A Little Back Scratching at Church

So I’m sitting in the middle section, near the back on the left, during sacrament meeting on Sunday. While absent-mindedly listening to the talks I was also reviewing a manuscript I am currently peer reviewing. I always multitask at church.

I glance up, and I notice a couple six rows up from me, sitting in the left section of pews. At first I thought it was a husband carressing and scratching his wife’s back. You know how Mormons do that during sacrament meeting. I was about to put my head back down when the wife raised her head, and it wasn’t a wife–it was another guy.

Surprised, I watched them for a while, and this public display of affection was pretty consistent throughout the meeting.

These young men, both in their early twenties, didn’t seem to be brothers. Every summer we get a large contingent of young people who work in our area selling security systems or dish tv, and I’m guessing these guys were part of that influx. I don’t otherwise know them.

I have no idea whether they were just friends and this was simply a way of expressing that friendship or whether they were a couple and acting like most of the other couples sitting in the chapel that day, with frequent yet casual displays of affection.

But what I found most interesting of all is that, so far as I could tell, I was the only one who took note. No one else seemed to notice or care.

Could this be the earnest of a future day when a committed gay couple would feel comfortable attending Church as such and no one would give it a second thought? I don’t know, but at least now I have a vision of what such a day would look like. It would look a lot like my ward this past Sunday. And that would be just fine with me.

Comments

  1. I sure hope so.

  2. I love the idea that church will someday be a place (if it isn’t already in some places) where anybody and everybody will feel perfectly welcome and comfortable.

    However, I’m not a big fan of the sacrament-meeting-back-scratch, under any circumstances. It can sometimes verge on the “eww.”

  3. God willing, Kev.

  4. Kev,

    I sure hope not. Open acceptance of same sex LOC violations/couplings shows a serious misunderstanding of the scriptures/prophetic councel regarding chastity and if a Bishop was to support this type of behavior in my stake I would imagine he would be released or face an open revolt from the membership in the pews. I gotta keep it real.

  5. Well, if they were married, the LOC thing goes out the window…

  6. back scratching is against the LoC?

    sheesh, that’s stricter than I remembered.

  7. I detest the sight of back-scratching or any other group grooming in Sacrament Meeting. That is why I sit up front.

  8. As a hetero who has no problem with scratching male backs and has been criticized twice in the last decade for being “gay” on the basis of that display of non-erotic friendship, I don’t know what to infer from your encounter. I think these culture wars have stolen from us non-erotic physical affection, and that seems to me a loss.

  9. #5 no it simply does not. The LDS church does not recognize same sex marriages… All same sex sexual activity is a LOC violation. Back scratching is not cause its just back scratching.

  10. No, I know, bbell. It’s just that what if these two are gay and have a crush on each other? what if they’re gay and they’re not crushing on each other? are they allowed to scratch each other’s backs and have it be okay? or because they’re gay mean that they’re not allowed to touch someone of the same sex in any kind of affectionate way?

    I agree with smb. Women are allowed to be affectionate more than men, but even still people are weirdly aware of same sex touch that used to only mean friendship.

  11. bbell, glad to see you keeping it real. What is “real,” again?

  12. I’m with bbell, here. This is an abomination. For Kevin’s bishop and ward members, the question should not even be so much what to do, as who will cast the first stone.

  13. Aaron Brown says:

    No need to picture a future day. Just go down to the MTC and hang out for a few days. I observed more (presumably) non-erotic male-on-male physicality than I’ve ever seen anywhere, before or since. Of course, this was 1991. No idea if this still holds true, but it probably does.

    AB

  14. I think these culture wars have stolen from us non-erotic physical affection, and that seems to me a loss.

    I observed more (presumably) non-erotic male-on-male physicality than I’ve ever seen anywhere, before or since.

    Cue Adam Greenwood defending such sentiment and/or DKL mocking Adam Greenwood.

  15. Mark IV says:

    This illustrates the difficulty inherent in proscribing a homosexual lifestyle, whatever that is.

    Men on sports teams can touch each other’s bums but apparently backs are off limits. I was embraced by a GA last weekend. Was he sending a message I failed to pick up on?

  16. JNS, You know as well as I do that a young gay couple doing some PDA in Sac mtg would not be welcome in the typical ward if the PDA was enough to be noticed. In my ward it would involve a visit to the bishops office for a discussion of proper behavior. The parents around them would be rightly offended. Sometimes I think the bloggernaccle indulges in some fantasy LDS living.

  17. ESO,
    I sit up front because it’s the only way to contain my two-year-old. (Seriously: the building we’re in has folding chairs rather than pews; pews offer some containment, but chairs don’t.)

    Not witnessing group grooming? That’s all icing.

  18. Mark IV says:

    bbell is from the Lone Star state. That is also the setting for King of the Hill, and one episode included this memorable exchange between father and son:

    HANK: Dad, I gotta take your shoulder here.
    COTTON: Hands off, girlie! I didn’t fight off a bunker full of horny privates to let you cop a feel.

  19. bbell,
    And why should a young straight couple PDAing be any more welcome? (It reminds me of one of those broadcast temple dedications; I was with my mom and sisters in the Marriott Center and a couple two or three rows in front of us was going at it. I think there was a ring, so they were probably engaged or married, but seriously–at a temple dedication? even if you’re not at the actual temple?)

  20. PDA = back scratching??

  21. I agree no PDA from Hetero either. That Temple broadcast story seems way over the top. But the post is not about Hetero PDA its about same sex PDA.

  22. Seriously — back-scratching is PDA????

  23. It is a commentary on modern society that a friend scratching his friend’s back is considered or compared to homosexual PDA. Disheartening – except the part where you mentioned that no one else seemed to notice or care. There was a reason for that, and not the one that you seem to be hoping for.

  24. Moral opposition to homosexual activity = banning back scratching . . . or discouraging someone who is gay from worshiping with us?

    Imho, there is a bright, clear line between opposing explicitly sexual activity in sacrament meeting and imposing a “hands-off” policy. If we enforce the latter, I won’t be able to attend any meetings. I almost always sit with my arm(s) around my wife and one or more children, and I often sit with my arm behind whatever brother is sitting next to me in priesthood meetings.

    Whatever I am willing to accept from straight people in church, I am willing to accept from gay people in church. Whatever I believe is inappropriate for one, I believe it also is inappropriate for the other.

  25. I don’t think I would have gotten worked up about the situation described here. I think everyone should be mindful of where they are and what message they are sending.

    I’ve got a story that involves the conference center balcony, Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert (2006), and a SS couple in the row in front of me and my guests. I’ll spare you the details but it went far past the experience stated in the story above. Let’s just say they still had trouble controlling themselves after a not so tactful suggestion from myself that they “get a room”. I wouldn’t have been any more pleased or accepting if they were hetero.

  26. I’ve got no problem with physical male contact in theory (but please keep your hands off me—the other day I punched and kicked a guy at work for tickling me, a pure adrenalin fight-or-flight response; luckily he took it in stride, and I don’t think he’ll tickle me again).

    But hey, as a matter of conscience I gotta weigh in on the other side of the homosexuality issue, even if it’s just seen as the knee-jerk conservative Mormon position. I sure don’t agree with just throwing open the door to homosexual behavior at church or anywhere else. While I’m sure homosexuality is one of the hardest, most complicated temptations to face, that doesn’t change the fact that it is a sinful, perverted vice that’s going to help spiritually ruin this civilization the more PC-enabled it becomes, a process that is fast accelerating.

    At the same time, I sure hope repentant people who have acknowledged the sinfulness of homosexual behavior and are committed to resisting gay temptations and deceptions would feel comfortable coming to church. With the attitude of this post, though, you may as well have people smoking in sacrament meeting too and openly looking at porn on their iPods. For someone struggling to resist same-gender temptation, seeing two gays indulge that way is probably about as bad as porn, just a less-explicit version of it.

  27. Re: the original post and also bbell’s #16, I long for a spiritual community where there’s no such thing as rightly taking offense.

  28. Mark B. says:

    It’s surely easy to make fun of bbell, and even easier to make fun of his caricature.

    And I suppose that its entertaining to speculate about “normalizing” homosexual acts by sanctioning marriage of two persons of the same sex–it’s like the old song said, “a piece of paper makes it all right.”

    But I don’t know how you can square that type of speculation with prophetic teachings about the law of chastity and the centrality of families to God’s purposes for us.

  29. Mark IV says:

    If you want to see an example of the way to respond to someone smoking in church, go read this. The story starts in the fifth paragraph. I’ll quote just a part of it:

    most of the people in that chapel shared the same religious convictions, the same certainty about the blessings associated with the word of wisdom, etc. Most chose to express that certainty in ways that were not welcoming, with an attitude that expressed distrust of my father (an attitude that would no doubt have been reciprocated in kind). The charming, pearl-laden lady, in contrast, was willing to assert her convictions with courtesy and a generosity of spirit I have continued to admire all these years later. In a manner of speaking, she was willing to put the needs of civic faith before her personal religious convictions.

  30. C’mon folks. Back-scratching.

  31. Ken Dahl says:

    I always do my darnedest to bring back the practice of unerotic physical affection and intimacy between men by indiscriminately groping other male churchmembers in my ward on a weekly basis. I’ve received no complaints.

  32. Julie M. Smith says:

    Y’all are missing the real issue.

    What is UP with these hordes of door-to-door salesmen (and it is always men) that come out of Utah and into the mission field for the summer? Our ward has a dozen of them selling security alarms this summer.

    It bothers me.

  33. Aaron Brown says:

    Steve, first it’s back-scratching, then it’s ear-nibbling, then it’s dry-humping in the pews. Beware the slippery slope!

    AB

  34. True dat, Julie.

  35. Mark IV says:

    It’s a slippery slope, Steve. First, we allow back-scratching. This practice advances to hand-holding, and the next thing you know, people are French-kissing one another right there on the pews. Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, etc.

  36. first it’s back-scratching, then it’s ear-nibbling, then it’s dry-humping in the pews.

    Don’t forget de-centering the family’s place in God’s plan for us!

  37. Good point, Julie.

  38. Nice cross post, AB and Mark.

  39. Nice cross post, Brad and Steve.

  40. Julie, you’ve got the real story here. What is it with Mormons and door-to-door sales and/or multilevel marketing schemes?

  41. Mark IV says:

    Vulcan mind meld.

  42. sister blah 2 says:

    #26– Chris, I don’t think you can compare back-scratching (which maybe–even likely–was platonic) with smoking or looking at porn in church.

    But now that you bring it up, I have seen someone smoking in the chapel during sacrament meeting one time. The gentleman also had no shirt and was drinking from a paper bag. He was greeted warmly by some ward members and told that we were glad he had joined us today. They also politely noted that CA law bans smoking indoors. It really wasn’t a big deal.

    Later, in the parking lot, he became a bit agitated and told the EQP that he was Jesus, and if the EQP tried to touch him he would call down lightning from heaven to strike the EQP dead. That’s when it went from unusual to awesome. BTW, you might want to try the lightning line next time a man tries to tickle you; it totally worked for our sac. mtg. visitor–you’d better believe none of the brethren of our ward got too close to him after that.

  43. Brad: you mean, nice cross post, Brad, Steve, and JNS.

  44. I can tell without asking that this ward isn’t anywhere in Utah. They’d be stoking fires to burn those two at the stake, all the time yelling “will someone please think of the children!”.

  45. While I’m sure homosexuality is one of the hardest, most complicated temptations to face, that doesn’t change the fact that it is a sinful, perverted vice that’s going to help spiritually ruin this civilization the more PC-enabled it becomes, a process that is fast accelerating.

    I am soo out of touch. I just can’t get worked up about this. Doesn’t seem that bad.

  46. jjohnsen (and bbell). I personally know of wards in SLC where committed gay couples have been fellowshiped, even extended callings. It typically depends on the attitude of the Bishop. I’ll grant that such attitudes are the exception among LDS bishops, in or out of Utah, but the members tend to follow suit (at least in the examples I’m familiar with).

  47. Matt W. says:

    It all sort of reminds me of that episode of the Simpsons where Homer is trying to keep Bart from being Gay.

    I agree with smb that it is sad that a man scratching another’s back must also be fondling his genitals, by the logic displayed here. This ties into the stupid and incorrect notion that People have to be homosexual because of male intellectual intimacy or something like that. The problem here is it just perpetuates the stereotype that a man and a woman are unequal, and so intellectually or emotionally a man can not be the same as a woman.

    In anycase, the church, so far as I know, hasn’t defined gay sex to include back scratching yet. I think it is primarily limited to acts which involve touching the sexual organs of another person of the same gender with sexual intent, while also including kissing with intent to generate sexual feelings. Sadly, sometimes it extends to cross dressing and the “appearance of evil” in some circles. I’d think that covers the definition of homosexual activity for the church, right?

  48. Word, dug. Feeling threatened because you believe you’re supposed to feel threatened is not the same as actually feeling threatened (let alone actually being threatened).

  49. Matt W., last time I cross dressed at church, bbell ratted me out and I got a stern talking to from my bishop. Very, very embarrassing.

  50. Brad, but your back was extremely well-scratched! Like with lion claws or something. Weird.

  51. Nice try AB.

  52. Aaron Brown says:

    Do or do not. There is no try.

    AB

  53. Mark B. says:

    Looks like the sophomore class was let out early this afternoon.

  54. Julie,

    In my neighborhood, we are plagued by pest control salesmen.

    Does anyone know of a good pest control salesmen repellant?

  55. You’re such a square, Mark B.

  56. Yeah, the back-scratching is a little weird.
    But not quite as weird as reading Mark IV say “bums” in comment #15.

  57. Mark IV says:

    Jessawhy,

    My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.

  58. Brian,
    That’s easy: move to Manhattan. We don’t have them here! (Pest control salesmen, that is; we do decidedly have pests, just not of the BYU-RM-is-selling-stuff variety.)

  59. BTD Greg says:

    I’m late to this discussion, but I can’t help but relate the following anecdote. Apparently, the elder missionaries had developed a practice of scratching/rubbing each others backs during Sunday meetings in our ward and our bishop had to tell them to stop. Somehow, I missed this (probably because I was volunteering in the nursery).

    No matter how you feel about same-sex relationships, can we all agree that this is inappropriate behavior for missionaries? Or is it just fine?

  60. #42–Chris, I don’t think you can compare back-scratching (which maybe–even likely–was platonic) with smoking or looking at porn in church.

    Oh, please. I do back-scratching of my wife and 13-year-old boy all the time in church. What I was responding to was the back-scratching as tied into this closing remark:

    Could this be the earnest of a future day when a committed gay couple would feel comfortable attending Church as such and no one would give it a second thought? I don’t know, but at least now I have a vision of what such a day would look like. It would look a lot like my ward this past Sunday. And that would be just fine with me.

    If you know the couple doing the back-scratching of each other is gay, it’s certainly a loaded gesture. For any sexual couple, this kind of physically gratifying behavior is almost always foreplay on some level. That’s why it makes some people uncomfortable to watch even when the couple is legitimate hetero.

  61. “For any sexual couple, this kind of physically gratifying behavior is almost always foreplay on some level.”

    Sometimes, I wish I believed in using colorful language in public settings. I guarantee when I scratch my wife’s back nearly every week in church, I am not using it as the chance for a discreet turn-on. FOREPLAY?! Yikes.

  62. It all boils down to what the church considers appropriate for our celibate caste. I expect in some locations the gay members may congregate together in meetings.

    By BYU standards, I think two sitting together would be acceptable. An arm around the shoulder would certainly raise a few eyebrows. But back scratching? Certainly a violation of the Honor Code.

  63. jjohnsen (and bbell). I personally know of wards in SLC where committed gay couples have been fellowshiped, even extended callings. It typically depends on the attitude of the Bishop. I’ll grant that such attitudes are the exception among LDS bishops, in or out of Utah, but the members tend to follow suit (at least in the examples I’m familiar with).

    Salt Lake is becoming more normal all the time, someday Davis County and Utah County will follow behind.

    If you know the couple doing the back-scratching of each other is gay, it’s certainly a loaded gesture. For any sexual couple, this kind of physically gratifying behavior is almost always foreplay on some level. That’s why it makes some people uncomfortable to watch even when the couple is legitimate hetero.

    Haha, what? Back scratching is foreplay? Craziness.

  64. Mark B. says:

    Well, BTD Greg, I remember encouraging my new greenie companion (I believe the exact words were “Get back on your own futon!” without any pre-mission intensifiers) to keep his knees, elbows, head, hands and toes on his own futon when we had companionship prayer. I don’t know how that correlates to backscratching, but it’s where I drew the line.

  65. Mark B. says:

    Hey, crazy or no, jjohnsen, but that may have been what Frau Merkel was thinking, nicht wahr?

  66. Oh, and Amen, Julie. One of the wards in our stake gets a disproportionate number of summer salesmen.

  67. Mommie Dearest says:

    Even after skimming through most of the comments, I am not convinced that these two guys were a sexual couple. As kids, my siblings scratched each other’s backs and fussed with each other’s hair regularly through the long boring hours of sacrament meeting. I used the same technique as a mom to quiet my own children during meetings. My teenage daughter now thinks it’s an entitlement. I usually tell her no so as not to distract the people sitting behind us, but after reading the foreplay thing…ick.

    All the same, my point is that back-scratching does not a sexual couple make.

  68. Peter LLC says:

    I thought all the salesmen went to Mesa for the summer.

  69. I’m with Mommie on this one.

  70. #57: Mark IV.
    Maybe weird was the wrong word. Funny is more like it.
    I think of “bum” as a word we use in front of our children because “butt” sounds so bad. As in, “Sit on your bum, so you don’t fall off the stool.” Anyway, yes, you have a pure heart, strength of ten, blah blah blah.
    68: Peter, are you in Mesa? We’ve been here for 4 years and have only had one sales guy (selling food storage of all things!). This surprises us considering DH sold Living Scriptures for 3 summers (ducks flying videotapes from angry customers) We were poor, young, and stupid.

  71. Mark B, if I were a head of state, I’d have freaked about that. Talk about your international relations…..

  72. Looking at it from both sides, I would hope gays feel comfortable in my ward, and yes, seeing two men back-scratching in the pews would make me uncomfortable. Sorry, Kev, I can’t sing along to that sentiment.

  73. On back-scratching-can-equal-foreplay for a sexually involved couple, haven’t you read all the marital advice stuff about how foreplay is much more than just what knobs and dials you twiddle in the minutes before intercourse? How flirtations and touches and interactions even days before a sexual act can play into enhancing that act? Many experts do call that a form of foreplay.

    Any time a sexual couple interacts positively, it’s foreplay on SOME level, in that it enhances the relationship and helps grease the skids (sorry) for the next sexual union. Even one spouse doing the dishes for the other is a form of foreplay.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that all back-scratching is foreplay; I’m only talking about for sexual couples. For them, how could this form of sensual touch NOT be foreplay, in advance? And we don’t need to see gay couples doing that at church or anything else in-your-face that broadcasts their willful disregard for the commandments.

    A gay couple attending church together and scratching each other’s backs makes about as much sense as an alcoholic attending an AA meeting with a bottle of gin to openly enjoy during the proceedings.

  74. I think that back scratching is a cultural Utah behavior. Trust me it does not mean anything but friendship. I remember as a kid in those LONG 2 hour Sacrament mtgs we scratched words on each other’s backs (friends and siblings) to get thru the meeting.

    Now I scratch words on my kid’s backs. I use gospel words from the Sacrament mtg. talks. It helps my kids listen for clues. It is a tactile technique to help dyslexic/ADD kids learn how to spell.

    Touching does not always imply sex. I find that train of thought puritanical. I do think that missionaries should not back scratch. Scratching is not bad, just with all the gay community’s focus on missionaries; they have to be overly careful of appearances.

  75. #73 Chris I do agree with you. For couples every bit of affectionate behavior is foreplay.

  76. I occasionally scratch my wife’s back at church, in a rather absentminded manner. If she thought it was foreplay, right there on the pew, she’d smack me. Last time I checked, we were a sexual couple (blushes with mild embarrassment at the thought).

    Last time I indulged in any close physical contact with another guy was at basketball the other morning. He kept putting his eye in my elbow. The cad….

  77. Kevin Barney says:

    I think some of the comments took me as assuming the two young men were gay from the mere fact of their physical contact. If you read the OP, you’ll see I was at pains to make it clear I was agnostic on the issue. I just thought it was fun to imagine that they were, and were able to sit together and interact with each other just as any couple does at church. It gave me a visual image of what that would be like, and I didn’t find it the horrible thing most LDS seem to assume it would be.

  78. #74: Scratching is not bad, just with all the gay community’s focus on missionaries; they have to be overly careful of appearances.

    JA Benson, please do tell us more about the gay community’s focus on missionaries!

  79. I think I am with David T on this one. I would hope gay people would feel welcome in my ward, but would not be comfortable with gay PDA there. It is probably a bit of a double standard. But maybe, for gay couples, avoiding PDA at Church is like the Roman saints not eating meat sacrificed to idols: a sacrifice they should make for the benefit of their less enlightened brethren and sisters.

  80. Steven I guess I really would not know all that much except that we had a gay male convert in our ward that revealed a few things on the subject. Apparently there are a few gay men that fixate on Catholics priests and missionaries. There is probably something on the internet about it, but I am not checking on our home computer. There were also some films on the subject. I do not have a problem with gay or lesbians as individuals. I would welcome a gay/lesbian in our congregation. I do get uncomfortable that someone would join the church because they have a crush on a missionary(s); but then again I guess straight people do all the time. My point is that touching is not always sexual, but missionaries have to be careful of other peoples hang ups.

  81. Back scratching can most definitely lead to greater physical intimacy. After he spent much of sacrament meeting gently scratching my back in sacrament meeting, my poor DH had to fight me off, trying to drag him into the kitchen for a quickie. “We can’t! This is a church! We’re supposed to be in Sunday School!”

    Spoilsport.

  82. #81 Ann LOL!!!

  83. Back scratching is a behavior probably much closer to nit picking behavior observed in most primates (who we really haven’t evolved that far away from) that functions to strengthen community ties.

    The assertion that all positive interactions between a sexual couple constitute foreplay only works if you think sex is the major focus of the relationship. As important as I think sex is to my marriage, I’d hardly call it the most important aspect of the relationship.

  84. Latter-day Guy says:

    73, “grease the skids”!??!!?? Well, Chris, you’ve got to be winning the euphemism award today.

    In general, nah, I don’t see this as a big deal. I think that if we are sexualizing brotherly affection/communal grooming then we’re the ones with problems. (Not that I think you were doing that in the OP, KB.)

    (Now, am I the only one who is amused by the fact that Evrgreen Int’l would be opposed to this behavior, but encourage butch things like basketball and all the butt-slapping that goes with it?)

  85. Mark B. says:

    Tonight, during the Mets game broadcast, the great Tom Seaver (visiting for the evening) was praising the Mets’ starting pitcher for getting down to business on the mound, not wasting time, etc., not “scratching his butt”.

    Now, Kevin, just what part of his back was that other guy scratching?

  86. #73 – You are right; it is foreplay – IF you define everything we do as subconscious foreplay. How can anyone disagree if you start with that definition? I need to comment more on my wife’s blog. Now that’s some awesome foreplay.

    What Kristine N. said in #83.

  87. #80, JA, if you wish, as you say, to welcome gay individuals into your congregation, best not to unfairly malign them as predatory, especially since you mention that you really don’t “know all that much.” It is a false stereotype used to categorically vilify and demonize gay people for years. There is no need to warn members to lock up their children or congregations to likewise lock up their missionaries.

  88. #87 I am sorry I have offended you Steven B. I am not stereotyping all gay men. Gay men are not all the same. Gay people as a community like everyone else, most good some not so good. Most heterosexuals are honorable and not predatory with teens and young adults. Some are. We have had two predatory heterosexual males in our congregation and we have had one gay man who was also predatory. We had one guy who just liked teens be they boys or girls. I am just as uptight over the heterosexuals and bisexual predatory adults as I am the gay one.

  89. Nat Whilk says:

    OP: “While absent-mindedly listening to the talks I was also reviewing a manuscript I am currently peer reviewing. I always multitask at church.

    SYDNEY, Australia (AP)–A judge halted a drug conspiracy trial Tuesday after some jurors were found to have been playing the puzzle game Sudoku while evidence was being given. Sydney District Court Judge Peter Zahra ended the trial Tuesday for two men facing a possible life sentence for drug conspiracy charges. The trial had been running for 66 days and had cost taxpayers an estimated $950,000.

  90. MikeInWeHo says:

    Watching you all tie yourselves into knots over this issue is incredibly entertaining, I must admit. I should start compiling some of these threads and comments for an article. While I personally never heard of any “gay men that fixate on Catholic priests and missionaries,” it does appear that there are one or two Latter-day Saints who are fixated on gays…..

  91. What is UP with these hordes of door-to-door salesmen (and it is always men) that come out of Utah and into the mission field for the summer? Our ward has a dozen of them selling security alarms this summer.

    I think our stake shoos them off to the singles ward. Although, if we ever did get any in our ward, I’m sure our bishop would openly mock them from the pulpit.

  92. My boyfriend and I were in SLC a few weeks ago and went to the Tabernacle Choir’s broadcast (he can be such a tourist sometimes). And guess what? The flowers on stage were unbelievably ugly. Beyond ugly. Hideous.

    The moral of this story: Orange and hot magenta zinnias are all you get when you’re mean to gay people.

    (And, no, we didn’t do any PDA while we were there. Shame on you for even thinking it.)

    :-)

  93. Mark IV says:

    Leave it to Mike to notice the floral arrangements! :-D

  94. Mark IV says:

    Sorry, MoHo, your handle is close to MikeinWeHo’s and I mistook you for him.

  95. Haha!

    You know, all this fuss about whether two men who have devoted their lives to each other might cause offense by sitting a millimeter too close in the pew is kind of funny.

    But, to me, the serious side of this is what the church is missing out on. This was the point of the floral arrangement anecdote (#92). Gay people are different, and they are different in ways that add to the whole. For example, gay people can be warm, funny, musical, engaging, good with kids and talented in so many other ways that are “recognizably gay.”

    When the church makes us feel unwelcome or (as is common) when people in church say unkind things that drive us away, who loses? I claim it’s the church. It loses people who can provide a real spark of creativity and passion to the congregation.

    You guys (and I mean you the rank and file, not ‘you’ the leaders of the church) get to choose this. I’m just pointing out that it’s your loss.

  96. Yeah, you know the decline in the quality and frequency of stake roadshows has been demonstrated to be directly linked to the rise of anti-gay rhetoric from Mormon leaders. Such a shame…

  97. Ok, so I know it was brought up a while ago, and I don’t mean to get off topic, but I have to throw this in re: door-to-door salesman from UT:

    We recently had a salesman from UT drop by our house here in the Midwest (a few times, actually – each time my wife told him to come back when I was home). He explained he was from UT, and it naturally came out that he was LDS, and there was the “oh, so are we!” discussion. Finding this interesting, my wife shared the story with one of her friends in our ward who lives a few miles away. To her surprise, this very same individual had just stopped by her house. When he dropped by when I was around, he talked about some of the other members of the church in our area that he had visited. Now, I could be reading too much into this, but I suspect that he somehow got a hold of our ward directory and was using it to contact people that would likely be more trusting of him. I wonder if this happens very often in other places.

    I have also noticed that during the summer, our temple here has a special weekday morning session (there are otherwise no weekday morning sessions) for all of the summer salesman from UT. This is crazy – not the holding of the extra temple session (which is great), but the flood of summer salesman from UT that requires it.

  98. Matt Thurston says:

    #95, couldn’t agree more.

  99. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 95

    That’s a good point. I think it’s safe to say most of the heterosexual people in my part of the world would be horrified at the thought of living in a world where there were no gays.

  100. Well, of course, Mike. For one thing, who would do their hair?

  101. #99 – as would the Bloggernacle. You guys are an instant traffic jam when the cyber roads slow down and get boring. Nobody commenting? Hey, let’s write a post that includes the word “gay”.

    Works like a charm.

  102. The trial had been running for 66 days

    That’s the lede. Not the fact that jurors were playing Sudoku.

  103. OK, not to threadjack, but will someone PLEASE do a post analyzing the Returned-Missionary-Turned-Security-System-Salesman phenomenon, and the troubling connection between missionary techniques and unethical, ends-justifies-the-means sales practices?

    Please.

  104. I suspect that he somehow got a hold of our ward directory and was using it to contact people that would likely be more trusting of him. I wonder if this happens very often in other places.

    When I was on my mission in Arizona in the early 90′s I got a phone call from a salesman passing through town that was selling the animated Living Scriptures videos. He was very friendly, etc., asked if we used the videos to teach kids, etc., and I think he even offered to donate a set to our zone.

    Then he asked if he could drop by and pick up a copy of our ward/stake directory, as he was sure that the product he was selling would be beneficial to everyone in the area. I told him no, and that he should call the Bishop, and if the Bishop said it was ok he could get it from him. The guy got really mad, and I ended the conversation.

    On a related note, our new group of salesmen arrived in Calgary a couple of weeks ago from Southern Alberta, with their wives (and a couple of kids I believe).

  105. Well, Martin, here’s my thoughts. Once you’ve been spit upon and rejected day after day for God, it’s not that big of a leap to be spit upon and rejected day after day for money. I think it’s thick skin combined with goal oriented thinking. And the fact that most RMs are as poor as dirt and thus a bit desperate.

  106. Martin Willey says:

    Jami: Here are my thoughts. As a missionary, you say and do things that might not be technically accurate and ethical. In my case, it was telling door contacts you were conducting a survey, although we never compiled, tabulated or analyzed the results. It was easy to overlook that we were stretching the truth, because it was for the benefit of the Kingdom, and we were not directly profitting in any way. If it got us in the door, we were all the closer to saving a soul.

    When some of us went home, it was not a huge leap to use our newly acquired skill set to sell products. Only now, being less than “honest in all our dealings” is harder to justify, because we are selling security systems (or insulation, or pest control, or scripture videos, or nutritional supplements), not saving souls. And the more people we get to part with their money, the better we get paid.

  107. #106 – Was / is “conducting a survey” a common practice? I never used that approach, had no friends who told me of that approach, and have not seen it in any of the missions where I have lived. I can’t believe it would be taught or approved by the Brethren. I assume it is an incorrect MP program. Perhaps it is more wide-spread and my experience is the exception – but I hope not.

  108. rmarshan says:

    The young men at my ward are very close and affectionate. Another day I noticed how they hug each other and scratch each other’s back during sacrament meeting. After the shock of seeing non-sexual male public display of affection (let’s face it, this is not that common)I came to think that’s actually a good thing. They are young men that love each other, and if there is no malicious intent in that gesture I should not be the one painting it that way.

  109. What can I say? I told people that we had a baptism scheduled in two weeks time and asked them if they’d like to prepare to be baptized. We had the date set, but technically, there was no one willing to be baptized, but we made our baptismal invitations per day quota and a couple of people prepared for baptism.

    I only conducted surveys when I had a sick companion. Do you have to be compiling, tabulating and analyzing to take a survey? It never crossed my mind that I was stretching the truth. [pauses to consult dictionary] Why, by golly, I was stretching the truth. I wasn’t conducting a survey. I was annoying people over the phone. Hm…that explains a lot.

  110. Confession time: I have one of those wooden back-scratchers.
    Thanks a bunch Chris Bigelow–now I have to go talk to the bishop.
    PS–Is the fact that my wife gave it to me a signal?

  111. I personally know of wards in SLC where committed gay couples have been fellowshiped, even extended callings.

    If by “committed” you mean having unrepentant sex with no intention of stopping, then that bishop is probably not fulfilling his calling completely. If this is a decision he made via the spirit, fine, but if it’s just because he wants to live in an “I’m okay, you’re okay” kind of world, then he’s ignoring his mandate.

  112. Martin Willey says:

    Ray: The “survey” was standard practice in my mission, long ago and far away.

  113. We used the street survey approach occasionally in Melbourne, Australia, 1986-88. We even held clipboards loaded with blank paper and just scribbled down random words the person said or even made nonsense marks, totally faking it.

    I live in Provo, UT, and the other day a young R.M. type came to my door to sell VHS-to-DVD transfer services. When I first opened the door, he gave me one of those simpering, spiritual, beseeching missionary smiles before launching into his spiel; the smile was the equivalent of that soft, syrupy, earnest, spiritual voice that some missionaries use (and that some R.M.s keep using at church even years after their missions; the first time I heard one elders quorum president speak normally and naturally outside a church setting, I was shocked because I’d only heard him use the missionary cadence before and I thought it must be how he always talked).

    That R.M. salesman’s smile was SO manipulative, with so much cultural baggage built into it. What he communicated to me with his smile was, “Here we are together in God’s country of Provo just a few blocks away from BYU, so I know you’ve probably been on a mission too, and you must know how hard it is to go door to door, so please show me some kindness and mercy and hear my message.” No, I did not.

    Now, if he’d been selling that one back-scratcher/dildo combination device I’ve heard is now available, I’d have been all over it…

  114. #110, PS–Is the fact that my wife gave it to me a signal?

    Almost certainly.

  115. I once worked with another dude on a summer job and I would scratch his back. We weren’t pest control salesmen, however. We were tending some sheep up on a mountain. Years have gone by, and my friend is gone, but sometimes I take out his old shirt and smell it.

  116. I wish I knew how to quit you, gst…

  117. It is written that for years Jesus travelled exclusively with men, and only visited women to save them from a stoning or to have them wait upon him.

  118. Yes, but did he scratch their backs? I think the answer is yes. If he was willing to wash their feet, why not an occasional back scratch during a long afternoon? Those getting all bent out of shape about back scratching: WWJD?

  119. MCQ,
    I’m pretty sure it’s well-documented that Jesus only washed the feet of the sinless.

  120. Re #111

    If by “committed” you mean having unrepentant sex with no intention of stopping, then that bishop is probably not fulfilling his calling completely.

    What if by “committed” we mean having devoted their lives to each other for the past 18 years instead of spending those same years in empty, desolate celibacy? Would you really prefer that they got separate apartments and came home to their cats instead of each other?

  121. What if by “committed” we mean having devoted their lives to each other for the past 18 years instead of spending those same years in empty, desolate celibacy? Would you really prefer that they got separate apartments and came home to their cats instead of each other?

    As long as “committed” doesn’t mean sex, odds are a bishop wouldn’t have a preference as to what you do with your devotions or your cats.

  122. That means he only washed his own feet? OK, Brad, but maybe he scratched the backs of the sinners and publicans.

  123. Long as they weren’t gay, MCQ.

  124. Jimbob, #111, you mention that a bishop would be ignoring his mandate in reference to extending fellowship to gays. As a technical point bishops are to reach out to all members and give appropriate callings to each one. One might argue that gays shouldn’t be called into the youth program, but there are area’s they can serve in. (If they are promoting homosexuality that would put a different spin on things.)

    And as far as their membership in the Church, they pretty much have to elect to leave the Church. To excommunicate a gay, or anyone else, requires a confession from the guilty party, and the guilty parties consent to use their confession against them, or two witnesses who have seen the offense being committed. Of course there are other exceptions to this such as a legal conviction in a court of law. But people aren’t convicted of “homosexuality” so that wouldn’t really apply to this discussion.

    Hence any gay who wants to stay a member of the Church, can do so. (If they were to go out and get married in California or Massachusetts, I suppose that could be the basis for an excommunication.) You can’t excommunicate people for having a same gender room mate. Unless they elect to allow you to use their own confession in a disciplinary council, or two people witness the sex act itself, and are willing to testify in the disciplinary council, there are no grounds for an excommunication.

    And as far as your comment: “but if it’s just because he (the bishop) wants to live in an “I’m okay, you’re okay” kind of world, then he’s ignoring his mandate.” I would characterize it more as “I’m a sinner, your a sinner,” lets see if we can help each other out in this mortal trial we are both going through, because this is my mandate.

  125. CW,

    You’re assuming much in my comment that isn’t there. I’m really only saying two things. First, bishops are to call their flocks to repentance. Second, bishops generally don’t issue callings to those who have no intention of keeping the law of chastity. So if there is a knowingly “committed” homosexual couple in a bishop’s ward, and that couple has no intention of even trying to keep the law of chastity, then the bishop may be doing serious harm both to the sinner and the church by extending callings.

  126. Jimbob, accept my apology. The discussion was about fellow shipping and extending callings to gays. My point is that we should extend the hand of fellowship to all members of record, and that gays living together, should be extended the same friendship as an unmarried heterosexual couple.

    As far as extending callings I do agree that worthiness affects which callings we can extend, but doesn’t generally prevent us from finding some calling appropriate to the individual. For example a practicing lesbian, or heterosexual adulterer could be the Relief Society chorister, but probably not the Relief Society president.

    I should clarify that this would apply to gays, or adulterers who value their Church membership and want to be a part of the ward. If we are willing to talk frankly and lovingly, there is a way for them to be involved.

    I agree that it is part of the Bishop’s job to call members to repentance, but a higher responsibility is to help them return to be with Heavenly Father. Members may have needs that are of more importance than being called to repentance.

    I have found that the most important thing I can do with most ward members is to listen to them. When I understand their story, their fears and concerns, the injustices they have suffered, their side of the story, so to speak, they generally call themselves to repentance. When you truly listen long enough that you understand them they usually begin to talk about the things they need to change. At that point your offer to help is much more effective than calling people to repentance who feel bitter and angry and view you as an enemy.

    If you listen long enough, you become their ally. And that is more important than calling somebody to repentance who is not receptive. You can’t show forth an increase in love after reproving somebody, if you haven’t established a loving relationship beforehand. And establishing that relationship is of greater importance than calling members to repentance and is exactly why we need to love all ward members and find calling that are appropriate for them.

  127. Pres. Hinckley said that ALL members need a friend and a responsibility – and to be “nourished” by the good word of God.

    “You can’t show forth an increase in love after reproving somebody, if you haven’t established a loving relationship beforehand.”

    No truer words have been spoken anywhere.

  128. Ugly Mahana says:

    I would say that I don’t want to be an offender for a word, but I am going to do just that here. In other words, lay on the salt with this comment . . .

    How is a Bishop calling someone to repentance different from helping them return to Father in Heaven? I can understand that the manner in which said calling is done may encourage or discourage a sinner (which we all are), but to say that a Bishop has some other, higher responsibility than calling someone to repentance is to ignore what repentance means. Repentance means turning to God, coming into closer communion with Him. There is no higher calling. (OK, that said, I don’t think CW was saying anything different. . . Like I said, offender for a word.)

  129. Well Ugly Mahana, I agree that we often say the same thing in different ways. But in this case a ward with gays who were receiving fellowship and had callings was held up as an anomaly. My comments were designed to suggest that gays being welcomed into the ward and receiving callings should be the norm, not an anomaly.

    And that as a practical matter that a home teacher, visiting teacher, friend, fellow ward member or bishop, whose first interaction with a gay person was to remind gays of the Churches (the Lord’s) position on homosexuality, was probably not helping the gay person. The highest priority is to establish a relationship based on love, and that extended listening was probably necessary for that to happen.

    Actually it might be helpful to start with letting the gay person know of part of the Churches position on gays, the part about loving them, welcoming them into the ward and showing the same respect and compassion we want to be shown.

  130. Ugly Mahana says:

    Cue Doctrine and Covenants 121. (Well, the last 10-20 verses or so.)

  131. @25… Gej… For a second, I thought it was my date and I you were talking about. But no one around me said boo.

    Of course, we were discrete — as I would have been, even, were I with a woman. Public grooming is just not appropriate (though holding hands is fine by me).

    @26… Chris… Um, I’m sorry to inform you that my being gay and the feelings I have for men are no more a temptation than the feelings you have for women. Your porn problem or Tom’s smoking problem are not comparable to my being gay. I’m not sure what it might be comparable to, because I’m not entirely sure what will happen to my attractions post-resurrection. I am fairly confident that it’s not an eternal condition, but there you go. Assuming it’s not an eternal condition, then perhaps comparing it to congenital blindness or deafness might be appropriate.

    @28… Mark B… I can square it just fine. Families are still central to God’s plan. And my not making babies will in no way change that… nor will the barren straight couple two pews back.

    @44… Jjohnsen… I wouldn’t be so quick on the draw, there, cowboy. I’m out in my ward and stake (both in Utah), and even have a meaningful calling. Prejudice isn’t as deeply ingrained or as pervasive as some might think.

    @78… Steven B… The missionary/mormon fetish is pretty strong, actually. Latter-days was a recent movie that got wide play about a sexual relationship with a LDS missionary; Angels in America a play and movie won many awards and is still considered a must-see by many gays… it focuses part of its story on the extramarital homosexual affair of a gay mormon; there were the photos of gay “missionaries” at Salt Lake Community College which caused a big stir a couple years back… just sayin’.

    :)

    @115… GST… ROFLOL.

    ———-

    So, I know that I’ve come to the table after it’s already been cleared… but that hasn’t stopped me in the past. For those who don’t know me, I’m a regular commenter in these parts, an active and faithful latter-day saint, gay, and out. I think this post warrants the attention it’s gotten because this is a looming issue for the Church. And wards are at the forefront of the discussion.

    On PDA in general: I think it’s largely inappropriate in any context – moreso in a place people are gathered together — and moreso, yet, in a worship service. That said, I don’t think that back scratching can be construed, on its face, as anything but “nit picking”. It’s an innocuous act of intra-species bonding. And it feels nice. I’ve scratched and been scratched… and I have no problem with it.

    On back-scratching among gay men at church… while there is no difference, per se, between hetero and queer back scratching, I do believe that a certain amount decorum is expected of members. And care should be taken to avoid making a stir when one can. I just don’t think that worship services are an appropriate venue for distracting behavior in general (except by really anerable children, they get a pass).

    On this being an earnest of days to come… I dunno. I certainly yearn for a day when I am encouraged to find a life partner and settle into the very real soul building that comes from being in a committed relationship. But, barring that, I would hope that the silliness derived from the notions that gayness is “caught” or otherwise spread like a virus passes the way of the silly notions about blacks in the pre-existence. Which would mean that, as a gay man, my motives wouldn’t be impugned every time I made a gesture of any sort towards another man.

    I agree with Rex in saying that such reactions are more a sign of a dirty mind than anything else. To paraphrase Paul: “to the righteous, all things are righteous”.

    So there you go… too late to the party, but them’s my two cents.

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