be honest (the church says to be honest, which I must reject), so I actually have to tell people that I _don’t_ reject church counsel, categorically. But that creates its own problems — if I don’t tell people, then I can’t convince them to join me in rejecting church counsel
    categorically. It’s a real logical puzzle, that one.

    Or, take the statements Mark points out. Since I’m a categorical rejector, I’m supposed to campaign for gay marriage, but _also_ supposed to hate gays and be unwelcoming towards them. Not easy. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    As a true categorical rejector, I’m supposed to rob, deceive, curse, hate, and kill everybody I know — all the while, _also_ leading them astray. This creates some interesting dilemmas, like: If I’m stealing from someone, how am I supposed to convince them to worship idols with me? True categorical rejection can be a really tough balancing act to pull it all off, let me tell you.

    But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. I can point to myself as someone who actually does reject church counsel categorically, and I can be proud of a job well done. (See? Pride. Categorical rejection of anti-pride talks.)

    Now, I’m sorry to say, I have to kill you. But first, would you like to go worship idols with me?

  209. Kaimi,
    I would, but what is the profit in it for me…wait, what’s that I hear…is it a CHUPACABRA?

  210. The church has taken a stand on SSM, and that is it. But, don’t you think it would be prudent to be very clear that we don’t hate homosexuals?

    Would anyone believe us if we tried?

  211. JimD,
    Good point.

  212. Can I modestly suggest that Matt (who is my favorite person ever because of his Marriott post) is here to draw us away from a discussion of charity and love with his diabolically ridiculous cafeteria Church counsel contingent crapfest? No Kaimi, I am not calling him a satanic liar. I believe that the church has officially counseled him to tempt us.

  213. Matt Evans (#198):

    So let’s bring this back around to the original topic at hand. President Hinckley and other leaders have said that despite our opposition to gay marriage, we should love, honor, seek out, befriend, welcome into the church, and reach out a hand of fellowship to gays and lesbians.

    Elder Oaks suggested that a member with a gay son should consider not introducing the son and partner to friends, or deal with their relationship in public, and possibly not even welcome them both into their own home.

    I find these two items of counsel to be incompatible. I believe this is one issue where a member would have to choose which approach to take. And I think that two reasonable, well-intentioned members could each prayerfully reach different conclusions. And each would essentially be choosing the path suggested by one leader, and not the path suggested by another.

    You might legitimately that the aforementioned items of counsel are compatible: that a parent can love and honor and welcome and reach out to a gay son without dealing with him and his partner in public or in their home. Perhaps that would highlight our different assumptions about what represents inspired guidance from the Lord.

    So maybe in the end, it’s more fair to say that most faithful members accept all the words of God, but they have different understandings about what constitutes the word of God, and how precisely it is communicated to us.

  214. Mark IV says:

    From Comment # 200:

    Mark’s attitude on this seems to be the same thing I’ve seen so many times when this subject comes up: point the finger at the other guy and tell him how unChrist-like he’s being

    To all: If you feel I have misrepresented your position, or maligned you unfairly, please point out to me the offending words and I will gladly consider an apology.

    For the record, in the original post, I described people as both good and smart. It beats me how somebody can choose to take offense after being described in that manner, but obviously it is possible. Which part of “good and smart” do you want me to retract?

  215. Mark IV says:

    Matt,

    Based on the discussion so far, I can identify three different sources of church counsel. First, that which is accepted by the church through the principle of common consent. Second, the kind that Elder Eyring had in mind when he spoke about hearing the same counsel from more than one witness. And third, official church statements.

    I’ll suggest that the act of deciding which of these three (or more) sources is binding is itself a form of picking and choosing. For instance, I think you are mistaken to claim that the counsel to plant gardens didn’t matter because it wasn’t repeated often enough. Pres. Kimball repeated it often during his entire administration. He also advised us repeatedly to keep journals. When Sister Dew set about writing the biography of Neal A. Maxwell, she had very few primary sources, because Elder Maxwell never kept a journal. If cafeteria Mormonness is good enough for an apostle, it is certainly good enough for you and me.

  216. I am considered a conservative member by most who know me well, even though I have quite a few moderate and liberal views. I am personally conservative and politically moderate. That influences my view on this topic directly.

    I see a difference between moral issues and how those moral issues should be handled in the political arena. I see political actions against one group (e.g., refusing to legalize gay marriage) and not another group engaged in breaking the same commandment (e.g., legalization of common-law marriage) as political discrimination, so I simply can’t support that discrimination even though I don’t want to support gay marriage – instead supporting civil unions.

    I simply can’t divorce the political aspect of this issue from the moral aspect. I have no argument with the Church’s current stance on the morality of gay marriage, and I’m not troubled by their statement that the ruling is unfortunate. The ruling is not my ideal solution.

    I just can’t support the hypocrisy inherent in the legal system that allows heterosexual common-law marriage by citing the commitment shown by the people involved while denying that designation to homosexual couples who exhibit the same degree of commitment. Such a stance says, essentially, “Fornicate with a member of the opposite sex long enough and we will sanction that relationship as “marriage”; do so with someone of the same sex and we will not call that “marriage”. I reject that stance specifically because of my belief in the teachings of the Church that fornication is fornication and should be treated equally regardless of its manifestation. In the political arena, “equality under the law” trumps my personal moral belief being imposed unequally and in a discriminatory manner.

    It’s not that I pick and choose; it’s that we all see what we see as the “big picture” differently and interpret the details according to those differing perspectives. We see the puzzle border that we believe the Church provides and fill in the interior puzzle within that border. The issue is that our big picture borders can differ quite radically. It’s a good thing our church allows that we be taught correct principles and lets us govern ourselves.

    Finally, I respect those who support OR reject gay marriage as long as they are consistent in their arguments for either position AND they are civil to those with whom they disagree. In other words, I can see legitimate but conflicting applications for people who are striving to be Christ-like in their **views**, but I can’t see conflicting applications for Christ-like behavior – and I care as much about the behavior as the view, when push comes to shove.

    To me, the easy way out in most discussions is to gravitate to an extreme – either one, frankly – and refuse to consider the nuances that others see as they struggle in the middle to see and understand both extremes and everything in between.

  217. polloloco says:

    A thousand questions, a thousand comments. I have only one question that never seems to get addressed regarding this topic.

    Church doctrine (not counsel) is that for ANY relationship to be eternal, and thus in force after death, it must be sealed in a temple by the Priesthood power and authority of God. Church doctrine (not counsel) is that a fullness of joy is only to be had in the celestial kingdom and through being glorified as Father is glorified, as eternally expanding families.

    Since I believe (for myself) that both doctrines are true and after the order of God, how can I possibly justify encouraging or supporting unions that I know will eventually result in sorrow, bitterness, and regret for the brothers and sisters that I truly love?

    President Hinckley actually makes the same distinction Elder Oaks does if you read both of their remarks in totality. Both state unquestioningly that we are to view all of our brothers and sisters as children of God and love them regardless of their weaknesses.

    They both also make it clear that we should not encourage/support immoral behavior, in particular around family members or others who might mistake our actions as approval. President Hinckley’s comment under homosexuality on the Church’s official website states “we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families”.

    It IS possible to love someone without involving every aspect of their life into our own. Does it show love and respect for my parents and their faith to ask them to invite something they disapprove of into their home? Elder Oaks actually says parents should ask “Please don’t do that. Don’t put us in that position”.

    , but the Church does not support immoral activity in ANY relationship, nor the upholding, defending or living in same-sex marriages. He catagorically states that to do so is a mockery of a serious and sacred God-sanctioned union and the rearing of families.

  218. polloloco says:

    My deepest apologies to Steve. I DID edit my comments down to end immediately after my question. I did however neglect to “delete” everything else that wasn’t visible in the box.

    Ignore it as insane ranting or consider it an inspired mistake-it is what it is.

  219. Steve and John, we all know people — including in the bloggernacle — who admit to rejecting some church counsel outright (church is wrong to oppose same-sex marriage, premarital and homosexual sex harmless, tea and social alcohol consumption harmless, Family Proclamation is Heritage Foundation claptrap, etc.) The reasons members come to believe they know better than the brethren are certainly varied. I’d expect there’s as much diversity of commitment among active members as among inactives.

    A few months ago a guy who comes to our ward irregularly (maybe 8-10 times a year), responding to a question in priesthood, threw in as an aside that church attendance isn’t a commandment. I thought it was an interesting thing for him to say, and the social psychologist in me was dying to ask follow-up questions that can’t really be asked. Confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, values primacy — lots of interesting possibilities to explore.

  220. Steve and John, we all know people — including in the bloggernacle — who admit to rejecting some church counsel outright (church is wrong to oppose same-sex marriage, premarital and homosexual sex harmless, tea and social alcohol consumption harmless, Family Proclamation is Heritage Foundation claptrap, etc.)

    That is a hilariously selective list, Matt. And further evidence of Steve’s point.

  221. CE, Elder Oaks said in the same conversation that we must love gays, so he apparently believes the two positions are compatible.

    Mark IV, I agree there’s no certain way to determine “church counsel”, but it’s wrong to assume that everyone uses a definition that’s self-serving. For all we know, Elder Maxwell believed it was church counsel to keep a journal and felt badly that he didn’t.

    Brad, the church always stresses that members aren’t obligated to support specific legislation, even when the church supports it. I think they say this mostly to avoid even the appearance of block voting, given how sensitive people are when they get involved in politics. They don’t really have any meaningful recourse against people, anyway. I’m confident they believe that with all of their involvement in the various propositions and amendments, the Proclamation on the Family, and talks in conference over the years, that they’ve communicated their ideas regarding same-sex marriage to everyone with ears to hear, and suspect they just shrug upon learning of people who won’t support their position unless they’re commanded in all things.

  222. polloloco says:

    Matt-

    Do you think that a great portion of the people you are talking about (#221) have probably never admitted to themselves,let alone anyone else, that they really ARE rejecting church counsel outright? I think some simply don’t see themselves as doing that, and the rest know but attempt to conceal it by calling it something else more palatable.

    Thoughts?

  223. Jeremy, it’s not an exhaustive list. Please provide more examples to flesh out my comment.

  224. Matt,

    “I think they say this mostly…”

    Thanks, but if they said it in English the first time, I don’t need you to translate for me.

    If they say “neutral,” I think “neutral,” not “neutral, wink wink, if you know what I mean, say no more say no more…”

  225. Okay, Matt, add this to the list, borrowing wordage from Hugh B. Brown: “Having the temerity to dogmatize on issues on which the Lord has seen fit to remain silent…”

  226. Polloloco, re-reading my comment I see I deleted a key sentence. It was supposed to say that we all know people who ADMIT to rejecting church counsel outright, but that there are probably more who reject the counsel but don’t admit it.

    That’s why I’d love the opportunity to ask questions of the guy in my ward, and people like him. Does he attend irregularly because he genuinely believes church attendance doesn’t matter, or has he convinced himself church attendance isn’t too important because he can’t admit to himself or others that he’s not keeping a commandment? How do his opinions about all other religious questions accord with his behavior?

  227. Jeremy, sorry for the confusion. I’m not suggesting they intend a “wink wink, we want you to block vote but we’re not going to say it.” When the church doesn’t ask members to support their political positions in the first place, there’s no need for them to say anything about neutrality at all, except from an abundance of caution because people are sensitive about the church’s political involvement, especially in Utah.

  228. I am at a loss as to how to square your #229 with your earlier comments about “having ears to hear…”

  229. “Having the temerity to dogmatize on issues on which the Lord has seen fit to remain silent…”

    I suppose there’s no harm adding those who complain about Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Global Warming to the list. : )

  230. ‘cept the Lord has hardly remained silent about the sins committed at Abu Ghraib, etc.

  231. #230 — those are instances where they DO encourage members to act, like they did on the federal marriage amendment. They didn’t say which way members should urge their senator to vote because they didn’t have to.

  232. MikeInWeHo says:

    Wow, I can’t believe I just read all of these comments.

    Just a thought on this one:

    “You might legitimately (sic) that the aforementioned items of counsel are compatible: that a parent can love and honor and welcome and reach out to a gay son without dealing with him and his partner in public or in their home.”

    From the perspective of the gay son the answer to this is unequivocally no. He WILL experience a refusal to ‘deal with’ his partner in public or their home as unloving, rejecting, and gravely dishonoring. He may be wrong to feel that way, but that’s how he’s going to feel. And most likely, he and his partner will walk away from the parents and everyone else in the Church for good.

    I’ll go back to my original comment #9. How do you think Pete and I would have reacted had this couple said “We love and honor you, but we cannot condone what we see as your sinful behavior by allowing you into our home as a couple….” How would we have experienced that attitude?

    Our friends get it. They had a coffee maker at the ready even though they’d never touch a drop themselves (ironically, neither of us drink coffee but I suppose many good LDS just assume java and sodomy go hand-in-hand –so who can blame them).

    For a long time I argued that “love the sinner but not the sin” was a disingenuous statement, but this faithful couple convinced me that maybe it can be done.

  233. Steve Evans:

    “…your fatigue with the situation is showing — primarily in the form of not liking it when others preach tolerance.”

    What I don’t like is when some preach “tolerance” as a way of deflecting the issue of sinful behavior.

  234. Jack, nobody’s doing that here. Holster that weapon!

  235. MikeInWeHo,
    “. . .java and sodomy go hand in hand . . .”
    Awesome.

  236. polloloco says:

    Matt-

    But I still wonder if there are some that sincerely think that they aren’t rejecting anything “important” or who think that “counsel” is different than “doctrine” and is more like advice than gospel principle?

    I suspect that a lot of people are perfectly fine with blowing off something that they don’t like if they label it as just one man’s (or even two or three) “opinion”.

    As for the man in your class, the scriptures are pretty clear that “as a man thinketh, so is he”, that our thoughts are reflected in our actions, that our “fruits” testify for and against us.

    Most of all I wonder at how far some seem to have wandered from the bigger picture. Maybe they never learned it, or did but never internalized it as truth. We are brothers and sisters who promised to come to Earth, be obedient to the gospel, and provide the means for those who come after us to then receive their bodies pursuant to their own testing and exaltation. Same sex unions cannot produce children naturally, and even with outside intervention, the child produced can never be the biological creation of both partners in that union. It frustrates God’s plan and prevents the fulfilling of promises made in the past and the obtaining of a fullness of joy in the future.

    It is painful to see gay people suffering from loneliness or lack of companionship, so we think it’s Christlike to encourage them to find happiness. But if it is imitation happiness that ends at death, if it does not help our brothers and sisters return to dwell with God, it cannot be of Christ, and even His love and mercy cannot rob justice. Earthly and momentary happiness now in exchange for eternal misery. What did Kaimi say earlier about pottage?

  237. Matt,
    I’m not suggesting they intend a “wink wink, we want you to block vote but we’re not going to say it.”
    “They didn’t say which way members should urge their senator to vote because they didn’t have to.”
    Your interpretation seems to be that they are indeed commanding us with a wink wink. So, can we send the Feds to you to testify that the church is lying about its status?

  238. Sorry–”I’m not suggesting . . .”

  239. blt,

    They didn’t wink because they didn’t have to either.

  240. MikeInWeHo,
    I’m interested in hearing your opinion. Your friends seem to have found a pretty solid middle ground. How does this translate in the situation Mark presents here? How can we imitate such charity in a blog setting? Does it involve constant disclaimers? Does it require rejecting the Church’s position? Should we just make the case and avoid offensive language? Is it hopeless for a blogger arguing against SSM to also express convincing love and honor?

  241. Jeremy,
    What an idiot I am, taking church counsel at face value.

  242. Yay yay, nay nay.

    Not wink wink.

  243. polloloco says:

    Mike,

    I mean no disrespect to you or your partner, nor do I have a problem extending love and compassion to either one of you. But I think Elder Oaks comments specifically referenced to should be printed and explained in their context. (The entire interview is on the lds.org website under Same Gender Attraction)

    After responding with answers about how a parent can be loving and gentle as well as explaining parental responsibility regarding a son or daughter that has chosen a same gender lifestyle, the interviewer asks:

    PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At what point does showing that love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?’

    ELDER OAKS: That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer.

    I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”

    There are so many different circumstances, it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all.” end quote

    He does not say not to invite a child and his partner over or refuse to allow them in your home at all, he says that it is ok to ask an adult child to respect long standing rules of conduct in the family home. I cannot speak for you, but when I am a guest in someone else’s home, even my parents home, I feel it is my place to be respectful and gracious of the environment in which I am a guest. I do not spend the night at my Catholic friend’s house and insist on saying LDS family prayers or reading from the Book of Mormon before bed, nor do they come to my home and hang crosses on the walls. I respect what THEY view as holy when I am in their home and they do the same in return.

    Do you honestly feel that it is perfectly fine for a son (gay or straight) to disregard a commandment to honor his father and his mother even if he knows he is wrong to feel that way?

  244. Do you honestly feel that it is perfectly fine for a son (gay or straight) to disregard a commandment to honor his father and his mother even if he knows he is wrong to feel that way?

    It seems to me that that isn’t the question. But rather the question is, would it be wrong for a parent to not follow Elder Oaks’s somewhat hedged scenario, and allow such a visit? And is there a way a parent could do so and still stick to one’s standards and beliefs?

    I guess if I were the parent in that situation, I’m not positive that honoring my moral standards would be the same as honoring me (in the 10-commandments sense).

  245. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 242
    My first thought is: In a blog setting, who cares? We have virtual anonymity here. If I’m dumb enough to take offense at anyone’s comments, that’s my problem. But to answer your question, I’d go with: Just make the case and avoid offensive language. That’s certainly all I’d ask for.

    It’s evident that sometimes a little education is required as to what offensive language is, however. I think a very expansive definition is best. If ANYONE on either side finds a word offensive, don’t use it. There’s always another way to express the sentiment. If people opposed to SSM refrain from calling my family deviant, reprehensible, immoral and indecent I shall gladly resist the urge to call them ignorant, hateful, homophobic idiots. Fair enough?

    re: 245
    That’s a reasonable question, crazychicken. Who should blink first, the LDS parents or the gay kid? It is a bit of a dilemma. But when charity abounds on both sides, it quickly becomes a non-issue. My parents conveniently put two twin beds in their guest room. Pete and I stay in there without comment and it’s absolutely fine with everyone.

  246. polloloco says:

    Jeremy,

    Elder Oaks also said that the decision was up to the individual and suggested that they ask the Lord for inspiration. So surely if parents or anyone feel prompted to allow such a visit, then by all means.

    As a parent, my children know and understand my moral standards, but I have also taught them WHY I have specific standards. For example alcohol and drug use is not allowed in our home and they know and understand that the rules apply to everyone-family or friend. If one of my adult children asks if they can visit our home with a spouse, a partner, a best friend and bring along some booze or cocaine, who is the disrespectful party…the child who wants to bring their lifestyle into our home (where minor children are also present) or me when I tell them no? I can love and have tender parental feelings for my child and still refuse to let them get drunk or high under my roof. I also wouldn’t take them out in public nor introduce them to my friends while they were drinking. Harsh stuff I know.

    For what it’s worth, if my unmarried daughter wanted to come and stay overnight and bring a guy she’s been living with, but is not married to, they are welcome to come if they are fine with not sleeping together. I respect my child’s right to make their own choices, even if those choices involve sinful or immoral behavior. But in return I expect them to respect my right not to permit such behavior under my own roof.

    Perhaps you do not define your moral standards as part of who you are, or simply don’t expect your loved ones to. I do.

  247. polloloco says:

    Mike,

    Your parents offered a fine solution in which you were both welcomed but their personal moral opinion was expressed as well.

    I must say with a grin though, that it would be naive to think that two beds in one room automatically means separate…ahem…sleeping arrangements.:-)

  248. It’s a great quote by Brigham Young. It’s inapposite to our conversation because Young doesn’t identify any independent moral source that can critique the church.

    Actually, it really does. Brigham Young identifies the independent understanding of each individual as a source of truth that ought to be nurtured. This isn’t because that independent understanding will lead to greater truth than that discovered by church leaders, but rather because truth discovered through the independent understanding of the individual is exalting for the individual, while truth discovered by church leaders cannot be exalting for the individual. Since the understanding of the individual here is necessarily independent of the church, it can certainly critique the church as an organization. Indeed, it almost certainly must do at some points along the growth curve or it will never involve real independence of any sort.

    We presumably agree that Brigham Young didn’t generally applaud the “independence of mind” of those who left the church to write for the anti-Mormon press, for example, which he would have done had he believed there exists a moral authority outside the gospel by which it can be judged.

    OK, there’s an unacceptable conflation here. The church is not the gospel. A good Mormon definition of the gospel is “the collection of all truth.” Alternatively, the 3 Nephi definition of the gospel is that it is the atonement. The church, by contrast, is an organization. Can there be moral authority independent of truth by which truth can be judged? Hard to imagine. Can there be moral authority independent of an organization, even one with divine power, by which that organization can be judged? No question — there are many. Each individual can do this, as can God.

    Likewise, it’s absurd on its face to conclude that any support whatsoever for thought or moral development of individual Mormons that leads us to understand eternal things independently of church leaders implies any sort of support whatsoever for anti-Mormonism. This is simply nuts. Was Hugh Nibley an anti-Mormon? Yet Nibley was surely an independent thinker, indeed, a man who sometimes critiqued the highest leadership of the church.

    Unless we have evidence that Brigham Young applauded an ex-member for their personal “progress in intelligence” which led them to see beyond the brethren and to leave the church, then we can be confident he wasn’t saying there exists a source of moral authority superior to the gospel, or that sometimes contradicts church counsel.

    Young doesn’t need to have been saying that there are sources of moral authority superior to the gospel. This idea is a straw man, and needs no further thought. Furthermore, Young doesn’t need to have been saying that there is a source of moral authority superior to church council. For present purposes, what he said is enough: relying on church council and the understanding of church leaders cannot lead to exaltation. Our personal understanding may be less correct than church counsel, but relying on our understanding allows us moral development that can lead to exaltation. That’s why it’s better for us to follow our own understanding of truth, shaped by persuasion from leadership, than it is for us to relinquish our understanding unconditionally to the church. If we do the latter, Young teaches, we can’t be exalted.

    I think his quote is just an expansion of D&C 58:26-28; we shouldn’t be commanded in all things, and be anxiously engaged in good causes of our own free will. What constitutes a “good cause”, however, is still subject to definition by the gospel. The gospel defines the perimeter. This is why there is no moral authority independent of Mormonism by which church counsel can be judged.

    Oops. I agree with this paragraph up to the last sentence. But you’ve confused “church counsel” and “the gospel” again. These things aren’t the same. It’s like you’re telling me that eating vegetables is a good idea, and therefore I should eat my fork. The fork may deliver vegetables to me, but it isn’t a vegetable. The church often teaches the gospel to us, but the church isn’t the gospel.

  249. If you take it that way then doesn’t Brigham Young’s statement contradict itself? You have to rely on Brigham Young’s light to believe the statement, but you’re stating that the statement says we shouldn’t rely on the light of others, even high church leaders. So we shouldn’t rely on Brigham Young’s statement. So the whole point is moot.

    If you’re an authoritarian who believes in obedience and acquiescence rather than understanding and persuasion, Aluwid, then you’re right. This quote makes authoritarian Mormon worldviews self-canceling. However, if we understand Young’s purpose as one of teaching and persuasion, then we can still learn from his ideas without relinquishing our understanding to them. That learning may well lead us to reject what Young says in the quote above. But such a process of rejection is itself an end to the the authoritarian Mormonism that Matt Evans is preaching. The end to that worldview is not the end to Mormonism; it is the doorway to a much broader room in our temple.

  250. BLT #239, the church’s support for the federal marriage amendment was *not* one of the times that they stressed neutrality. The “neutral” statement about politicians merely pointed out that political office holders also have responsibilities to their constituents, and aren’t accountable to the church for their votes anyway, which is always the case.

    JNS, “Brigham Young identifies the independent understanding of each individual as a source of truth”

    I think you’re reading way too much into this quote if you think Brigham Young is breaking new philosophical ground here, and identifying another source in addition to the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.

    Unless the independent truth is constrained by church counsel, that independent truth could potentially say that the church is false altogether, and that the person should write for the anti-Mormon press to spread the truth.

  251. Matt, you’re making things up. The independent understanding of each individual is of course enlightened by the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost. We all have as much access to these as do the highest church leaders, and our access is independent of theirs.

    Do you think the Holy Ghost will say the church is false altogether? If so, that’s interesting. If not, then your claim that truth has to be constrained by church counsel to avoid this outcome is off base. You are creating an illusory Manichean world in which Mormons either adopt your authoritarian Mormon worldview or become anti-Mormon. Mormonism is broader than this.

  252. JNS, the question is how Mormonism handles competing claims about the morality of something like same-sex marriage. The church leaders say it’s both harmful and immoral. Some members say it’s neither harmful nor immoral, and maybe even desirable, and they cite their reasons.

    If Mormonism recognizes no independent morality aside from the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost, settling competing moral claims just comes down to which group is more likely to heed the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.

  253. Hark, Hark…the sound of the lonely goat-sucker in the woods. Will no-one think of the Chupacabra?!?

  254. Matt. What, then, is the purpose of individual access to the Light of Christ and/or the Holy Ghost? If the only thing that is necessary is to acknowledge the mediating access to such sources held by a priest or an institution, or if it can always be posited that the Church as an institution or as a collectivity of leaders has greater access to the sources or is more likely to heed them, then, indeed, when the brethren have spoken the thinking is done. Are you really suggesting with your reading of BY here that the only purpose of individual access to the LoC and HG is to confirm to individuals that the Church as an institution or Church leaders have superior access to them and that individuals should only access truth via the mediation of those leaders and institutions to which we submit? The only useful thing the HG and LoC can teach us is the imperative to obey Church council?

  255. Matt, Brad’s got the thread here. Being right all the time isn’t the purpose of the gospel; if it were, a purely coercive plan in the place of agency would be desirable. Rather, the goal is to eventually become the kind of people who will find the right ourselves. That process of becoming is, according to the Brigham Young text above, the process of achieving exaltation. Furthermore, Young shows how to go about the becoming: follow your best understanding, while listening to the persuasion of church leaders and the scriptures. As we sincerely do what we think is right, our understanding will be illuminated and our sense of what is right will improve.

    In other words, settling competing moral claims isn’t necessarily a central goal — because being right isn’t as important as becoming good. Young tells us that we have to become good by following our personal understanding; those who do as you suggest and betray their personal understanding of the right to rely on that of another are not on the path to exaltation, according to Young.

    And, of course, we have no access to any information about who in the world is particularly likely to heed the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.

  256. I wonder if those who hate/reject the sin and the sinner hated/rejected African Americans when they were denied the priesthood as an official church stance.

  257. We need our individual intelligence to be actively engaged in good causes, and to bring to pass much righteousness. We don’t get to define what is good and what is righteous.

    That’s why church disciplinary councils wouldn’t accept as an affirmative defense from someone accused of a gross violation of church standards, that the person acted in accord with an independent source of moral truth. They’d hold that any source out of harmony with church counsel is not good. Within Mormonism, church counsel defines the perimeter and we act knowledgably within it.

    (By the way, settling competing moral claims is essential: are kids an heritage of the Lord or an environmental contaminant? Are sexual relations with 13-year-old girls a commandment or perversion?)

  258. Matt, there’s a certain self-serving circularity of logic in using the unwillingness of Church councils to acknowledge independent moral authorities as evidence that there is no legitimate moral authority outside of, uh, Church council. We’re back to Church=Gospel=All Truth, here.

    “There is no independent moral authority outside of the Church. Don’t believe me? Let’s see what the Church has to say about the question…”

    Agency is not meaningful if it is reduced to a single choice of undeviating and uncritical submission to a superior authority. Even Lucifer was down with that definition of agency and that route to salvation. The only source to which we are to submit unconditionally is God and unless you equate some independent entity with God (Church, Church council, disciplinary council, Q12, FP, Church president, etc), the need for unmediated access to that source (Light of Christ, Holy Ghost) in a universal imperative (unless the only purpose of such sources is to convey the knowledge that Church=God). One of the basic premises of the whole plan is that having perfect access to God and following Him like automatons was not enough to actually make us like Him, since He is more than an Automaton.

    Put differently, participating in the Mountain Meadows Massacre would have been morally wrong even if Brigham Young had ordered it. To argue otherwise is to render the technical question of whether or not he actually did totally moot.

  259. Actually, Matt, I hate to burst your bubble, but church disciplinary councils most certainly do take individuals’ independent understanding of right and wrong into account in their deliberations. Specifically, it’s routine for such councils to inquire about whether an individual felt that he or she was sinning while performing a particular action; exploration of an individual’s state of mind and understanding of the decisions in question is regarded by such councils as of the essence.

    But you don’t really have an argument anymore. As Brad has noted, you’ve collapsed down to affirming the consequent. My guess is that the ideas in this discussion lie at the heart of your religious worldview. I understand that change in such worldviews is difficult; I wouldn’t expect you to pivot on the spot. Nonetheless, I hope that this conversation has raised some new themes for you to consider, ponder, study out in the scriptures, and pray over. Not because I’m sure that I’m right, but rather because that’s what we all have to do with our preconceptions all the time in order to keep making progress.

  260. Brad and JNS, from the beginning I’ve argued that “within Mormonism” there is no independent moral authority. I’m looking at morality through a Mormon lens.

    JNS, church councils want to know an individual’s understanding to determine culpability, not to discern whether they’ve accessed a higher law.

    Brad, given the accounts of Joshua and Nephi/Laban, I don’t think the immorality of MMM would be obvious (within Mormonism) had it been ordered by a unified FP and Q12. Secularists and Krakauer shudder.

  261. “I don’t think the immorality of MMM would be obvious (within Mormonism) had it been ordered by a unified FP and Q12″

    I’m getting that cross-stitched for your foyer, Matt.

  262. I don’t think the immorality of MMM would be obvious (within Mormonism) had it been ordered by a unified FP and Q12. Secularists and Krakauer shudder.

    Not just secularist, Matt. Normal thinking believing Mormons too. That comment is ludicrous. You either don’t understand MMM, or you may need some counseling.

  263. This is why Romney cannot be trusted!

  264. Matt, you’re looking at this question from some lens, and I’ll acknowledge that it’s an authentically Mormon one. Are you ready to acknowledge that Brad and I are also using an authentically Mormon lens? If not, then you’re off the reservation. I’d note that, while you seem to think that your lens is in some way the unique normative Mormon perspective, it is not. There are scriptural teachings and statements from church leaders that are anomalous from your point of view. There is a whole world of Mormon moral thought beyond your perspective. One of those other positions might even be, e.g., right.

  265. Mark IV says:

    A summary of the 260 + comments on this post could be made as follows:

    Scenario # 1: United FP an Q12 say: “Please love, honor, and befriend lesbian and gay people.”

    Scenario # 2: United FP and Q12 say: “Kill them all, including all adults and children older than 5.”

    In answer to the first directive, we squawk and moan and bitch that gee whiz, gays are sinners, why can’t we say that to their faces?

    In answer to the second directive, we ask: “How high?”

  266. Mark,

    Re: Comment #216–You are suggesting that those “good and smart” folks are being hateful–and maybe you’re right to feel the way you do in this particular case. But on the other hand I’ve seen a pattern–this strange thing where people get offended at others because of their firm position on an issue. They make the mistake of reading “staunchness” as “hatefulness.”

    All I’m saying is that we need to be really careful in making that distinction.

  267. I see the difference in this debate as that of someone who sees honoring God and his representatives as a process of **doing** and someone else who sees honoring God as a process of **becoming**. Imho, the most vital aspect of mortality is acquiring the character necessary to act according to God’s will in *every* situation regardless of whether one has access to the words of the ancient, modern and current prophets – by developing the character that will produce good fruits through a direct connection to the vine.

    I also see the difference between someone who appears to equate every word as command and someone else who sees differences in command, counsel, suggestion, encouragement, etc. – and who sees much of the latter differences in light of “general principles” verses “universal command”.

    Just my take after slogging through the last few dozen comments.

  268. Ray, very well said. I acknowledge that Matt’s “doing” perspective represents one strand within modern Mormonism. But I think the “becoming” perspective that Brad and I have tried to present has a lot more to offer as a way of being Mormon. (I also think it has more support in Mormon scripture and theology, but that’s another song for another day.)

  269. Mark IV says:

    Holy cow Jack.

    I’ve already publicly apologized for using the phrase “hate the sinner” and I have amended it.

    I’m not calling anybody hateful, and I’m not offended.

    The point of the post was to ask whether we might not be patting ourselves on the back for our obedience too much, given that we are much better at representing one side of the church’s position than we are representing the other side of it. I’ve quoted Elder Oaks who expressed regret that that is the case.

    I honestly cannot see what is controversial about this.

  270. Sorry, Mark.

    But I give my apology half wittingly–that is if you expect me to take your comment (#267) seriously. C’mon, dude.

  271. polloloco says:

    JNS
    “Being right all the time isn’t the purpose of the gospel… the goal is to eventually become the kind of people who will find the right ourselves.”

    Actually according to Brigham Young, “The gospel in its fullness is simply a code of laws, ordinances, gifts and graces which are the power of God unto salvation”. Heber J Grant said “It is conceded by all who have taken the time to study in any degree whatever, the plan of life and salvation and the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, on which life and salvation are based, that their object is to develop man so that he will become sufficiently perfected to be worthy to dwell in the presence of our Father in heaven Every principle of the gospel has been revealed to us for our individual advancement and for our individual perfection.”

    It doesn’t matter how much “right” we know or find, what matters is what we do with it once we’ve found it.

    JNS “Furthermore, Young shows how to go about the becoming: follow your best understanding, while listening to the persuasion of church leaders and the scriptures. As we sincerely do what we think is right, our understanding will be illuminated and our sense of what is right will improve”.

    Technically, Brigham’s words included more than just that. He said that the price for exaltation is to ”yield implicit obedience and submission to its great Author throughout [our lives], and to those whom He shall appoint to instruct [us]”. He clearly indicates that following ”the dictates of our own wills in preference to the will of the Creator” is to “reject” salvation.

    He explains that if we don’t know what is “right and just” for ourselves, we must do “all the good we can, that we know how to do” AND “shun every evil that we know to be evil”. We ALSO have to apply our hearts(desire)to wisdom (not knowledge) and ASK God to impart it to us (pray and ask for the enlightenment that comes through the Holy Ghost). Then we have to improve daily on what we are given so that we can be given more and more until we attain “a full and complete salvation through the grace of God” by “adhering strictly to the order of God”.

    I don’t think Matt is saying blind obedience to every word said by a church official is right any more than Brigham is. I think he’s saying that the gospel of Jesus Christ is found most fully in the doctrine of the LDS Church, and by the voice of those God “has appointed to instruct us”. The crux of Brigham’s point (especially when read in it’s original context) is that only those who have a personal witness/testimony “of the power of God and the influences of the Holy Spirit” will never obtain the celestial kingdom. And I think Matt is saying that the “Church” is God’s established resource to accomplish that.

    We don’t obtain exaltation by doing what we “think” is right, or what we “think” church officials think is right. We obtain it through becoming personally familiar with God’s laws that define what is right and what is wrong AND incorporating them actively into our lives.

    JNS “of course, we have no access to any information about who in the world is particularly likely to heed the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.”

    I would hazard a guess that it is those who seek personal worthiness as a prerequisite and humbly invite the Spirit to teach and guide them.

  272. “We don’t obtain exaltation by doing what we “think” is right, or what we “think” church officials think is right. We obtain it through becoming personally familiar with God’s laws that define what is right and what is wrong AND incorporating them actively into our lives.”

    What’s the difference between those two sentences, please?

  273. polloloco, you seem to mostly agree with me. Your reconstruction of what Matt is saying seems to be wrong, though. Matt’s position isn’t that God uses the LDS church to teach us right and wrong, but rather that the statements of the LDS church constitute right and wrong.

    Your statement of the crux of Brigham Young’s quote is a distortion, though. Young not only says that we need independent testimonies, but also independent judgment — and that we develop that judgment by acting on our own individual best understanding of right and wrong. Your interpretation reads a different and much narrower perspective onto what Young said. By throwing away his language, you can narrow his point. This is an example of cafeteria Mormonism.

  274. Mark IV says:

    Jack, 272,

    I give my apology half wittingly

    Jack, did you mean to say half-heartedly, or did you really mean to say half-wittingly? ;-)

    Because I say and do plenty of half-witted things all the time, but I don’t think I have ever accused a commenter of that, regardless of our disagreements.

    I’ll edit if you want me to.

  275. polloloco says:

    JNS-

    Is it possible to “become” exalted without “doing”? I apologize but what you and Brad seem to be championing is some kind of “zen” Mormonism…where as long as you feel the love and embrace the love-it’s all good.

    Jesus Christ was the embodiment of love. He was also the Law. When asked why he spent so much time with the “sinners” he replied “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. He did not say that He came because they needed a “friend” or “support”. He said He came to call them to repentance. I can think of no scripture reference where Christ encourages a sinner in continuing to sin. Can you? He taught them what IS right and healed them if they would commit to “sin no more”.

    If we truly want to act as Christ did and serve as He served, part of our interactions with those who might be guilty of sin must be to lovingly direct them towards the physician through repentance.

  276. polloloco,
    What are you even talking about?

  277. Steve Evans says:

    pl, where are you getting the notion that either RT or Brad is talking about not obeying the law or continuing in sin? You seem to be pulling this notion out of thin air; it certainly isn’t coming from anything they are saying.

    In terms of acting as Christ did and serving as He served, I’d say the first step is not lovingly calling others to repentance but repentance for our own sins. It’s well and good to champion morals and call the wicked to humble repentance, but to do so without being meek, teachable and repentant ourselves is little more than shallow hypocrisy.

  278. Mark,

    I don’t think my silliness came across very well. I was suggesting that for my apology to be sincere I’d have to overlook comment #267. Ah, but what the hell. I know your a good man–and that you meant well with your post–and so I apologize for my contrariness.

  279. polloloco, Brad and Steve are right to point out that you’re arguing against a position nobody is advocating. I certainly believe in acting up to our best understanding of what is good. I think that by doing that, our understanding of the good improves. The debate with Matt Evans was about whether developing our understanding of the good through a process of trial and error during probation is the gospel plan. I believe that it is; Matt seems to think that the gospel plan is to instead simply rely on other people’s understanding.

    The becoming/developing our understanding position here certainly isn’t about not repenting or about not doing our best. It’s all about becoming by doing, so we agree, as I said before.

  280. Mark in Portland says:

    Hi, all. Long time, semi-frequent reader, first-time poster, and after having read several threads on this topic over the last few months and seeing poor MikeInWeHo as the lone voice of the gay Mormon (or I know, maybe we should call him the SSA-afflicted Mormon to avoid offending those who subscribe to the “don’t-make-a-sin-into-a-nominal-state-of-being” philosphy), I thought I’d chime in.

    I every much appreciate the original post, and I have said, in the last eight or so years since I confessed my long-term relationship with my partner to my bishop and ended up being excommunicated, that the statements of various church leaders DO NOT make it easy for the average active member of the Church, in any way. “Loving the Sin, Hating the Sinner” was something I never really comprehended, even when I was a fully committed member of the Church, or as a missionary. It’s such a neat, tidy little phrase that says really, very little that’s actionable.

    I do feel fortunate that in my very large family, all of my siblings are civil to me and my partner, we get invited to family occasions, and my siblings and their spouses all seem to authentically love my partner at least as much as they love me. Of course, I’m the oldest child, and most of my siblings are early-30s or younger, so I have the benefit of the greater social acceptance of homosexuality among the younger generation on my side. Really, what more can I ask of them than that? So I feel lucky that I have that. Truly blessed and fortunate.

    I can also truthfully say that if your goal as a member of the Church is to “bring the homosexual back to the fold” in some regard, for ME, the greatest likelihood of that happening comes when a member of the Church admits that they have no explanation for why same-sex marriage is wrong, or detrimental — just that the Lord says it, and it’s hard for them to take that position, because it doesn’t make sense, but they feel an obligation to follow the counsel of the prophet. That sort of humble declaration is way more powerful than any amount of righteous grandstanding.

    One last point. If the main reason you wouldn’t let a co-habiting couple stay in your house is that you disapprove of fornication, what you are actually disapproving of is their unwillingness to make a marriage commitment to each other, right?

    Well, what if you told the co-habiting couple that not only were they not welcome to stay in your home because they weren’t married, but you were also doing everything you could to keep them from being able to get married at all, how loving would that be?

  281. Thank you for your comment, Mark. Glad you finally chimed in. Let’s hope this first time is not the only time. :)

  282. I can’t say whether Brad’s advocating a Zen approach, but I sure as hell wouldn’t trust him to fix my motorcycle.

  283. Mark,
    Great post. I love your solution.

  284. #282 – Thank you, MiP. That is a wonderful addition to the discussion, particularly your past point – the last two paragraphs. That is something that needs to be considered, at the very least.

  285. “last point” not “past point”

  286. Matt’s position isn’t that God uses the LDS church to teach us right and wrong, but rather that the statements of the LDS church constitute right and wrong.

    JNS, puhleez. Of course my position is that God uses the church to identify right and wrong. This tangent proceeded from my point that Mormonism doesn’t believe in a source of moral truth independent of inspiration (specifically the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost).

    JNS, Brad, Matt Evans and Brigham Young all celebrate our free will and the independence of our judgment, and our obligation to learn goodness. I presume we agree that we are encouraged or commanded to exercise our agency only within the bounds the Lord has set. Trusting we agree on that point, the question is how do we know what those bounds are, and whether there is an independent source of morality beyond the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.

    If there is no other, independent moral source, then when someone rejects or opposes the brethren on a moral matter they are necessarily arguing that they, and not the brethren, are inspired by the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.

    J. Stapley and Steve,

    I’d wager that most Mormons don’t think Joshua acted immorally, precisely because they believe that if a prophet did it, it must have been God’s will.

  287. Matt, how do you reconcile the Priesthood ban with Elder McConkie’s statement after it was lifted – or the Church’s changes in its understanding of and statements regarding homosexuality? Are you saying that anyone who argued with the official church stance (the ban) prior to 1978 (and even tried to get it lifted without revelation, as some apostles did) was wrong to do so – or those who opposed old methods of sexual orientation “therapy” were not true believers? Do you believe Elder McConkie’s statement was mere rhetoric – or do you really believe Elder McConkie when he said that anyone who tried to explain the ban prior to the revelation spoke with limited understanding and their words needed to be forgotten and dropped from our teachings?

    Elder McConkie’s statement was a very direct statement that the leaders were wrong in their explanations – that they were working from faulty foundations. Given what he said, how can you say that it is our responsibility to accept whatever the prophets say as binding on our own perspectives – that we MUST accept whatever they teach as God’s final word? (and I understand the “it is the same” argument) The largest part of the problem that still exists in some members of the Church with regard to racism exists specifically because they unquestioningly accepted the words of certain apostles and prophets who simply were dead wrong – according to Elder McConkie. How is that what God desires?

    Understand, I am as dedicated and committed to the Church and its Restoration claims as anyone, including those associated with Priesthood and prophetic power. It would take a stretch of gargantuan proportion to label me as anything but a TBM. I believe the FP and Q12 will never “lead us astray” (away from exaltation), but I certainly don’t believe that every word they speak is the pure word of God straight from his lips to our ears – that I must simply accept without thought and contemplation. Joseph Smith taught othterwise; BY taught otherwise; whenever apostlea did not teach otherwise, I believe the error of their ways was shown eventually.

  288. polloloco says:

    I’m thankful that Matt finally clarified what he has been saying all along. Of course it would be after I re-read every single post to be sure. Endure to the end takes on a whole new meaning.

    In the process of re-reading, I realized that I probably owe JNS an apology for not correctly understanding HIS point of view. So JNS, you are not scary, and I am sorry.

  289. Matt,
    It seems to me that successfully diverted away from Mark’s topic, which (in contrast to the utterly un-edifying dissection of cafeteria Mormonism) is rather timely–how do we ensure that our passion for our church does not sully our love for our brothers and sisters? My question is this–did you purposely choose this thread to draw some line in the sand of your mind between good Mormons and kidding-themselves Mormons? In other words, do you think a discussion about charity during the SSM debate rejects church counsel because it isn’t zealous enough about denying a subset of American citizens rights?
    If not, don’t you think it’s a strange coincidence that this particular discussion uncovered your good Mormon manifesto?
    For the record, I really hope that my little conspiracy theory here is crazy. I really want to keep you on my list of wonderful people for your Marriott post.

  290. Sorry. Line #1 should read “It seems to me that you’ve successfully diverted away . . .”

  291. MikeInWeHo says:

    “…..if a prophet did it, it must have been God’s will.”
    But nobody really believes THAT, do they? I mean, the scriptures are filled with examples of prophets who mess up and then get corrected by the Lord. What about D&C 3? We could list dozens and dozens of examples where, in retrospect, prophets erred.

    Hi, Mark in Portland. Please stick around. Don’t feel bad for me, though; I love it in here! Keeps me on my rhetorical toes, and I’ve met some wonderful people.

  292. Matt is right. Most Mormons do indeed believe that if a prophet did it, it must have been God’s will. Now, tell us Matt, are such Mormons the “good” Mormons? Are you one of these people? And most importantly, if a united FP/Q12 had ordered MMM, do you think it would have been moral?

  293. Eric Russell says:

    I would recommend extending the New Comments sidebar. You see, in a thread such as this, for example, you don’t have to actually read the comments to know what’s going on. Just read the New Comments sidebar and you know exactly how the conversation’s going.

  294. Matt, I hate to point this out, but you have in fact argued explicitly that church counsel is constitutive of morality. If that sounds stark or idiotic when stated explicitly, then reconsider your entire approach — this is the core of your argument. If church counsel isn’t constitutive of moral good, then moral good has existence independent of church counsel.

    The fact that you are still pushing the fictional idea that Brad or I are arguing that some source of moral truth other than the Holy Ghost or Light of Christ is necessary is simply outrageous. You haven’t read our arguments; you are fighting with shadows and clowns of your own invention. You are not a charitable interlocutor; instead, you are acting as if this conversation is a contest for you to win at any cost.

    This is, of course, one of the problems that drives the issue in Mark’s original post. If we treat winning abstract arguments as our unique goal, then we impose arbitrary and unnecessary pain on real people — pain that the gospel teaches us not to impose.

    Mark in Portland, thanks for your comments. I think real experience like yours is powerful in ways that abstract argument — even the prophetic kind, like Mark’s post — just isn’t.

  295. If there is no other, independent moral source, then when someone rejects or opposes the brethren on a moral matter they are necessarily arguing that they, and not the brethren, are inspired by the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.

    Matt,
    You’re creating an unnecessary dichotomy here. Nobody’s arguing that either the Brethren are inspired or that person is inspired, but not both. What JNS, et al., are arguing—correctly–is that the Church is not the font of all truth. Rather, it is the best source of truth but, because it is mediated by imperfect mortals—very good mortals, but imperfect nonetheless—that sometimes they get things wrong (whether it be because of personal preference, misunderstanding, personal history, or whatever: it doesn’t have to be a bad act that leads to it), or promulgate a preference where God has not demanded it.

    When they tell us what God wants for us, we have the right (and, in fact, the duty) to make sure that is God’s will for us. If it isn’t, we are obligated to not do it (although, as Frank has pointed out in the past, we should probably create a pretty high threshold to overcome, giving the leadership the benefit of the doubt).

    Which is to say, MMM was wrong. Even if it had been ordered by the combined FP and Q12 (which it wasn’t, but indulge the hypothetical), it was definitely something that each individual should have confirmed, and would have gotten a negative answer.

    Contra you (and Ronan, although he was tongue-in-cheek, I believe), I sincerely doubt the majority of members today would participate in such a massacre, even with a unanimous declaration. Unfortunately, when it happened, it happened in a perfect storm that I don’t think is recreatable today. And I’m not denying that some Mormons would participate, but they would be wrong, and responsible for their failure to independently confirm that it was God’s will.

  296. Guys,

    I’m making a logical not practical argument. If there is only one source of moral truth (God, which we access through the Holy Ghost and Light of Christ), then moral disagreements can arise only if one or both of the parties are referencing an alternative moral source. Therefore, to critique a moral decision of the church, a person must necessarily (a) assert that the brethren were not led by the Holy Ghost or Light of Christ in their decision or (b) assert that they have or are a source of moral truth superior to the Holy Ghost and Light of Christ.

    Ray, the priesthood issue is a great example — most Mormons don’t believe the church’s pre-1978 policy was morally wrong.

    JNS, my claim is epistemological, not ontological. God is our source of moral truth, through the Holy Ghost and Light of Christ, even if truth is ontologically independent of God. (Or alternatively, moral truth can be accessed independent of God and Holy Ghost and Light of Christ.)

    Sam B., I’m not suggesting that most Mormons would have participated in MMM, I’m suggesting that had a unified FP and Q12 said MMM was the right thing to do, members today (by definition, almost — people who objected to MMM would likely have left the church) would consider those who participated to be the good guys. That’s why the man who refused this instruction:

    Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    Is the bad guy in your Sunday School discussion.

  297. First of all, Matt — it’s not as though the Church has explicitly commanded all members not to support SSM. What it has done is taken, as an institution, a position in opposition to SSM while explicitly stating that individual members may choose to stake out a different or opposite position without having it negatively reflect on their righteousness. I think there are sound reasons for the Church as an institution to publicly oppose SSM and I think there are sound reasons for me, as an individual, to support it. The reasons are different because the cost-benefit frameworks are vastly different for an individual within a liberal polity and for a transnational Church that cares more about expanding its mission globally than it does about abstract political and sociological arguments about what’s best for American society.

    That said, if the FP/Q12 unitedly commanded the Church to vote a certain way, I would still pray for confirmation that I should comply. If the united command was to participate in the wholesale slaughter of any group, the confirmation from God via the Holy Ghost would need to be unmistakably strong and unambiguous. Otherwise I would reject it out of hand — even if it cost me my membership. If you would do otherwise, you need serious help. If most Mormons would do otherwise, Dawkins, et al, might just be right.

  298. Matt,
    I would still like to know what you would do.

  299. Mark Brown says:

    Matt, I give you credit for being a good sport and continuing this conversation.

    I think your argument about a united FP/Q12 steals at least one base. That unity doesn’t just happen all at once. Sometimes, it takes them years to reach a consensus. If it takes those 15 men 5 years to come to agreement on a proposition, at what point in those 5 years did the proposition become morally right? If 11 agree and 1 dissents, is it morally right? And if it takes those very good men years sometimes to reach agreement on the rightness of wrongness of a proposal, why should we be impatient with one another if it takes us even longer?

  300. Matt, I’m done with this conversation — because you are having a monologue, not a conversation. You don’t seem to have noticed that you’re arguing against a position that has little to do with the one advanced by your conversation partners here.

  301. Seriously, at this point, the Chupacabra is tired of it all. Please stop the madness.

  302. BCC Admin says:

    And with that, we close the thread. Thanks, Mark, for a wonderful reminder to show love towards our gay brothers and sisters. Obviously, the church’s anti-SSM policy and general stance towards homosexuality stirs up a great deal of energy and argument on both sides of the aisle.

    For those reading this thread looking for evidence that Mormons aren’t goose-stepping, Salt Lake-obeying zombies, please ignore the comments suggesting that Mormons would happily slaughter children if their leaders told them to.

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