Affirmation v. Evergreen

I don’t know whether it was by coincidence or intentional, but Affirmation and Evergreen both held their annual conferences in SLC yesterday, thus resulting in an opportunity to compare and contrast their two divergent approaches to the issues surrounding homosexuality in the Church.

Highlights from these conferences are provided by the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, and Fox 13. The Affirmation website is here, and the Evergreen website is here.

The biggest development from the weekend was a lengthy address by Elder Bruce Hafen at the Evergreen conference, providing a semi-official articulation of Church policy with respect to gay issues in the Church.

So what do you think? Which organization has the superior philosophical approach to the issues? Or is it a mixed bag, with one being better on some issues and the other being better on others? Is the Church better off for having two divergent organizations available for gay Mormons and their family members?

[Disclaimer: I have not studied these divergent organizations closely, so I don't have a strong sense of what the answer to these questions should be. That is why I am asking for your input on the question. From what little I've seen I tend to agree with Affirmation philosophically, but I emphasize that as I am not gay I have not made this a matter of close study. I am willing to be taught by your responsible commentary here. And I emphasize the word responsible.]

Comments

  1. The semi-official articulation of Church policy contains some unfortunate word choices. Stating emphatically that being gay is not in ones’ DNA is either bold or foolish, as it provides little room for maneuvering by future leaders.

    As we embrace continuing revelation, one would think that moderating terms – especially with respect to scientific information – would be the wiser course.

  2. ummquestion says:

    Must these two organizations be viewed as being in opposition to each other? They serve people with similar orientations, but they meet different needs and thus one does not have to be superior over the other.

    They both support the idea that God loves all of His children and that as such, everyone deserves love and tolerance whether they adhere to LDS teachings or not.

    “Is the Church better off for having two divergent organizations available for gay Mormons and their family members?”

    I think a better, more answerable question, would be are Church members or former members “better off” because there are multiple options available to them to choose from?

  3. Here is a great in depth look at the two.

  4. I agree with Rory’s comment above. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t know if Elder Hafen’s comments were reported fairly or not, but at least the way it was reported in the Trib it came across like he was stepping back the acknowledgment by some church leaders that having same-sex attraction (to use the church’s term) isn’t necessarily a conscious choice and that change, even with sincere effort, may not come easily if at all in this lifetime.

    I agree with Hafen to the extent that I am troubled by increasingly prevailing viewpoint in our culture, that there is something automatically suspect about not acting on whatever homosexual feelings one may have, for that view suggests that we don’t have free will about how we handle our sexuality. On the other hand, his language as reported in that Trib article seriously underplays the real challenges that are faced by those in the Church with homosexual inclinations.

    (I wouldn’t be surprised if Hafen’s views are more nuanced than was reported, but I have no knowledge of that.)

    And like Rory suggests, the whole scientific question of how much of our sexual inclinations is inborn (i.e., in one’s DNA) is far from determined. While it’s perfectly appropriate for Hafen to speak about what may be moral behavior or not, I fail to see how he’s in a position to be speaking about genetics and other scientific issues with much authority.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    ummquestion, I think you missed my last question. I asked the very question you thought should be asked. Thanks for your perspective.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Oops, ummquestion, I see now that I misread your comment. Never mind.

  7. While outwardly not supporting any particular “therapy,” Elder Hafen’s address clearly convinces me that the church has partaken of the NARTH Kool Aid.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    g, in the OP there is a link to the full text of Hafen’s talk from the LDS newsroom.

    I agree with Rory’s comment.

    To give just one example of something I disagreed with in the talk, I thought the “gay gene” discussion was a straw man argument. I think it’s pretty widely acknowledged that as far as we understand it today, the etiology of homosexuality is complex and not well understood, and there isn’t anything as simple as a gay gene. I’m not aware of anyone making that kind of an argument. But what is really significant is conscious choice. If there isn’t a real, conscious choice, then the etiology is kind of besides the point (whether it’s genetic, hormonal, developmental, environmental, or some combinaiton of all those factors). If there’s no conscious choice, then in a sense the etiology doesn’t really matter. And I accept the widely expressed testimony of the vast majority of gay men who have spoken on the topic that there was no conscious choice involved. It seems to me that we can only affirm the availability of a conscious choice if we are willing to deny the testimony of what gay men themselves have perceived in their own experience, something I’m not willing to do.

    So I think the situation is much more challening than his “gay gene” discussion would suggest.

  9. Elder Hafen’s talk appears to represent one giant leap backward in the Church’s stance on homosexuality. Regressive and unfortunate.

  10. I have to agree with Steve M’s sentiment. This whole talk makes me very sad. Waking up on ressurection morning and finding oneself heterosexual is no more of an incentive for some homosexuals than the promise to a heterosexual that, if they live alone their whole lives, devoid of the untimate relationship for a couple, and concentrate totally on service, they will wake up homosexual.

  11. My husband and I have attended Evergreen conferences twice in the past, but not during the last few years. One problem is that there really isn’t a real choice offered for those who want to remain members of the church; Evergreen sets itself up as the ‘offical’ option (including semi-official sponsorship and General Authority visits) and Affirmation sets itself up as for those who want to challenge the church and change it, or leave it. A problem that many people I know discover after participating in Evergreen is that they are focused so much on change that those who find changing their orientation to be impossible become disillusioned and generally end up giving up on Church membership altogether. While most LDS therapists have at least gotten the message that more drastic reparative therapy doesn’t work, there is still a strong message that if you just believe in the Atonement enough you will eventually be able to ‘overcome’ homosexual feelings and no longer be bothered by them. In my husband’s case, after several years of therapy and support groups he realized that he would probably always feel some measure of homosexual attraction, but that he could choose to act on it or not. However, the message that he kept getting from Evergreen and from bishops was that he wasn’t doing enough and that if he tried harder he would be able to completely remove the feelings. He decided he didn’t care enough to keep trying and that removing those feelings wasn’t that important to him.

    LIke others have pointed out, the question of whether homosexuality is genetic seems to be a straw man argument. The causes of homosexuality are complex and not really important for most gay people I know. Evergreen seems to have a problem of clinging to outdated theories and practices in regards to homosexuality (like reparative therapy and NARTH and things like that). However, for many people I know, especially family members who are faithful Church members, it appears to be a much ‘safer’ option than Affirmation. There isn’t a good option for those who want to remain in the church and follow its teachings, but are still comfortable calling themselves ‘gay’ and acknowledging their feelings. Evergreen tells them that they should shun that part of them and constantly work on changing it, while Affirmation tells them that they should act on their feelings and try to change the Church by leaving it.

    For what it’s worth, there are a few other groups out there, like North Star (http://northstarlds.org) but they haven’t gotten very much publicity or anything yet.

  12. One sentence of Elder Hafen’s talk struck me immediately:

    Some may even wonder how the Savior himself can really understand you when he hasn’t been where you are. But remember: Christ not only descended TO our conditions, he has descended BELOW our conditions, whatever they are, because “The Son of Man hath descended below [all things].”

    Blasphemous reality check:

    Jesus left home early for the big city, attracted a large following of young males who did likewise, formed what nowadays might be describes as an urban gang of unemployed and unmarried men, associated with women of ill repute with apparently no trepidation or lust, got in trouble with the law, and never once had a girlfriend even at the age of 33. He had little or no connection with his (earthly) stepfather and was so out of touch with the morality of his coreligionists that they wanted to put him to death. If family values meant getting a wife, chidren, and farming or fishing, he was against family values. He was in the world but not of the world, and felt unwelcome and alienated wherever he went.

    I think our Savior understands me better than even Elder Hafen gives him credit for.

    I disagree with Steve M.: the speech might be regressive but its effect is not. I think everyone realizes (just like Mideast Peace) what the end will look like: homosexuality will be completely “normal” in the fullness of time, and we will all look back and wonder why it was such a stumbling block. But getting there requires turbulence and movement (even retrograde movement). Churn the waters, and the gradual flow of the stream will pull the silt away. We need not steer (or fear) the natural course of history (and it is futile to oppose it), merely assist it by reducing friction so it does not get stuck.

    Every time a Church leader utters the word “gay”, “homosexual”, or “same-sex”, they do me a favor. Even if said with hostile intent, it churns the waters of history. Gays grow up in a world of silent shame and unspoken rebuke. Prop. 8 was a blessing, a modern Pentacost. Though not all understood the clamor, and some thought it new wine (or whine), all heard the shouting, especially the young.

    Speak away, Elder, and lift the veil of shame and churn the waters. Every time you utter the phrase “same-gender attraction”, my testimony becomes more plausible. Your spoken words are music to my ears. Speak them loudly. The Lord is working through you, you just don’t know it yet.

  13. ummquestion says:

    To Kevin-

    As to conscious choices:

    I have never met a human being who made the conscious choice to be overweight and out of shape, but I know plenty of people who are, including myself at the moment. My parents were and all of my siblings are in that category-so genetically we’re predisposed.

    My family loves sweets and breads and carbs-we were exposed to them frequently as kids and we have a hard time resisting them now-so environment plays a part here too.

    My relatives “suffer” from their condition in various ways-from shame and self esteem issues to diabetes and joint and spine wear-so there is an emotional and physical toll as well.

    Would ANY of these people tell you they made a CHOICE to be fat and unhealthy? No. Does science provide support for the theory that both genetics and environment contributed to their condition? Yes.

    But-here’s the rub. When I’ve gone against my “natural” tendencies/urges/compulsions of being sedentary and eating too many sweets/carbs-and do what feels completely unnatural and difficult for me by exercising and eating right-I’ve become lean and healthy and happy and productive. BUT, even when I am experiencing the satisfaction and benefits of being fit and energetic I STILL loathe exercise and detest salads and drinking plain water even though I know how essential they are. I love my Heavenly Father, I believe that He expects me to treat my bodily temple with respect and to fuel it with nourishing foods and keep it strong, and I want to please and obey Him.

    Yet currently I’m not. It isn’t easy or pleasant or satisfying to ADMIT that I know better. It’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay easier and pleasant and satisfying to listen to the philosophies of man like “just stop fighting it” and “accept yourself the way you are”. I’m very aware that God loves me unconditionally and that His love for me doesn’t grow deeper when I’m healthy and lessen when I’m overweight.

    BUT-His LOVE cannot grant me blessings that are contrary to my actions. His love for me does not cancel out the consequences that are a direct result of my own actions. His love does not prevent me from developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. His love will not keep me alive to see my grandchildren grow up.

    I did NOT choose my DNA, the environment I grew up in, or my desires.Those with same sex attraction did not choose their DNA, the environment they grew up in or their desires. BUT I DO choose my actions and so do they. I can choose to act or be acted upon. I can choose to obey God and fight against my “natural man” or I can choose to ignore God and give in to what I WANT.

    If you REALLY love me, and REALLY want me to enjoy the eternal blessings and rewards that you KNOW are only promised to those who spend their lives striving to overcome the natural enemy of God-then you’ll CHOOSE to help me rather than enabling me.

  14. Thomas Parkin says:

    There are two ideas.

    The first idea is that happiness and liberation are mostly about discovering, exploring and living out one’s ‘true identity.’ Homosexuality would be a footnote to this, except for the fact that more than any other group our gay co-travelers have tied the idea of a fixed identity to a fixed sexuality. The second idea is that happiness and liberation are mostly a matter of developing virtue, even as against one’s own nature.

    There is nothing new about this contrast and the tension between the two ideas. You encounter it in Plato, Montaigne, and in every serious moral philosopher. We encounter the former most powerfully in the Romantics and their descendants, right on through to modern 60s Romanticism – whose descendants have extended the essentially individualistic and libertarian claims to freedom made by Romantics and have attempted to encode them as the fundamental structure of society. When we think of this as an issue of the present, we’re being a little a-historical.

    I have done my best to live out the former, and am now living in the latter. I’ve been observing this tension as closely and as honestly as I’m able, initially from very well within the Romantic view. Without qualification I recommend seeking virtue, even against one’s nature, as key to happiness and freedom, if the difficulties of it are deeply ameliorated by faith in Christ. And it is difficult, and that difficulty one may want to find freedom from, but such freedom is temporary. The first paradigm leads to bitterness. The words the BoM uses are the “gall of bitterness.” It’s supposed freedoms finally prove to be a spiritual, psychological and metaphysical dead end. ~

  15. ummquestion raises a point so evidently true that I missed the strawman analogy at first:

    fat = feels good, objectively bad
    gay = feels good, objectively ???

    In particular, the phrase “emotional and physical toll” wrt obesity is false conjunction. Obesity does result in physical toll and morbidity. The emotional toll comes only with how others treat the obese, not from the obesity itself.

    Homosexuality certainly correlates with emotional toll in just this way, how one is treated by others. The question of a physical toll, evidence of an objective disorder, is the central issue.

    To the believer, how God views homosexuality is entirely relevant. How Man views it is not. The above analogy invites us to base our testimony on those of our neighbors, lest we invite “emotional toll” (apparently a very real possibility among LDS).

    The etiology of homosexuality is relevant to the believer because there is a metaprinciple that God doesn’t create crap, so if it’s from God (not Man, or the environment) it is more likely not to be crap. Otherwise, the why of homosexuality is largely unimportant.

    Whether being gay in a predominantly straight world is any more harmful than being black in an all-white world or being a lefty in a house of right-hand can openers, is an empirically decidable question, and I expect in the next decade to see more studies isolating the actual sources of “emotional toll” when accounting for these externalities.

    Gays are not sexually “obese” and do not need a spiritual “diet”.

  16. I found this quote in the DN but I couldn’t find it as I attempted to wade through Elder Hafen’s talk :

    “You are not simply a child of God. You are a son or a daughter of God, with all the masculine or feminine connotations of those words,” Elder Hafen, a member of LDS Church’s Quorum of the Seventy, told conference attendees Saturday.

    “That is your true, eternal identity,” he said. “I urge you to seek a testimony, even a personal vision, of that identity. I ask you to take every possible step, each day, to align your physical and emotional life with the spiritual reality of who you really are.”

    I really like the idea of praying to have a clear concept of what God’s vision for you is-then working for that.

    I think there needs to be a better balance than Evergreen, and I do think there needs to be something like Affirmation…but I think there needs to be something else. (As mentioned it may already exist)

    Something in the -I have these feelings,I still believe in teh church and I’m working on dealing with how that works out-that realm. That’s not very clear is it?

    I do think there is choice…but not in the feelings you have. I think the choice comes AFTER the feelings. The feelings can not be cured or prayed away. Any feeling diminishes a bit as you don’t act on it…but in this case that definitely wouldn’t mean the person would become heterosexual.

    As for the after life..I know some Deaf people who still want to be at the least culturally deaf in the next life. Maybe we have a melted concept of what unity means?

  17. Somehow we fail to factor in the ever and more rapidly changing world when we get in these arguments. Never before have cultures been turned upside down so quickly as we see today — so much so that we can even prophesy of the future because of the tumultuous change we’ve personally experienced in our own short time. Was this kind of prophetic ability so pervasive two hundred years ago? I don’t think so.

    Putting aside causality and all that — is there really any wonder that there is an almost perfect correlation between rapid change in society and the current epidemic of personality disorders? Can we ignore the same correlation when it comes to same sex attraction? What we are witnessing is the fulfillment of Orson Welle’s “Future Shock.” We are men without a country lost in a roiling sea of ever changing ideas and technologies. There is no where to plant one’s foot anymore. We don’t know who we are.

    I say that Evergreen will most likely do the greater service to those who are seeking to identify who they really are. Because sexual orientation is only a small part of the total persona — and it is only through Christ that we find our eternal center. And it seems that Evergreen is committed to leading people to Christ.

  18. God doesn’t create crap.

    If by “crap” you mean “ugly and/or worthless things,” then I think you clearly have the scriptures on your side. If, however, you mean “less than perfect and/or worthy of chastisement or condemnation,” then I’m not so sure.

  19. I thought part of the whole Fall thing meant our bodies were not perfect? I’ve always assumed everyone would have a thing or two about their bodies that didn’t work well-a weakness or something. Like our own personal physical fall. I’ve always thought that we would have spiritual weaknesses as well. (along with physical and spiritual strengths)

  20. I agree with FoxyJ and respect what she has to say on the matter because of her own experience. As I think about the gay/lesbian people I have known, I think that some may be served by Affirmation but I don’t think Evergreen would help any of them because of the insistence this group has on changing the person’s sexual feelings/orientation. And I too was dismayed at some of Elder Hafen’s remarks when I read them yesterday. They don’t seem to be in line with comments by Elder Holland and others I’ve heard recently. I take them as his opinion rather than official Church doctrine, but surely he knew he would be quoted in the media. I don’t understand.

  21. Catherine–

    My husband and I were just discussing this and realized that this is one thing that bothers us most about Evergreen. The ‘offical’ sponsorship by the Church, with things like links to Elder Hafen’s talk on the website, gives an authoritative cast to things that are merely his opinion. He is not an expert or a psychologist, and he is not giving the final, definitive statement on how the Church will treat those who are homosexual (I hope not). I wish that more people would have the courage to say things like “we’re not sure” or “people have different lives or different needs.” Elder Hafen’s remarks seem to illustrate the paradox in the church that often comes up with issues like this. On the one hand, we encourage personal revelation on issues, but on the other hand we tend to assume that General Authorities will always provide some sort of uniformity between themselves on all subjects.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    FoxyJ, I very much appreciate your sharing your personal experiences and feelings on this subject from the trenches.

  23. Joseph Hollist says:

    I read Elder Hafen’s address to Evergreen with great interest. As a 40 year-old gay man who is active in the LDS church, I have spent a lifetime in my personal struggle to understand myself and my relationship to the Church. I think that Elder Hafen missed an opportunity to really minister to the gay Latter-day Saints at this conference. Instead of addressing the concerns, needs and spiritual healing that so many of the attendees were in need of, Elder Hafen used this forum to defend church policy and practices. I was disturbed by how much time was devoted to defending the church’s policy in opposing gay marriage.

    I do not question Elder Hafen’s good intensions and I believe him when he says “my heart goes out to them” [those who have not been able to overcome their same-gender attractions]. But, I believe his heart and mind are not open enough to grasp the reality that homosexuality is a human condition.
    I was eager to read his talk. But, once again, I was disappointed. I wish our church leaders would spend less time defending policy and practices and more time ministering to the real needs of their members.

  24. I wonder if Elder Hafen referred to DNA as a metaphor for a person’s eternal essence, rather that their literal mortal DNA. That would be more consistent with the Proclamation on the Family about gender being an eternal essence.

    If the DNA statement is only a metaphor, it is a bit of a clumsy one, given the scientific debate about nature versus nurture.

    Elder Hafer stated that same-gender attraction will be removed in the resurrection. That is possible for any DNA-based anomaly, like Down’s Syndrome. Same-gender attraction could thus be DNA based, literally, but still not of an eternal essence.

    If his statement is about the person’s literal DNA, then it is outside the envelope of other recent church statements.

  25. I am an unlikely defender of groups like Evergreen and Exodus International. Here’s why: They provide a safe place for young, religious gays to talk about what they are experiencing. Most of these youth are at a place in life where they would never go to a gay-affirming environment, so it’s Evergreen or continued isolation. They don’t want to be gay, but they urgently need to talk about their struggle. Evergreen is their only option in that phase of life.

    Eventually, though, most realize the futility of attempting to change their sexual orientation and move on. Many “come out” and go on to lead happy, productive lives as gay men and lesbians. It’s well established that groups like Evergreen have an abysmal track record. I’m not convinced they do as much damage as many claim. My brief participation with a group like Evergreen over twenty years ago was exactly what I needed at the time.

    Evergreen is the gateway to Affirmation.

  26. If God could, at will, change the DNA of people in the resurrection, why can’t he do it here now? Why let, literally, millions of people go through the pain and suffering of something that is rather easily fixed? I guess that comes back to asking why God can’t simply fix the DNA anomalies like Down’s Syndrome. Which then we get into a discussion of how much should God intervene in the complex world we live in vs how much we should accept the complexities of this life, for both good and ill. The thing is, that if homosexuality is DNA related, then shouldn’t we treat those with homosexual tendencies the same way we treat other DNA related anomalies? We have chosen, as a church, not to blame individuals who have Down’s or any other DNA anomaly, or even attempt to change them—because it would, of course be impossible, seeing that it is written in their genetic code! We accept them for what they are and who they are. So far, I am not impressed with the regression of policy under President Monson.

  27. Just want to say, this is far and away the most functional and productive discussions of gay issues I’ve ever seen on the ‘nacle. Thanks, Kevin, for the setup, and to everyone else for their honest, thoughtful and very courteous responses. (now here’s where I knock on wood)

  28. Elder Hafen’s speech gives me the sense that the Church has reversed its two-decade long course of increasing tolerance for sexual minorities. The Prop 8 chickens are coming home to roost. This really breaks my heart, especially because I know the devastating effect this kind of rhetoric has on vulnerable gay Mormon youth.

    The way to judge Evergreen and Affirmation is in terms of the effect that they have on youth suicide. My guess is that while Evergreen’s supportive social environment probably prevents a few more suicides than its shame-inducing ideology induces, Affirmation unequivocally saves lives. For that reason, I prefer Affirmation.

    It comes down to a something very simple: do you care more about the lives of gay Mormon youth or more about their adherence to LDS ideals of sexual morality? Would you rather see them lying in a pine box with their chastity intact or living active, productive lives, possibly out of the Church? I think the Church is very complacent about the blood on its hands with respect to this issue.

    The people at risk due to the intemperate rhetoric exemplified by Elder Hafen’s recent speech are not The Other. They are our own sons, daughters, nephews and nieces. They are the kids in the seminary class you teach. Wake up, people. Words have consequences.

  29. Any time I hear somebody say that men choose to be gay and therefore can choose to be straight, I tell them that they really ought to marry one and see how that goes. I stuck it out with my husband, who deceived me about his sexuality in order to conform to what the LDS church and his family expected out of him. My bishop told me it was my duty to save my marriage and if I was just more faithful, he’d magically turn straight. I finally got the courage to leave, although it brought a lot of condemnation on me, when my ex started sleeping around with guys. The shame and stigma heaped on him, combined with his own bad decision making, destroyed him.

    Hey gay deniers — try sleeping with a gay person sometime. You’ll never ignorantly blab about orientation being a choice ever again. *Believe me.*

  30. Cynthia, I am sensing that you may have called it too soon.

  31. re: 30
    Yeah, you’re right Scott. We’re only around comment 30. Comparing homosexuality to Down syndrome is the spark that can ignite a 500-comment brawl by morning.

  32. Indeed.

  33. Scott, I was rather hoping you had more than 12 words to say on the matter at hand.

  34. Dan, I have been out and about all day, and have not yet had a chance to read the speech transcript. Commenting before doing so would be dangerous at best. (Also, I know very little about Aff or Ev, beyond the basic points that have been described here–thus I am in a similar position as the OP author, hoping to learn from others here if possible.)

  35. Daniel Mac. says:

    I agree with other commenters who noted that it probably could help if there were a third group…since Evergreen is too excessive in one way and Affirmation is too excessive in the other way. Brother Hafen’s comments, unfortunately, are exemplary of the excesses of Evergreen.

    It’s a tough issue. :/

  36. Aaron Brown says:

    Sorry if I’m a bit dense, but can someone please explain precisely how this talk is a “step backwards” with respect to the LDS Church’s treatment of homosexuality? I agree with Kevin Barney that the “gay gene” discussion is problematic and beside the point, and since Elder Oaks has seemed to recognize this in the past, I suppose this is one area where Hafen has taken a “step backwards,” assuming his views represent how the Church leadership generally thinks about homosexuality (perhaps not a good assumption?). I also was a bit dismayed by the reparative therapy endorsement. Granted, it was somewhat nuanced, and allowed that not all LDS homosexuals should realistically expect orientation change, but it still painted an unduly rosy picture of the prospects for change, I think. So I suspect this may be a step backwards, though I don’t recall what other recent statements by LDS Church leaders have said about reparative therapy. But I’m curious … what else, if anything, is a “step backwards” here?

    Also, here’s a sentence from Hafen that struck me as odd:
    “Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs that you are tempted to satisfy in false sexual ways.”

    Can someone unpack this for me? What do you think he’s saying here? Maybe I’m just struck by the fact that “false sexual ways” is an awkward turn of phrase, but I think there’s some sort of causal theory of homosexuality alluded to in this statement that begs for clarification, and that I suspect is dubious.

    AB

  37. ummquestion says:

    The Church’s call for increased tolerance towards PEOPLE should not be confused with the idea that the Church has called for increased tolerance towards what it has consistently defined as sinful behavior.

    Those who make it a point to study what the Brethren have said in the past, and are saying today, know that Elder Hafen’s speech is not a reversal or regression of any kind.

    Elder Oaks “recently” quoted the First Presidency statement made in 1991: “The Lord’s law of moral conduct is abstinence outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife, appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual conduct, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful. Those who persist in such practices or influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline.”

    In that same interview, Elder Wickman stated “There is no such thing in the Lord’s eyes as something called same-gender marriage. Homosexual behavior is and will always remain before the Lord an abominable sin. Calling it something else by virtue of some political definition does not change that reality.”

    Elder Oaks has also said “We urge persons with same-gender attractions to control those and to refrain from acting upon them, which is a sin, just as we urge persons with heterosexual attractions to refrain from acting upon them until they have the opportunity for a marriage recognized by God as well as by the law of the land. That is the way to happiness and eternal life.”

    And: “Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.”

    The only example in this discussion of ‘intemperate rhetoric is the insinuation that the”Church has blood on it’s hands with respect to this issue.” LDS parents have been commanded to teach their children who they really are, what the gospel means, and how the Atonement applies to them. If they fail to do those things, their children’s blood falls upon them, not the Church. Teens who have been taught those things but refuse to believe them are accountable for their own actions. Teens who are not capable of understanding those concepts or who suffer from disorders that control their behavior are not responsible if they commit suicide and neither is anyone else.

    Affirmation does not “unequivocally save lives”. It might help many people prevent their own premature, self inflicted death but it does not have the power to “save” anyone or anything. Christ alone saves.

  38. Aaron Brown says:

    A couple months back, I had a long conversation with a gay LDS friend in his 20s, who is still mostly in the closet (but not to me), and actively engaged in homosexual liasons with other, mostly closeted LDS gay men. He was going through a lot of self-loathing, insisting that he didn’t want to pursue his gay lifestyle indefinitely, but that he also couldn’t imagine a life of celibacy. Therefore, his goal is to eventually, somehow, develop a heterosexual sexual orientation and marry a woman. I asked him how he intended to embark on such a goal — what the process is. He had no idea. I asked him if he had any concrete reason to believe that such an orientation change was possible. He admitted he didn’t. I asked him if the other LDS gay men he knew — many of whom had apparently spent years in therapy unsuccessfully trying to become heterosexual — had had experiences that gave him reason to believe the change he sought was likely. He conceded they hadn’t. Finally, I invited him to consider the possibility that the only realistic choice he was facing, assuming he wanted to abandon his “gay lifestyle,” was celibacy. But he just couldn’t face the prospect of living without sex for the rest of his life (“Could you?” he asked me). Thus, he’s got all his hopes pegged on the possibility that one day he will magically transform into a heterosexual, and pursue a sexually-fulfilling marriage with an LDS woman.

    I think this young man’s predicament is tragic. I think it is all the more tragic that he has pinned his hopes on an outcome that is so unlikely, and that he may well spend years pursuing, most assuredly to no avail. He doesn’t entertain the idea of marrying an LDS woman BEFORE altering his sexual orientation (or as a means to altering it), so I suppose that’s a good thing. But nonetheless, I think there’s a really good chance he’s going to spend many years of his life, seeking in vain for something he won’t ever achieve, and I fear that comments like Hafen’s about supposedly successful reparative therapy — even hedged in the way that they are — are likely to feed his unrealistic expectations.

    Whether one agrees with the Church’s position on homosexuality or not, I would hope everyone can see this as an unfortunate outcome. Better to level with LDS gays about what they’re options really are, rather than enticing them with false hopes.

    AB

  39. Eric Russell says:

    “I think everyone realizes (just like Mideast Peace) what the end will look like”

    LOL! What, like Hamas and Israel becoming BFF?

  40. Aaron Brown says:

    ummquestion, you’re guilty of overstatement when you say that Hafen’s speech is not “a reversal or regression of any kind,” for at least one reason I already set forth. Granted, it’s not a reversal of the Church’s longstanding condemnation of homosexual acts, which is all you appear to want to talk about. But no one has claimed otherwise.

    I realize that to many, identifying the Church’s basic stand on the morality of homosexual activity (and its apparent rigidity) is all that matters, and all the rest of what the Church says on the subject are details. But sometimes, the details really do matter.

    AB

  41. Clay Whipkey says:

    Not that this is unique in any way, but the thing that is standing out of Elder Hafen’s talk for me right now is how many claims he makes about eternity, the resurrection, God-intended gender, etc. Really, his whole interpretation of the science is based on what he considers to be his “knowledge” of spiritual truths. Now, at face value that approach is not necessarily a problem. But the ironic part is that the basis for such knowledge (as is the common LDS approach to testimony) is something deeply personal albeit intangible and unquantifiable. Kind of like the way that many gay people feel their homosexuality “in their DNA”. Its a deeply personal albeit intangible and unquantifiable feeling.

    So I think I can summarize Elder Hafen’s talk as:

    “Gay Mormons, please trust the authority of my subjective personal feelings to convince you that your subjective personal feelings about your sexual identity are not valid.”

  42. ummquestion says:

    I would like to clarify before someone else attempts to credit me with a straw man of their own making like this:

    “fat = feels good, objectively bad
    gay = feels good, objectively ???”

    Exactly where in my statement did I even allude to the idea that being fat “feels good”??? My entire point was that some things were beyond my control and I did not choose them, but that I am entirely responsible for my ACTIONS that relate to those things.

    “The emotional toll comes only with how others treat the obese, not from the obesity itself.”

    First, I didn’t use the word “obese”. And second, if you think that the treatment of “others” is the only thing that exacts an emotional toll you are sadly naive about humanity.

    The GA’s are consistent in clearly drawing a line between same sex attraction and ACTING upon that attraction. Anyone who believes or teaches their children or others that the LDS Church teaches/believes that anyone who experiences SSA feelings, urges or orientations are sinful based on that alone are misrepresenting LDS doctrine whether they do it ignorantly or on purpose.

  43. ummquestion says:

    AB

    For someone who is all about the details, you certainly were rigid in the range of choices you convinced your friend that he has. According to you, sans “magic” he has only two-celibacy or sin. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

    His predicament is indeed difficult and painful, but leaving him without the very REAL hope and faith that if he repented and remained faithful someday ALL of his pain and suffering would be swallowed up and overshadowed with blessings that last for eternity was the most tragic thing of all.

    I want to talk about choices, about faith in Christ, and how focusing on the trials of mortality alone is at odds with the gospel. Those are the details that really matter.

  44. Aaron Brown says:

    umm, I did no such thing. I didn’t address the eternal consequences of his various choices at all. I was simply talking about what his practical life choices were going forward. When you talk about the consequences of “if he repented and remained faithful,” you are presumably talking about a life of celibacy, no? If you have something else in mind, you should say so.

    It sounds like you want to talk about what you want to talk about, and if others’ comments aren’t speaking to the issue you happen to care about, you’re inclined to misread them. I recommend taking a deep breath, and recognizing that there are nuances and sub-issues on this topic worthy of discussion other than the one you want to speechify about.

    And no, in case you were wondering, you don’t have enough information to conclude anything about what I do or do not think regarding the substance of the Church’s position on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior.

    AB

  45. Aaron Brown (#36) asks “Can someone unpack this for me? What do you think he’s saying here? Maybe I’m just struck by the fact that “false sexual ways” is an awkward turn of phrase, but I think there’s some sort of causal theory of homosexuality alluded to in this statement that begs for clarification, and that I suspect is dubious.”

    The self-loathing gays who seek support from groups like Evergreen and Exodus International are taught that they are gay because of bad parenting. The thesis is that homosexuals suffered a developmental deficit in early childhood which can be “repaired” through safe, appropriate same-sex bonding experiences later in life. Elements of this theory go back to Freud, but the entire model was developed by Elizabeth Moberly in her 1983 popular work Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, and extended by Joseph Nicolosi in his 1991 book Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality.

    So when Hafen says, “Build good associations with people of your gender” and “Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs,” it is “reparative therapy” speak. The phrase “false sexual ways” refers to the thinking that gay people are unconsciously seeking to fulfill unmet childhood same-sex parent-bonding needs through same-sex sexual activity.

  46. “I think everyone realizes (just like Mideast Peace) what the end will look like”

    LOL! What, like Hamas and Israel becoming BFF?

    #39, Isaiah has forseen it:

    The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

    Apparently in the fullness of time, fighting over our differences will give way to embracing and celebrating our diversity. No one will obsess about who is sleeping with whom (or how many), nor say that eating straw is unnatural and unlionly.

    Though the leopard lying down with the kid still seems a bit creepy…the perils of exegesis in translation.

  47. I know of a straight, never-married, 50+ year old LDS woman who has said something along the lines of “if I’m expected to be celibate my whole life, why would it be different for LDS homosexuals?”

    Clearly I don’t think she was comparing the trial of being a single LDS woman to the trial of being an LDS homosexual, but rather the more narrow trial of being celibate for life.

    I wanted to mention this in response to the idea that a life without sex would be unreasonable. That the church asks its gay members to do this is not unreasonable or unprecented. This makes me wonder if it would be a bad compromise for the church to fully recognize and accept gay members with the acknowledgment that there is no sin outside of sexual acts.

  48. ever since the Humas and Israel being BFF thing I keep having all these thoughts about what that would look like: seeing updates on facebook that say : Humas and Israel are now friends, or Isreal tweeting that they just got word that Humas was following their tweets again, headlines about the emails going back and forth between Humas and Israel deciding which cell phone plan to use so they have unlimited minutes.

    come along for the ride it’s fun

  49. re: 45
    Well put, Steven B.
    Indeed, Elder Hafen is using standard reparative therapy jargon: Gays are gay because of emotional deficiencies from early childhood. In the case of gay men this is almost always considered lack of bonding (or some such) with the father.

    Not only has this been thoroughly debunked by solid research (over decades!), it’s particularly hurtful to families with gay kids.

    My wonderful, loving father in rural Michigan suffered with tremendous guilt for years because of this rhetoric. Reparative therapy doesn’t just fail the individual, it is harmful to parents as well.

  50. I fear a new meme is about to explode among evangelicals and hope LDS are wise enough not to take the bait. Though divisive and odious, it has a proven track record in another domain.

    “All pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards. Now think about that. And if you, if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to go out and get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants.” You know, that’s a, that’s a good comment. It’s a good point and it’s a good thing to teach young people.

    Accompanying it are the following take-away points:
    1) Gay is merely trendy, not innate
    2) Gay is narcissistic
    3) Gay is about sex, not love
    4) Gay is contageous
    5) Gay is addictive
    6) ** Second-hand gayness is harmful **

    Though lacking a Surgeon General’s warning, these words should all too sound familiar.

    Michael Schwartz, the chief of staff for Republican Senator Tom Coburn, spoke the above quote in a speech at the Family Research Council’s “Values Voters Summit”. (You can see the video here. The best part starts at 3min, with the above quote at 4:30).

    I imagine that Evergreen is founded on this very analogy with addiction model, but if you start to hear GAs linking homosexuality and smoking, especially its second-hand harmful effects, then you will know which way the Church is headed for Prop. 8 round two.

  51. #50: Fighting pornography with homophobia? Oh, good grief. And yet, I could imagine it…. Sigh.

  52. #47 — The LDS people I have talked to who seem to have the least patience with gays/lesbians seem to be those who are long-term single or married to a sick/sexually dysfunctional spouse. Their attitudes seem to be “who cares how you got this way, God’s law of chastity is the same for everyone”.

    I can’t really argue with this, except in one respect: the single person always has a shred of hope, and the married person with a sexually unavailable spouse may still feel he/she is creating an eternal relationship.

    The one thing I can’t get my head around is how homosexuals say it isn’t just about sex. It’s also about identity. Which smacks right up against the counsel I seem to remember Elder Oaks giving about not establishing one’s identity based on his/her SSA (ie., the church uses “SSA” specifically in order to separate the individual’s identity from their proclivity).

    It seems like the “identity” issue has got to be a big part of the divide between Everygreen and Affirmation, not just whether a person can modify their proclivity.

  53. #47: Mike Rickey says: ” This makes me wonder if it would be a bad compromise for the church to fully recognize and accept gay members with the acknowledgment that there is no sin outside of sexual acts.”

    What about monogamous and faithful gay people legally married. Could they be afforded the same opportunities in our church as heterosexual people legally (but not temple) married?

  54. My brother, who is gay and has been out of the closet since his teens, has attended both Evergreen and Affirmation and finds himself more comfortable in the Affirmation crowd than the Evergreen crowd. From his description, it sounds like Evergreen is a great place to be bisexual, ideally with leanings toward heterosexual, and/or such a strong desire to remain in good standing with the church that you’re willing to suppress or try to change your sexuality. I think for those (like my brother) who have no heterosexual leanings, Affirmation presents a better philosophical approach as it seems to embrace the sexuality of the individual, asking the church to modify itself to allow them to still worship in a way they find resonant. Unfortunately, I think their tactics in approaching the church for recognition are too blunt and won’t serve them well, but I know my brother, I know the pain he feels at not being accepted as he is by a church he believes in, and I think it is a good place for him.

  55. Nick Literski says:

    Is the [LDS, presumably] Church better off for having two divergent organizations available for gay Mormons and their family members?

    The current leadership of the LDS church clearly doesn’t believe so. During the past year, the LDS church promised a meeting with the leadership of Affirmation, only to indefinitely postpone it, using the excuse that they were in the midst of a hiring search for a new LDSFS director. Then, the LDS church indefinitely RE-postponed the meeting, citing the “heat” of the then-upcoming November election. Not a word from LDS leaders since then, on ever meeting with Affirmation.

    LDS leaders clearly embrace Evergreen, on the other hand. While claiming not to “sponsor” Evergreen, LDS leaders appropriate funding every year for the organization, provide a general authority speaker (a Seventy) for every annual conference, and at least this year, provide meeting facilities in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building–part of the LDS HQ complex.

  56. I once “lived” in a cancer ward for a month, when my same-sex partner of 8 1/2 years had lymphoma. I helped make the bed and tried to help out, and hoped I would not be underfoot. I went to work and returned with donuts for the staff. And watched Eric decline.

    One of the things that haunt me during that time, when one nurse interrupted my self-pity and led me down the hall to look in on an old woman dying of (I think breast) cancer. Her husband came every couple of days (for about a half hour). I think she had no other family to speak of that visited.

    Who knows, maybe that husband never came to see his wife dying alone because he was out looking for better sex. Still, I can’t get my head around how heterosexuals says it’s all about sex. After 10 years of marriage, you’d think it’d be at least about the cleaning and dishes and lawn mowing as well.

    I can’t speak for the long-term single, but those married to a sick/sexually dysfunctional spouse are no enemy of mine. I was one of them, and if they want to show intolerance towards me for being gay, I forgive them. For they understand what marriage is truly about.

  57. Nick Literski says:

    #25:
    [Evergreen and Exodus] provide a safe place for young, religious gays to talk about what they are experiencing. Most of these youth are at a place in life where they would never go to a gay-affirming environment, so it’s Evergreen or continued isolation. They don’t want to be gay, but they urgently need to talk about their struggle. Evergreen is their only option in that phase of life.

    Many Evergreen participants will also point out that the organization has provided them with ready access to other gay LDS men for sexual encounters. While I never personally participated in Evergreen (thank goodness!), I long ago lost count of the number of men who’ve told me that they and their Evergreen peers often had sexual encounters with one another, right after the weekly group meetings.

  58. Just wanted to say, especially to Dan, how pleasantly surprised I am at the overall tenor of this conversation.

  59. Joseph (23) makes an important point, from my perspective. The main church leaders who have addressed this topic have legal backgrounds (Oaks, Wickman, Hafen) and approach their comments with impersonal legalistic analysis. They claim empathy but say nothing concrete to prove any personal empathy with gay members. The non-legal leaders (Packer, Holland) have been more personal, but in different ways: Packer can barely conceal his disgust, and Holland has been bland but encouraging of personal empathy for gay members (in an Ensign article that promoted the “God Loves His Children” pamphlet).

    What we are missing, still, is any vision of how a gay member can be active, committed, and most importantly accepted by other members. Even a recent Ensign article which told a very personal (anonymous) story of a woman learning to love her lesbian sister turned out to feel somewhat distant to me, as if Mormons are trying to learn how to embrace the leper with his/her open sores.

    What does an active gay Mormon look like and act like in his/her ward? What things do other members do to show love and compassion to these “special needs” members? For me these are the missing pieces of the discussion.

  60. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike S. the point you raise is actually one of the reasons that I wish the Church wouldn’t push so hard against gay marriage. Because even if the Church wouldn’t consider it today, I can imagine a time in the future where a compromise accomodation were made for legally married gay men and women. But if we undercut the legal infrastructure for such marriages now, the possibility of a future accomodation on the basis of a legal marriage won’t be available.

  61. #59 The church has struggled terribly with holding on to singles, let alone singles with SSA, and the problem goes far beyond whether or not these people feel accepted. While it’s easy to preach the atonement and its availability to all, the theology the church practices the most is centered on families. For example, we teach baptism and the sacrament as fundamental ordinances, but the crowning ordinance is the sealing. The fundamental unit of the church is the family. Our GAs all say their greatest joy and greatest achievements are their families (not talking leaders of country X to open to missionaries, or getting a temple built in country Y, or creating a PEF to lift members out of poverty, or any of these things which are truly great in their own right).

    I completely understand the emphasis, but if damnation is the inability to progress, and eternal family units are the goal, then single people are going to feel damned, even if just temporarily. Faithful single people with SSA may feel damned their whole lives.

    Simply “reaching out” to them in love isn’t going to fix this.

    The fact is, there are goals and accomplishments more important than raising a family. If we don’t believe that, then by most measures Joseph Smith is a failure.

    I understand the family emphasis, and I wouldn’t want to undercut it, but until it is modified, singles, and especially singles with SSA are never going to feel completely welcome.

  62. #56 Dan, in #52 I was not implying homosexuals relationships aren’t more than sex, and I think you knew that. And I certainly understand the desire to have an intimate, loving relationship.

    It’s the identity issue I don’t understand. I think many people have sexual desires that, if acted upon, would put them outside what the church considers acceptable. I certainly have. But I’ve never considered them as part of my “identity”.

  63. Liberal Mormon says:

    I disagree with Elder Hafan.

  64. Steve Evans says:

    It would seem you disagree with him right down to the spelling of his name.

  65. 63 – Martin, I think sexuality is a huge part of our identity for all of us. Because as Dan pointed out, sexuality is not just about sex. It’s what we build our whole lives on. It defines who we love, what relationships we form, what roles we play. My roles as wife and mother are some of the most important parts of my identity, and both are rooted in my sexuality. It’s not a small thing to inform gays they must shut down that part of themselves and essentially define themselves as asexual beings.

  66. But does who you are attracted to change your whole gender identity? Wouldn’t some SSA men still want to be “fathers” and all that is? What about their partner? Would they not just broaden the role of father and neither of them be “mother”? I imagine both partners in that situation would be more empathetic to a wife’s role, but yet neither of them a wife…

    I don’t know…i’m just asking

  67. britt–yes! The language about homosexuality being “gender confusion” does not come from gays! Gay men self-identify as gay _men_ and lesbians as gay_women_. All of the gay parents I know identify themselves as fathers if they are male and mothers if they are female. I was sitting in conference listening to Elder Packer talk about “gender confusion” once, and the gay man I was sitting next to leaned over and whispered “I’m not confused, I’m just gay!”

  68. Thanks Khristine for the quick response

  69. I think Mytha says it correctly–it’s not exclusively _gender_ identity that is affected by sexuality, it’s more our social identities. If you’re homosexual, but don’t act on it or tell anyone, your identity is affected because you don’t date, aren’t included in gatherings of couples or parents, can’t discuss your deepest hopes and longings with close friends, etc. Saying that being gay informs your identity is not saying that you think about sex all the time, or that sex and who you have it with is the most important thing in your life; it’s merely acknowledging the fact that “the family is the basic unit of society” and not easily fitting into one of those units affects every aspect of life.

  70. “Saying that being gay informs your identity is not saying that you think about sex all the time, or that sex and who you have it with is the most important thing in your life…”

    True ‘dat.
    The notion that being gay involves a gender-identity disturbance would strike most ‘out’ gays as just bizarre.

    Gays and Mormons make surprisingly good neighbors and friends, in my experience. Not sure if that’s the case in a place like Utah, but my few local LDS friends here in L.A. have made the observation before.

  71. I just read most of the text of Elder Hafen’s talk and I find myself incredibly upset.

    Having struggled with how to deal with my “testimony” and the Church’s involvement with Prop 8, et al, this talk felt like 1,000 steps back in my attempt to view the Church as genuinely interested in coming to a rational grip on “the gay issue.”

    The entire talk is laden with the 80s-era vocabulary that treats homosexuality as an affliction that needs cured through the power of the Atonement. I was particularly repulsed at the statement that gay believers need only hold out hope for the day when they are resurrected and are relieved of their gay-ness.

    I thought the Church had moved mostly past this stuff?

    Sigh…..

  72. ummquestion says:

    #47 Mike Rickey “This makes me wonder if it would be a bad compromise for the church to fully recognize and accept gay members with the acknowledgment that there is no sin outside of sexual acts.”

    Isn’t that what these statements mean?:
    “We love them as sons and daughters of God. … If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church”. ?? (President Hinckley)

    “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” (President Hinckley)

  73. Aaron Brown says:

    “Gays and Mormons make surprisingly good neighbors and friends, in my experience.”

    That’s because wherever they live, Gays and Mormons together make up like 95% of the choir. Seriously. At least that’s what my choir-singing, gay neighbor in graduate school liked to point out.

    AB

  74. 72 – So that means gays can date and hold hands and kiss and it’s not a sin? Because single heterosexual people can do those things without breaking any “God-given rules of conduct,” even if they have no intention of marrying the person they’re dating.

  75. Joseph Hollist says:

    no-man (59):
    Thank you for your comment and the question which you pose at the end of your post. Those are someof the questions I would like to ask Elder Hafen if I had a chance to sit down with him.

    For ummquestion:
    Your comments are somewhat painful for me to read. But nothing new.

    Our church leaders often use the “philosophies of man,” if those philosophies fit church policies and practices. Many of Elder Hafen’s claims about sexual develpoment are “the philosphies of man” mostly from 1950’s and 1960’s reseach. Some “philosophies” seem to be lifted straight the NARTH handbook.

    You make a really good point at the end of your comment. You write:
    “If you REALLY love me, and REALLY want me to enjoy the eternal blessings and rewards that you KNOW are only promised to those who spend their lives striving to overcome the natural enemy of God-then you’ll CHOOSE to help me rather than enabling me.”
    The big question, for me, is HOW do you help me as a gay man in the church? I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer to that question. The messages I continue to get from my local church leaders and from offical church literature are:
    Homosexual acts are sinful. But God Loves you anyway.
    Homosexuality is unnatureal, and, therefore, you need to overcome your desires. But God loves you anyway.
    God loves you.
    I know that God loves me . I have never questioned His love. I do not act on my homosexual desires. But I still feel like a total misfit and an outcast within the Mormon community. To me, your comments throughout lack understanding and compassion. You have spent most of your posts defending your views on homosexuality.

  76. “Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs that you are tempted to satisfy in false sexual ways.”

    Can someone unpack this for me? What do you think he’s saying here? Maybe I’m just struck by the fact that “false sexual ways” is an awkward turn of phrase, but I think there’s some sort of causal theory of homosexuality alluded to in this statement that begs for clarification, and that I suspect is dubious.

    I am taking a stab with my thoughts. I think there is great temptation for us all to find ways to satisfy unmet emotional needs. Some of them may be less harmful than others, perhaps, but I think it’s essential that we be self-aware enough to recognize when we are doing something to escape or to self-medicate in ways that could be unhealthy — either because the escape mechanism is a sinful behavior in and of itself, and/or because the escape process can lead to addiction and/or problematic patterns of avoidance-based behavior and thought. This self-awareness could be even more important if we have a predisposition toward a certain behavior or set of behaviors (say, with an addictive personality). I think in reality, we all have such weaknesses that come in different forms.

    I see Elder Hafen as recognizing a very real temptation to act upon homosexual attraction, and inviting those who experience SSA to be self-aware so as to minimize and be aware of triggers that could intensify that temptation (this with the assumption that they want to not give into it — obviously this viewpoint won’t sit well w/ people who don’t think homosexual behavior is a sin, but I think it goes w/o saying that that is the backdrop of his counsel).

    So, I could be wrong, of course, but I don’t see this as singling out or trying to necessarily tie emotion to homosexuality, but to invite self-awareness to avoid giving into temptation.

    It’s counsel I think that is wise for all of us. This is not a unique piece of wisdom in my mind at all limited to those with SSA, but something that can be applied to any of us with regard to particular weak spots we may have, particular preferences for ‘escape’ we may even have wired in us.

  77. But I still feel like a total misfit and an outcast within the Mormon community. To me, your comments throughout lack understanding and compassion.

    I am sorry that our culture still fails you. I hope you won’t give up on us. Please know there are many people who want to reach out and help. Please keep being patient with us, and please keep helping us know how to help you feel like you belong.

  78. Even the way that comment is phrased didn’t come across right. You ARE part of ‘us’ — but obviously there are layers in the culture that still will take time so that you can more fully feel that. I honestly and earnestly pray that over time, you and others of our brothers and sisters will be able to feel more love and acceptance. It will take time, but I believe it can happen…maybe even one person at a time. I firmly believe this is what our leaders want.

    (And as a side note, to others, yes, I believe that can happen even with our doctrine currently as it is. IMO, the doctrine doesn’t need to change, but our hearts often do.)

  79. Joseph Hollist says:

    In his address, Elder Hafen mentions Dr. Robert L. Spitzer. He states:
    “….Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, just happened to be the same man who had met with the gay activists nearly 30 years earlier, when the APA voted to remove homosexuality from its list of disorders.”

    PRI’s radio show “This American Life” has a very interesting episode about this vote to remove homosexuality from its list of disorders. If you are interested I have provided a link below.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1188

  80. #76: ” I think there is great temptation for us all to find ways to satisfy unmet emotional needs. ”
    Yes, and most often, the Bible, pointed out is that way/sin is Judgment of others, not homosexuality.
    The fight needs to be against judgment…not homosexuality.

  81. M&M-
    “Please keep being patient with us, and please keep helping us know how to help you feel like you belong.”

    I can’t help but call you out on the disingenuousness of that remark. You have been told repeatedly ways that you could do this without changing your core beliefs an iota. Just yesterday, in fact, by Lorian.

    “Don’t become involved in a sexual relationship with a person of the same gender, and at the same time, avoid involving yourself in political action to take away the civil rights of gay people. Live and let live, and try to avoid participating in movements aimed at encouraging the notion that gay people are sick, or should get “therapy” to “change” their sexual orientation.

    Another way of showing love to your gay and lesbian friends and acquaintances is to completely eliminate from your vocabulary (at least in this context) the words “choice” and “lifestyle.”

    You don’t have to believe I’m not a sinner. You don’t have to change your beliefs at all. Just stop trying to force society to treat me the way your church thinks I ought to be treated.”

    I see how badly you want to be regarded as someone who creates healing and displays love. It is unfortunate and ironic that the desire blinds you to how much pain you create.

  82. oops. stupid wordpress. that last comment was me, cwc.

  83. Steve Evans says:

    “I can’t help but call you out on the disingenuousness of that remark.”

    Try to help it, cwc. Keep your squabble at FMH.

  84. The problem isn’t that m&m is disingenuous–it’s simply that it’s impossible for someone to feel at home in a community that defines them from the outset as not measuring up to the community’s ideal. I get a milder version of it being a divorced woman–I’m always a special case, and even when all that means is an extra dose of compassion and concern, the concern itself marks me as somehow not OK.

    It stinks, despite everyone’s good intentions.

  85. “LDS leaders clearly embrace Evergreen [over Affirmation], on the other hand.”

    I’m a little surprised that anyone finds that surprising. I don’t like Evergreen, and I’m sure I’d never refer a loved one there, but Affirmation as an institution is more or less set up for the sole purpose of opposing at least one core church doctrine (though I understand individuals who affiliate with it may have other thoughts). And if apostasy (which I don’t intend to be pejorative in this context) is to mean anything, it means openly opposing doctrine. Thus, the fundamental raison d’etre of Affirmation makes it difficult for the church to “embrace” it.

    Again, though, the fact that it embraces Evergreen is also troubling for me, though more on practical grounds, rather than doctrinal.

  86. In reference to the “how is homosexuality part of your identity? why don’t you just base your identity on other things?”, I would ask that heterosexual Mormons try that. The whole church is based around family. One of your main goals in life is to find an eternal partner and give birth to the spirit children who are waiting for you. The entire structure and function of the church is founded on putting heterosexuality at the forefront of one’s identity. Think of trying to cut out that part of your identity.

    It hardly seems fair to ask gay Mormons to squash their desires for lifelong companionship (because gayness doesn’t have to be an important part of your identity) when the whole lifelong companionship is fundamental to Church membership.

  87. Latter-day Guy says:

    Late to this party…

    85, Yup. I don’t see the Church’s lack of interest in engaging with Affirmation as surprising. Though I do think it’s disappointing. At the same time, I don’t dislike groups like Evergreen––if they work for some folks and help them to be happy, then that’s certainly a positive. However, I wonder if groups like Evergreen might get used as a means to avoid engaging this issue as a church, and––on a smaller scale––as ward families. During the Prop 8 carnival, I read and watched many, many comments/arguments/statements from LDS people that revealed profound ignorance regarding homosexuals and homosexuality. LDS homosexuals are frequently encouraged to keep their struggles private. Of course, I can see that there might be legitimate reasons for this, but I think it probably plays a part in enabling the kind of uncharitable misunderstanding too-often on display by members of the church. Part of our baptismal covenant is “to mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Why then do we allow (even require) homosexuals to mourn alone?

    As per Hafen’s remark about DNA, I hope it was just a less than felicitous turn of phrase (in context it seems that way) and not an assertion that homosexuality is not biologically/genetically determined (in part). It’s true that science has not found any definitive biological cause (ie: a “gay gene”), but to argue that homosexuality is not largely a biological issue strains credulity; one has to ignore a very large (and growing) body of evidence.

  88. And if apostasy (which I don’t intend to be pejorative in this context) is to mean anything, it means openly opposing doctrine.

    I’m not sure I even know what this statement means enough to justify my reflex to consider it false. Does it mean that disagreeing with church leaders as to the validity of certain propositions is the core of apostasy? Does it mean that if church leaders teach false doctrine the Church itself is in apostasy? I’m personally disinclined to think that assenting (or not assenting) to certain abstract propositions or doctrinal statements is at all significantly tied either to church membership, faithfulness, worthiness, or apostasy. Of course there are a handful of vague exceptions — we’re asked do we accept X, but responsibility for filling in the content of X is on our shoulders. But there will never come a time when, say, a bishop or SP will read from a list of scripted questions: “Do you have a testimony that same-gender attraction is subject to reversal therapy?” or “Do you believe that gay marriage threatens families?”.

  89. “I’m not sure I even know what this statement means enough to justify my reflex to consider it false.”

    Ditto to your comment. You’ve gone all sorts of tangential places with my relatively simple phrase.

    Plus you used the phrase “abstract propositions” and several X’s and Y’s, all of which works to confuse a simpleton like myself.

  90. Imagine my embarrassment, Mr Evans. I am tucking my skirt betwixt my legs as we speak and hieing myself back to the ladies corner. I’ll leave substantive conversations addressing words, their meaning and intention to you. I mean squabbling.

    You know us girls.

  91. For those who agree with Elder Hafen’s opinion that homosexuals can “change” and become heterosexual, I ask…….Would support one of your heterosexual children marrying someone who had undergone such a “transformation”?

  92. sorry, Would you support

  93. cwc,
    Short of a sudden development of telepathy, I’ve no idea why you are calling m&m disingenuous. Her comment is consistent with other comments by her in the past and she has never struck me as insincere. Calling her a liar seems bad form to me.

  94. Steve Evans says:

    It takes a special kind of egotism to confuse a request for civility with some sort of attack on all women. Trust me on this — I know egotism. While I’m sure you’d aspire to some sort of martrydom, cwc, alas you’ve failed to obtain one here. Thanks for volunteering to leave, though.

  95. I knew it would come to this.

  96. Mikey, of course you knew! And you stood idly by…

  97. Let’s be fair, Mike. It took much longer than we expected back when Cynthia praised the thread for it’s charitable discourse.

  98. However, I wonder if groups like Evergreen might get used as a means to avoid engaging this issue as a church, and––on a smaller scale––as ward families.

    This is a huge part of my concern as well. I’d like to believe it isn’t impossible for us to develop as a culture so more people can feel (at least more) at home with lives that don’t match an ideal. At some level, imo, the only way we can improve, imo, is to keep trying, to keep talking, to keep trying to listen to and understand each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt. To hope that we *can* improve. To not give up on each other in the process. To seek for what unites and not what separates us in terms of our lives, etc. To recognize that we are ALL fallen, imperfect beings with messy, imperfect lives.

    I actually hope for the day when someone struggling with SSA can raise a hand in a class discussion and talk about how the gospel has helped her/him in her/his life. When she/he doesn’t have to go to a different meeting to be able to find hope, love, and support. And not having people wondering and whispering and being uncharitable at worst or ignorant at best of some of the realities of what it is like to so struggle. But that will also require some who are willing to take such a risk. It also requires, I think, a respect at some level for the doctrine. Fellow church members ought not be punished for believing in the Church’s teachings. But I think those who deal with the struggles could help others understand more about how to be compassionate and sensitive.

    Even if they may be seen as lesser trials, I rejoice when those who are divorced feel they can talk freely about that among their ward families. I have seen those who do feel they belong, and it gives me hope. The same could go for those who are single. Or those w/ depression or other mental health struggles. What about those w/ addictions? Think of the pain of those who deal w/ infertility. Or debilitating or isolating health problems. Or family struggles. Or financial struggles. Or….

    At some level, we are ALL falling short of the ideal, aren’t we? Whether it’s obvious/visible or not, the church is a hospital for “sick” people, right? I think sometimes we tend to forget that as a people, trying so hard to appear that all is well, when in reality, everyone has baggage and weakness in their lives.

    I’m not wanting to minimize the extreme difficulty of SSA in our church, but by the same token, is it possible that by isolating and labeling such struggles as somehow *so* unique, so impossible for people to understand, so impossible to deal with, so out of reach of the ‘average’ member to have compassion for, that we make the hill more steep to climb?

    I feel our leaders urging us toward this kind of unity, urging us to have the Church be a place where people can be imperfect in whatever way they are and feel they can come to Christ and find people willing to walk beside them.

    To me, it’s like my former stake president who said, “We should smell more smoke in church.” We should have more people feeling safe coming even when their lives aren’t ideal in whatever way. To remember that, in the end, we all need the Savior and we all fall short of the ideals taught in some way. And in the end, we all have to rely on eternal promises, on the Atonement, to have hope and to endure well.

  99. Aspiemom-

    As one who believes that some people might be able to reverse their orientation (albeit very few) and as the child of of a gay parent who struggled (and failed) to do just that, I would be very unlikely to support my child’s decision, as the chances of things working out in such a marriage are almost nill.

    Can it be done? Sure. Has it been done? Sure. Do I like the odds? Not unless my kid’s name is “Han Solo.”

  100. m&m,

    You’ve just neatly performed a demonstration of the problem. I’m NOT “struggling”; I don’t need or want to talk about being divorced. I’d much rather talk about my kids’ homework, the cool thing I read in Psalms last week, or the weather. My only struggle is with utterly well-intentioned people who assume that being divorced defines my life and who want to spend the better part of three hours talking about why bigenerational heterosexual middle class suburban-homeowning American families represent an eternal ideal. Similarly, most gay people are not “struggling,” except with the attitudes of their co-religionists.

    One of the major reasons the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM was that they realized all their data came from people who had sought psychiatric care, and thus represented the fraction of the homosexual population that was suffering from depression or other mental illness, and it was only their own biases that made them diagnose homosexuality as the cause of that distress, where, in fact, homosexuals who met with some modicum of acceptance in their social circles were doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.

    But as long as “support” comes in the form of judgment and condescension, even if offered with a brow furrowed with pity, I fear that gay Mormons will be better off without our “help.”

  101. Then, Kristine, you’re talking about a completely different problem from the one m&m is addressing. You’re among that class who can talk about your kids, scriptures, and the weather, in church, just as any member of any bigenerational heterosexual middle class suburban homeowning American family representing an eternal ideal can do, and have no urge to find some Divorced Mormon Woman’s Club (paralleling Affirmation/Evergreen for those who DO look for support) for support you don’t need.

    m&m is talking only about that divorced woman, or that gay man, or whoever is struggling with what, who WANTS to talk about that struggle in a church setting but feels s/he cannot.

    I’ve never understood the compelling need from both ends of the spectrum to yell at m&m for something that was beside her point.

  102. Anonymous,
    Thanks for anwering my question. I think I would struggle with this as well. I believe that gay people are born that way, but I don’t dis-believe that some can change. So, I guess I agree with you that the odds are against success.

    Likewise, if one of my children was gay, I would not want them to try to cram themselves into a heterosexual box. I would want them to be happy, and find someone to share their life with. I would never want my child to be lonely or isolated. I would want that child to have all the same rights and opportunities as my heterosexual children.

  103. Hey Ardis,

    I’m not sure Kristine misses m&m’s point at all. I hear her saying that his mindset IS what causes gay and divorced members to struggle and feel isolated, therefore the only real solution is to change the mindset. Otherwise, the vast majority of gay and divorced LDS will continue to head for the door. Makes sense to me. I’m certainly not interested in hanging out with people who view me as deficient (present company excluded, of course).

    Seriously guys, as much as I enjoy these conversations (which are better than the CBS fall lineup at the very least), it would make all the difference in the world if everyone interested in this topic had a few ‘out’ gay friends who live in affirming environments. My sense is at least a some of you don’t really know us.

  104. Steve Evans says:

    Mike, obviously you are not a fan of CSI: Los Angeles.

  105. Steve Evans says:

    er, make that NCIS: LA. Can you believe my mistake!

  106. MikeInWeHo, as a member of that class of never-marrieds that is also usually considered a special case, a struggling group, isolated, tending to drop out, however you’re defining the difficulty, I have some standing to speak.

    My problem is that my special case is never addressed. Kristine’s problem is that her special case is noticed at all. How in hades is anyone supposed to respond to each of us appropriately under those conditions? (Yeah, yeah, get to know us individually and respond accordingly — but by then the damage of the first impression has been done.)

    Rather than snapping at each other because *you* don’t meet *my* needs, I think we’re obligated to make our own way to some extent and not take offense because other people can’t read our minds and treat us with the kid gloves we wish they were wearing.

    And I still object to dumping on m&m. It’s become a far too convenient habit, carried on far too often, for no good reason.

  107. I will do something bold and actually answer the questions posed by the OP:

    1) Which organization has the superior philosophical approach to the issues?

    Neither. Evergreen is for gay Mormons who have not yet come to grips with the fact that they will inevitably have to leave the Church. Affirmation is for after they have finally accepted reality and and just need the courage to do so. Reminds me of Jesus in the garden: “Let this cup pass from my lips” vs. “thy will be done”. Both are necessary steps in learning to accept being separated from your previous life.

    2) Is the Church better off for having two divergent organizations available for gay Mormons and their family members?

    Isn’t the real question whether gay Mormons and their family are better off? After all, the Church has already made up its mind, so I fail to see what further horse it has in this race.

  108. A few months ago, I responded to a DAMU-type by saying that I was sorry he wasn’t in my community any more and that, if he ever changed his mind, he was welcome back. He got angry, assumed I was being condescending, and told me that the whole point was that he wasn’t coming back and, therefore, assuming that the possibility was still there was infuriating. Which, fair enough. Certainly his ability to predict his own future was superior to my ability to predict his future. I was just fascinated that he intuited a quiet hostility in what I thought was a fairly innocuous exchange, indicating, I thought, that I respected his right to do whatever he wanted and that I didn’t plan on holding that against if doing what he wanted brought him back.

    I’m worried that, because know “nice” can be a mask for pettiness and prejudice, we sometimes automatically assume nice is that mask. Sometimes nice is just nice and a call for help is just a call for help. That m&m might experience a divorced person, a gay person, or a single woman person as a special case doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to be nice and helpful and it certainly doesn’t mean that she would be happier if those individual persons somehow stopped being gay, divorced, or single women (or all three at once). Perhaps the recognition that one is treating these folks as special cases should be treated as a first step, not a final evaluation. In any case, the way to stop people from dealing with special cases is not to berate them for their special case-ness. It is to convince them to surround themselves with enough special cases that the special becomes normal.

    So, m&m, I think a good first step would be to start attending Evergreen or Affirmation gatherings in order to get a sense of who these folks are. Failing that, maybe you could move to the Castro?

  109. Dan,
    I think that the church has its mind more made up regarding Affirmation folk than Evergreen folk.

  110. Dan Weston, Why is leaving the Church inevitable for gay Mormons? That is a strong statement and I wonder why you chose to state it that way.

  111. re: 106
    Your point is well taken, Ardis. We’re all basically looking at the same cultural phenomenon from different angles. Given the theological underpinnings, it’s really no surprise that contemporary Mormon culture virtually fetishizes one particular form of family. I too see the leaders trying to reduce this and say “all are welcome” but are they getting much traction at the ward level? (I have no idea, obviously)

    You will remain an exceptional case by choosing to stay in the culture. Most who don’t fit the model will continue to leave.

  112. John C.

    I fear I have been too subtle to make my position clear. Let me risk elaborating (or belaboring) by way of a parable:

    A well-bred white man who grew up belonging an exclusive segregated country club wanted to get his wife a membership also. This is normally welcome news, but when they found out that she was black, he was told that not only could she not join, but that he would be expelled unless he wasn’t seen by her in public, and professed not to love her when asked. He wanted to divorce her, but loved her too much (and she of course would never leave him). He was faithful to here and so had no hope of sexual fulfillment elsewhere. It did not help that his family was embarrassed and stopped talking to him.

    This club was his life: all his friends were in it, all the people who were going places in this life (and the next). It all was slipping through his fingers.

    The club tried to be understanding and had two membership committees to help: one intent on talking him into divorcing his wife, the other into encouraging him to find another club to join where he might be happier.

    So what did the man end up doing? I haven’t the slightest idea: I stopped reading my own parable when I saw the country club was exclusive. Like Groucho Marx before me, I make it a point never to join a club that will have me.

  113. Kevin Barney says:

    Dan Weston, the question you ask in 107 is really what I intended to get at. I was using “Church” as a collective, sort of like the royal “we”; I didn’t intend to speak of the Church as an institution. Sorry for the confusion.

  114. No, Dan. I got that from your comment.

  115. Dan Weston, I feel like you may be oversimplifying the dilemma of (at least some) gay Mormons a bit. If members thought of the Church as a social club, then the answer is obvious – leave behind your fear of being a social outcast and go be happy with the one you love. But what about people who have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel (and maybe even the organization of the Church) that is just as strong as their sexuality? If there is an equal pull from both parts of the identity, I don’t think it’s so easy to choose.
    To me it is similar to the problem of quantum mechanics and relativity in physics. They are both proven to be true, but each disproves the other. What’s wrong with waiting for a Mormon/homosexuality string theory instead of “inevitably” leaving the Church? It’s just as unfair to ask people to pretend they don’t have a testimony as it is to ask them to pretend they are not homosexual.

  116. Karen,

    “If members thought of the Church as a social club…”

    Oh no, it is so very much more. It is a profoundly encompassing intergenerational family, with large time and money commitment, where intimate bonds (marriage, family, friends) are interwoven in its embrace, a support structure, a dating service, instant acquaintances who have to be nice to you, the promise that you will never be alone. It is a home so promising that even I draw warmth from its afterglow on this blog. I would never be flippant about such a profoundly important experience.

    It took me less about six months of constant prayer to reconcile with God, and a half-decade to build up the courage to trust my family, friends, employer, and Church. Guess which act filled me with greater anxiety.

    Gays do not need Evergreen/Affirmation/Dignity/Integrity/… to tell them all will be okay in the next world. They go to discover whether they personally will be okay in this one.

    Since Mormons value testimony, here is mine:

    And the Lord God said, It is not good that a gay man should be alone; I will make him an help mate for him. Therefore shall a gay man leave his father and his mother, and his friends, his Church, and all that he knows and holds dear, and without promise of happiness or permanence, and with no guarantees of success, shall cleave unto his husband: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his husband, together alone and faced a future uncertain.

    And they were not ashamed.

  117. Steve, my friend, my long time and dear dear friend. You know I love you right?

    I know that you were just doing the insulty funny thing you do, and do so well, but “take your squabbling back to fMh” really isn’t an ideal “request for civility”

    1. it implies a lot about what you think of fMh, and that implication isn’t exactly complementary. I don’t think you meant it that way, but it did hurt. I felt like my home was marginalized as the squabbling ghetto.

    2 I have a hard time imagining you telling a man to take his squabbling back to T&S. Maybe, but I find the idea doubtful. I could imagine “take your fight back to T&S” but a “fight”or “argument” can be important even noble, whereas a squabble is by definition petty and unimportant. I’m sure that gender really was beside the point in your mind at that moment, but your choice of words really did have unfortunate sexist overtones. Implying that fMh’s (women’s) disagreements are petty and unimportant as compared to the fights and debates held here. Perhaps you only meant to imply that CWC’s arguments are petty, but you did very explicitly tell her where the home for that pettiness is.

    I hope the initial reaction to this will not be to tell me to chill out, it was only a joke, only serving to undermine and further marginalize my feelings. Sorry to be such a wet blanket.

    My first instinct was to let it slide because I didn’t want to upset anyone or have you mad at me, but I just thought you’d never know how much it hurt if I didn’t tell you.

  118. Lisa, I meant no implication about FMH at all. Squabbling, for what it’s worth, is not a gendered word in my book – it simply means arguing over something unimportant. No sexist overtones were meant at all. I knew that cwc had been fighting (better?) with m&m at FMH, and I didn’t want that to spill over here, so that’s what I said. CWC (and you, apparently) took a criticism of her petty, unimportant argument with M&M as a criticism of FMH as a whole and of women in general — to which I can only say that such a conflation was not meant by me, is not accurate in any event and certainly was not a correct assumption for her (or you) to make.

    Frankly I am surprised that anyone (especially yourself) would come to the conclusion that I was making a sexist and derogatory remark about you and your site. Seriously, I don’t deserve a little better there? Come on.

    I agree that my request for CWC’s civility was not ideal. Nor was CWC’s initial salvo at M&M, calling her disingenuous. I’ll be a nicer admin when relatively new commenters don’t cast aspersions about the fraud of others.

  119. Also, in case I forget: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings and wish I’d said things differently.

  120. Dan,

    Nice comment. I agree.

  121. In reading some of the comments, I think I need to clarify something. In giving examples of people with certain ‘less-than-ideal’ situations feeling comfortable about talking about their lives at church, I could see how it could be thought that I’m stuck in ‘special case’ mentality and trying to single them out or define them *only* by that element of their lives. (That’s not what I’m trying to do, but I can understand why it’s perceived that way.)

    Let me see if I can try to explain what I’m actually thinking about, though. My thought is that such a level of comfort and honesty could actually *reduce* some of the ‘special case’ mentality that I do think sometimes is present in our church culture — either by those observing or those living the ‘special case’ situations (in quotes for discussion, not because I wish to label people.) I tend to think that the more we realize how normal it actually is to have less-than-ideal lives, the less strained our culture will be…both in the sense of people being less judgmental about certain situations (divorce, singleness, SSA, addiction, depression, whatever) and also by those who may have such situations in their lives self-separating less or thinking that they are *so* different that there can’t possibly be a place for them. I don’t believe that notion is consistent with God’s truth. Anyone who wants to come to Christ through this church should be able to do so, wherever they are.

    My thought is the more we help each other see that we really have more in common than not — even with our different situations — the less we will worry so much about what may makes us different.

    So, in short and in general, I think the more we can talk about and acknowledge difficult topics and situations, the less stigmatized they (and the people who deal with them) can be. And the more we can see that we really aren’t all so different — we all have our stuff, and we all need Christ. And we need each other.

    John C., I could be wrong (don’t want to speak for you), but I think you and I actually agree more than not. I’m not trying to focus unduly on ‘special case’ situations — I’m trying to get past that, trying to suggest that the more we can realize and embrace and be real how many “special cases” are *already* around us — the more we can, as you say, “surround [our]selves with enough special cases” AT CHURCH with the intent that, as you say, “the special becomes normal.”

    Re: your suggestion — and not that I don’t think your suggestion is worthwhile — but to me, in way, the notion of going to a special meeting in order to be able to understand people who are allegedly so “different” from me because somehow I allegedly can’t possibly understand them w/o going to such a meeting to me at some level only reinforces the problematic “special case” and us/them mentality.

    I feel as though on one hand, people say, “Those with SSA really aren’t so different” (which is more what I believe to be true) but then nearly in the same breath, I hear, “You don’t really understand them.” We never fully understand each other, but this does feel a bit contradictory to me.

    I know our culture isn’t there yet, though, and so again, I’m not rejecting your suggestion.

    That said, I also agree with Ardis that at some level, people at church are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they speak of the doctrine, they might offend. If they speak of exceptions, they might offend. If they don’t speak of exceptions, they might offend.

    I also agree with the point Ardis made that some of this really does boil down to the individual. The truth is that we all have expectations that aren’t fulfilled sometimes by others. To assume malicious intent is judgment in its own right, and adds to the problem. To assert that someone should ‘just know’ how to respond when there are so many varying expectations is unrealistic. To label others as nothing but ignorant or unable to understand also can be wrong judgment as well. Or at least could be helped w/ patient, loving help from those who feel they are misunderstood.

    I assure those who deal with SSA and want to be in the Church that there are people around you who want to be there, to be part of a safe place for you to come. It may mean that sometimes people around you goof, but isn’t that all part of what it means to be part of a family? I hope we can get to the point where we don’t hear “It’s inevitable that they will leave” or “it’s impossible for them to feel like they have a place.” I just don’t see that as God’s way, or as what we really need to be about, what we can be about if we all work for it.

    [Sorry for the long comment...I know I should shorten it, but I have already spent more time than I should have today and I need to feed my fam. :) ]

  122. Dan, I feel like you’re still not quite getting what I was saying. I’m not talking about people who see the Church as an important experience either.
    There are some people who say they know the Church is true and aren’t using the word “know” lightly. (How can they “know”? Well, how do you know if you’re gay? Some things you just know.) I realize that not everyone feels this way about the Church. But I think there are some people who cannot leave the Church in this life because denying their testimony would make them just as miserable as denying their sexuality. I think there must be a way for people to be wholly committed to the Church and wholly accepting of their homosexuality. I hope that makes sense.

  123. m&m, I hope we get to meet in person someday. Nothing else to add. Just think it would be fun.

  124. Karen, I sincerely hope that makes sense too.

  125. m&m, I hope we get to meet in person someday. Nothing else to add. Just think it would be fun.

    Email me if you are ever in the SLC area.

  126. think there are some people who cannot leave the Church in this life because denying their testimony would make them just as miserable as denying their sexuality. I think there must be a way for people to be wholly committed to the Church and wholly accepting of their homosexuality.

    I hope you are right about that last part. Right now I don’t think it’s the case that people can be both wholly committed to the Church and also accepting of their homosexuality. I truly hope an avenue for such acceptance develops, but I don’t think the approach of either major organization is likely to produce much, at least not on current trajectories.

  127. I agree with Kristine :)

    People like m&m who sincerely want to make the church welcoming for gays are in an impossible position, and will be, unless or until our doctrinal understanding evolves (more than it has already).

  128. Kristine, I love it when we agree :)

  129. I think now we are getting to the crux of the issue, and where the *real* disagreement often lies.

    Right now I don’t think it’s the case that people can be both wholly committed to the Church and also accepting of their homosexuality.

    And yet there are people doing just that. I have been reading the insights of someone (Ty Mansfield) in that very situation, and it has been one of the most spiritual things I have read. Others have expressed the hope they feel, who are in the same situation. It IS possible. He stands as a testament to the power of the Atonement that is available in helping one do the seemingly impossible. I don’t know that I have read a more powerful witness and example of what can happen in one’s life through humility and faith (something we ALL need — I’m NOT singling gays out here!!). He has inspired me to more faith with my own challenges. (Oh, do I have a long way to go!)

    Do we not believe in a God of miracles? Sometimes the miracles come not in removing our trials, but in helping us learn to lean on Him in ways we never dreamed we could — because of HIS power available through the atonement.

    I realize this of course doesn’t reflect everyone’s experience with SSA, but to claim it’s impossible invalidates the real experiences that DO exist. I think it can end up denying the atonement, too.

    It may be nearly unimaginably difficult, but it’s NOT impossible. And honestly, we all should have as much faith as I have felt as I have read Ty’s testimony and experiences. Wow. If I want that kind of faith in my own life. We all need that kind of faith.

    (p.s. You can read some of his thoughts here. )

    People like m&m who sincerely want to make the church welcoming for gays are in an impossible position, and will be, unless or until our doctrinal understanding evolves

    As much as I can understand why you think this, Kristine, I don’t agree with you, in part because of what I have already said. The CORE of our doctrine is about the hope found in Christ, the power found in His atonement, and the reality that the fullness of that power is found through the doctrine of this church.

    For all that marriage is central to the plan, the Atonement is even MORE central.

    There’s another layer here, imo. As weird as it may sound, I think the *real* impossibility comes from thinking the feeling of impossibilty is the doctrine’s fault. The impossibility is in making the doctrine (and those who believe in it) the enemy, because 1) it creates a rift between those who want change and those who embrace the doctrine now and 2) I think holding the doctrine at bay keeps people from gaining a testimony themselves of why it exists in the first place and the blessings that can come from working toward embracing it.

    I think of Adam and Eve and the law of sacrifice — it didn’t make sense to them, and they did it not understanding why. I can’t imagine it was exactly pleasant, either (sidenote: I’m grateful we don’t have to do animal sacrifice, to be honest!) It was in trusting in and then living the commandment that he learned about it and understood how it helped him come to Christ. Line upon line, obedience is what opened up the windows of heaven more. To me, it’s the whole John 7:17 thing — it is very often in the doing that we gain a conviction of the truthfulness and godliness of what we are asked to do.

    I believe the hope found only in the Savior (the hope we should be focusing on more than anything here) is inextricably tied to believing in and obeying His laws and commandments, and partaking of the ordinances of salvation. The problems that I see coming from somehow suggesting the doctrine is insufficient to help, sustain, bless, protect, and save those with SSA or to enable us to be more united as a people (including those with SSA) are too numerous to address here, but suffice it to say that I don’t think we can claim impossibility without really denying the core of what we claim to believe. And in my mind, we essentially say that unless things change, those with SSA simply can’t access the Atonement. Now THAT is a hopeless position, but it’s simply not true. It can’t be. We can’t impose that kind of restriction on our God. Or on the power of the doctrine (which on this issue includes the law, the role of ancient and modern prophets, the ordinances, the teachings about the plan and about eternity [that's a lot to be wrong on] to bring people to Christ so they can find His power. And find it now. The Church is not standing between people and Christ. It constantly invites them to come to Him in the way that He did and always has — by inviting them (all of us!) to embrace the doctrine – including the commandments and ordinances and teachings about eternity.

    I know I’m only one voice, but here is what I want to say to my gay brothers and sisters who want to be part of the Church: I don’t care if you don’t have it all figured out yet. I don’t care if you can’t yet make any changes at all, except maybe to just desire to have a place. Just desire to believe. Just give a place for a seed of faith. This will likely be a long and hard process. True faith really is. I know I don’t understand your specifics, but I know in my pain, sometimes faith feels impossible. But even the idea of walking away from this seed that is growing within me to a tree to me is so much harder.

    If it’s hard, that doesn’t mean things (or you) are hopeless. It doesn’t mean you are wrong in hoping. It means you are human. It means this existence can be excruciatingly difficult at times. I pray you won’t give up. If I knew your name, I would pray for you by name. I would put your name in the temple. Please, please don’t give up.

    I know this Church is true. I know God loves you. I know His leaders love you. They may be human, but they have the power of God to teach us the way to The Way. The Light. The Hope of the World. The Savior who can and will help you, one (sometimes difficult) step at a time. Even when there are backslides (and there always are, for all of us), He will be there, ready, willing, Able.

    There are people who want to help you. We can’t change the doctrine, and please don’t ask us to reject it to prove our love. I cannot give you what I know, but I can tell you that the doctrine to me is the foundation that can lead to happiness.

    We, too, are human, but the desire is there. Pray that you can find people in your midst who want to help you, who have experienced the hope and power of the Atonement.

    God wants you to feel hope. Pray for the ability to feel some hope without having to wait for drastic doctrinal changes. Pray for the small changes that can bring more light and hope into your life

    And now, with that, I cannot say anymore, or proofread anymore, for a migraine has descended on my tired body. Sigh. Forgive me for the intensity of my comment; I haven’t felt this strongly for a while, but I believe so strongly that there IS hope and for all that I care about my friends here, I reject the notion that this is a hopeless situation. Please don’t be angry at me for that. But I cannot go there and feel true to what I believe to my core to be true.

    sorry again for the length. now can I ask for prayers for me and my body? sigh?

    and if i don’t respond, it’s not for lack of desire but because i have overdone and need to rest.

    (Cynthia, are you sure you want to meet me? I’m more longwinded in person!) :)

  130. p.s. should I post that to my blog instead? email me, steve or john if you want me to — again, sorry for the length. i don’t want to overstep my limits here. there’s longwinded and there’s LONG.

    and please know that I know that not everyone shares my views, and I respect that fact. i don’t expect everyone to agree, but i had to say my piece on this one. but it is so long, and i’m sorry for that.

    let me know….you have my permission to delete if you wish and I will post this to my blog. it’s in draft now there as a backup if that is what you choose to do. i will be sleeping late, so you have my permission now if you wish. i’ll post a link later if need be.

    m

  131. brain still whirring, and this is something i want to say tonite, migraine notwithstanding (at least now i can see again…aura is gone)….

    i addressed my personal comments to those who are gay and want to be in the Church….BUT, I don’t limit my desire for love and concern, my willingness to pray for and reach out to those who may not want to be a part because of the doctrine. I cannot abandon my belief to somehow “prove” love (just as I could not ask you to do for me) but I believe that we can and should still seek for respectful dialogue and loving relationships in spite of the difference that may exist. There is still so much that is not different – we are people with family and friends and jobs and hobbies and people we love and people who love us and desires to do and be good according to the dictates of our own consciences.

    I know this wall of belief and the doctrine feels insurmountable, but I do believe there are things we can do to build bridges in spite of that difference. And I hope for that, too. In a big way. It’s something that matters to me a lot, and part of why I join conversations like this. I believe in the power of respectful, open-hearted dialogue to accomplish much good, regardless of religious belief or other things on which people may differ.

    ok. gnite. for real. thanks for listening.

  132. m&m, I do hope your migraine subsides.

    Who can argue with such passion as you possess? Let us hope it never possesses you in turn. :)

    I do have one question with your logic:

    “Or on the power of the doctrine (which on this issue includes the law, the role of ancient and modern prophets, the ordinances, the teachings about the plan and about eternity [that's a lot to be wrong on]“

    Are these really independent sources of wisdom? I think they all derive from a common authority, and are jointly right or wrong. Any one is as sufficient as the whole. Truth does not become truer with repetition (nor do lies), and hearsay (yes, any revelation that is not personally received is spiritual hearsay) does not strengthen the original testimony.

    It is indeed “a lot to be wrong on”, so let us hope for Ty Mansfield’s sake that it is not.

  133. I don’t have much to add at this point except to say that if our response to homosexuality in and out of the church is to say that gay folk are better off not in the church then apparently we believe one or more of the following:

    1. We don’t actually believe that the Gospel is for everyone
    2. We actually do think that God hates/dislikes/neglects gay people
    3. We have looked into the future; We have understood the past; We can speak with confidence concerning the mind and will of God because we have that sort of revelatory insight; and our current stance on gay marriage is just as fundamental a doctrine as the Atonement and not something that changes or evolves over time like the Word of Wisdom or the temple ceremony.
    4. We would like things to be the way they aren’t; but we are personally too lazy/uninterested/uninvested/scared to try and figure out a better way

    Our current apparent stance on homosexuality (whether the Affirmation, Evergreen, silent, or “excommunication is bets” approach) represents, I believe, our current greatest moral failing as an institution. If we honestly believe, as I have heard and read expressed, that people are better off being excommunicated from the church than in it, then I doubt we believe the church IS anything more than a social club and Dan Weston’s parable is fact.

  134. Steve Evans says:

    John C., I disagree with your four possible explanations. There are others, and pigeonholing such possible thought processes is an unduly restrictive activity.

  135. I agree with John C.

  136. I agree with Steve Evans.

  137. m&m, I don’t for a second believe gays don’t have access to the atonement simply because they aren’t comfortable in the church. Neither do I believe they are cut off from the gospel if they are uncomfortable with the church. I’m glad Ty Mansfield has found a way to make both work, but I strongly suspect he’s the exception.

  138. I agree with Mark B.

  139. Steve Evans says:

    I agree with Ardis!

  140. FMHLisa and CWC: Rawrr!

  141. I think I see what John C is saying, and while maybe he used over-broad strokes as a kind of hubris, he does have a point. Of course it can be refined, and of course there are much subtler points to be made- but I’m hard pressed to take issue with the general observation.

    I agree with John, Mark and Ardis.

  142. Latter-day Guy says:

    134, 136, 138, 139:

    “The circle of our love is more
    Than just a rising sun that sets,
    The circle of our love, it goes forever.”

  143. I think there is one important fact that many are overlooking: Most LDS did not choose to be LDS, just as most gays did not choose to be gay. Most LDS were born into the Church. Our “good feelings” associated with the Church have origins so far back in our youth and so deeply embedded into our psyches, they seem to defy analysis and criticism. We just “know” the Church is true and we can’t imagine ourselves outside of it!

    The same is true of being gay (or heterosexual). The origins of sexual feelings and attraction – to those with characteristics common to the same sex, or the opposite sex – are buried deep in the past and deep within our psyches, and perhaps even in biology (ala Freud).

    The origins of both religious faith and sexual orientation seem to be mystical, inscrutible, and only modifiable by earth-shaking effort or “miracle”.

    So if you are LDS AND Gay, you are kind of stuck in an existential dilemma not of your own making.

    But when it comes to religion, I think it is a huge mistake to assume that those who don’t believe the same things we (I) believe (or, put another way, those who “don’t have as much faith as me”) are somehow weaker, less worthy, slackers, who are not willing to try hard enough.

    Likewise, it seems to be a bit arrogant to believe that those who “fail” to overcome their SSA are somehow weaker, less worthy, slackers who are not willing to try hard enough.

    Years ago, I had a friend who was born in the Church. He tried to gain a testimony, but never felt he was able to achieve the “knowing” that everybody else seemed to profess. On the cassette tape he left when he committed suicide, he explained that the only way he was going to “know beyond a shadow of a doubt” was to go see God personally and directly.

    The news media is filled with accounts of gay LDS who felt forced into the same desperate situation.

  144. I agree with nobody.

  145. I agree with John C at #133.

  146. Dick Cheney says:

    I agree with Daniel at #144.

  147. Mormons are such agreeable people. They even agree to agree!

  148. I disagree with #145

  149. Too bad, Daniel – you can’t.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,485 other followers