What I Wish I Had Said

So, I was interviewed on KUER yesterday.  Turns out I’m not good at live radio.  I’ve been editing in my head all day, so this could be a really long post, but I’m just going to take another shot at one question I really botched.  (That is, one that I remember–I can’t bear to listen to it to clean up all my answers!)

A caller asked how, since the doctrine of many religions* forbids homosexual relationships, adherents of those churches could maintain belief in their churches and also be welcoming of gay people. This is really two questions, I think–one practical or pastoral, and one theological, but the answers are related.

(*I answer from a Christian and Mormon perspective because, well, that’s the one I’ve got, but it seems to me that similar ideas might work in many traditions.)

At the most basic level, this is a question about how religious believers ought to behave towards people who are breaking commandments of the tradition in ways that are public.  That’s easy (easy to say, anyway)–exactly the same way as they would behave towards themselves or their beloved sister who had sinned.  Because she has. We all have.   The only operative difference in this case is that some sins are easily visible to others and some are not.   The trick is, as Elder Eyring once put it, to be merciful towards people who sin differently than we do.  Because we are all beggars.  Because Christ first loved us.

And we all know what this kind of welcome looks like:  listening, sharing, tending, hugging, scolding (betimes with sharpness!), sighing, singing, laughing, and crying together.  For Mormons,  it will often involve Jello.

But there’s a larger and more difficult question, of course.   If our fundamental beliefs exclude some people from full participation in our communities, or insist that they are called to bear a heavier cross than the rest of us, can our superficial niceness or even our sincere kindness make up for such doctrinal discrimination?  If not, must we abandon those beliefs?  How can we reconcile what we believe God to have revealed with love for people who are hurt or marginalized by the truth we think we know?

As much as it would be comfortable for me, I think that a shrugging, anything-goes tolerance is cheap.  Real love is difficult, and it does sometimes require drawing lines and making moral judgments.  If one earnestly believes that God requires some standard of action, it is condescending to not articulate that belief to a person one thinks might not be able to meet the standard.  Is it possible to lovingly insist on theological clarity?

I’m not sure, and I’m very glad it is not my job to articulate doctrine for my church (or anyone else’s).  But President Packer’s talk, and the responses to it, particularly the response presented by Michael Otterson, suggest the following easy-to-state, nearly-impossible-to-implement principle to me:  Our religious certainties ought to be troubled by our encounters with our fellow human beings; no theological abstraction should matter to us more than the pains and joys of our brothers and sisters.

What was most hurtful about President Packer’s talk, I think, was the tone of absolute moral certainty, the definitive insistence that such certainty mandated the rejection of the reported experience of thousands of gay Latter-day Saints.  President Packer articulated a vision of a moral universe so tidy that it couldn’t account for the messiness of human love and yearning; his proof required ignoring some of the data–the living, breathing, aching data of  women and men who cannot, despite their heroically faithful effort, be something other than their nature compels them to be.   Brother Otterson’s response, though insistent on the same commandments, showed evidence of his (or the writer(s)) having been moved by the suffering of others.  I think this is at the heart of what we must do, as believers, if we are to arrive at truth–we must allow our encounters with other human beings, with Christ in “the features of men’s faces” to transform us, to shake us from our comfortable beliefs and throw us to our knees to beg for wisdom and understanding.

We’re told that Christ suffered so that He would know how to succor His children and how to judge them.  He is a righteous judge because he fully and freely entered into our suffering, our brokenness.    It seems to me that until we can enter into the suffering our rules and our words inflict on our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, all of our doctrinal pronouncements ought to come from a place of humility and err on the side of mercy.  I believe that this humility is also the ground of revelation, and that we might well come up with better answers than we currently have if we listened more and theorized less.  But if not, if it turns out that our truest understanding of God makes us insist on heterosexual marriage as the righteous way,  then we are called to mourn with those that mourn–we ought to weep with frustration and grief when we prescribe celibacy as their best hope of salvation.  And we ought to never stop imploring the heavens on their behalf.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Kristine, I thought you did a beautiful job.

    I also think this is beautiful:
    “But if not, if it turns out that our truest understanding of God makes us insist on heterosexual marriage as the righteous way, then we are called to mourn with those that mourn–we ought to weep with frustration and grief when we prescribe celibacy as their best hope of salvation. And we ought to never stop imploring the heavens on their behalf”

  2. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for this, Kristine. It’s lovely. I listened to your radio interview today and thought you were fantastic. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

  3. I’m curious as to what you think the church should do differently. Was it just the “tone” of Elder Packer’s talk that was so troubling? How, if our doctrine clearly states that homosexual sex is a sin, should our church approach gay members? If saying outright that homosexual sex is a sin is always going to be unloving, which seems to be what you are suggesting, how do you see General Authorities ever being able to preach about this law? Or any other moral law?

    I should add I have been thinking about this for a few days and am genuinely interested in your response and the response of other readers and am not intending to start a slug fest. I do understand that very faithful members had problems with Elder Packer’s remarks. I just don’t see how under the conditions you are suggesting anybody could ever really clearly talk about what the law of chastity, or any other moral law, actually says.

  4. I don’t begrudge Pres. Packer his moral certainty – certainly he has more experience and time than I, and it is his daily job to be a source of moral certainty. So I can’t get upset at him for that. I respect and love him dearly. But as you say, human love is messy, and that is the world I live in. So I’ll try to live with some moral certainty, but I believe the overwhelming duty of compassion and love for others is the ultimate trump in terms of prioritizing rules when they come into conflict.

  5. Kristine, this is quite lovely and compassionate. I admit that I did not hear President Packer in quite the same way that you and many others did; my ears must be tuned differently. But I do absolutely agree with you that this issue, if no other, is cause for us to mourn with those that mourn. Of course there are others who also live celibate lives (perhaps because they never have had the opportunity to marry), but that does not make the subject of your post any less poignant or moving.

    And we may mourn not only for those who whose condition we do not understand, but also for their families and friends who love them and care for them.

  6. “If saying outright that homosexual sex is a sin is always going to be unloving, which seems to be what you are suggesting …”

    Gwen, this isn’t what Kristine is suggesting at all. She plainly says that Otterson’s statement showed he was moved by the suffering of others, even while he reiterated the same moral standard that Packer did. I think you’ve misread the post.

  7. I also thought you did an admirable job, Kris. And this is just lovely. Thank you.

  8. @Aaron

    Well that’s my question. Would Kristine and others have been less troubled if Brother Otterson’s statement was given in General Conference as opposed to Elder Packer’s? Is it the law of chastity as it is taught that is troubling or is it the way Elder Packer’s expressed himself? I guess what threw me is that Kristine also said she’s not sure there’s a way to lovingly insist on moral clarity and that we should always be “imploring the heavens on their behalf.” I may be totally misinterpreting her, but that sounds like we should be asking for the doctrine to change, for the doctrine to be more accommodating to gay members.

  9. Gwen, you’re phrasing things with an odd either/or type of binary thinking. Kristine’s whole point is that life is really messy and we need to be more filled with the love of Christ*. That’s it, really. Further interpretation of that is dependent on the Spirit.

    *NB the author of this comment is not entitled to speak on behalf of Kristine

  10. @Steve

    Well I absolutely agree with you. It seems to me though that the discussion in general about Elder Packer’s talk in the larger bloggernacle, and perhaps not necessarily what Kristine has said about it here, has not been about whether we should love gay members or not. Nobody disagrees on that. The issue seems to be that people felt like Elder Packer’s remarks were hurtful and offensive and required a further statement from the church or an apology.

  11. I don’t think that’s Kristine’s issue at all. So, yeah. Let’s move on.

  12. Holden Caulfield says:

    “What was most hurtful about President Packer’s talk, I think, was the tone of absolute moral certainty, the definitive insistence that such certainty mandated the rejection of the reported experience of thousands of gay Latter-day Saints.”

    This strikes at the heart of the matter. Leaders who don’t know profess they somehow, magically, understand the origin and nature of homosexuality and know there is a way out. That “way out” is contrary to the life experience of millions of gays. Pollycock. I love the fact that there are more gays in the world than active Mormons.

  13. This is beautiful, Kristine.

    If what you articulate is the end-result of all the reaction to and discussion of Pres. Packer’s talk, it will have been worth it.

  14. Cynthia L. says:

    Kristine, you did a great job. But to the extent that your misguided dissatisfaction with your performance has brought us this post, I’m glad for it.

  15. Well my questions were genuine, but ok. I’ll leave.

  16. Gwen, please don’t leave. I think I’m trying to articulate a process for arriving at answers in community with people who differ from us, even if our answers ultimately don’t resolve our differences.

    And I would have been overjoyed if Brother Otterson’s statement had been a conference talk.

  17. Thanks, Kristine. I thought you did a great job on the radio and appreciate your thoughtful tone and keen insight in discussing these issues.

  18. Brother Otterson’s response, though insistent on the same commandments, showed evidence of his (or the writer(s)) having been moved by the suffering of others.

    If the implication is that Pres. Packer is not so moved, I would ask if you are sure you want to impugn him in this way. I believe the position of holding forth the law — which is inextricably tied to the mercy and power of the Atonement — is itself evidence of deep love and concern. I felt his was a message of hope and encouragement. I don’t think it shows a lack of compassion to have the hope for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters that they can face their difficult trial and stay with us, in every way — full participating members even as their short-terms trials are heartrendingly difficult.

    I appreciated this gay Mormon’s point of view.

    I really do believe in listening and caring, but then we have to also listen to those who are saying it IS possible to stay Mormon and accept the homosexuality that is part of them right now as a test of faith.

  19. “women and men who cannot, despite their heroically faithful effort, be something other than their nature compels them to be”

    This really depends on what you’re envisioning.

    Isn’t our natural state exactly what we are to struggle against? Some of those who feel this way by nature nevertheless are active faithful LDS who live good lives in heterosexual marriages. One spoke in my local Stake Conference last year about it. I’m on an email list with another. NB: I don’t think this is possible for everyone, nor should it be counseled, but it also shouldn’t be taken off the table as if it were a categorical impossibility.

    “this is a question about how religious believers ought to behave towards people who are breaking commandments of the tradition in ways that are public.”
    Perhaps, but what about those who break public and obvious commandments and feel no compunction about doing so? That seems to be the more accurate question.

    I’m thinking of the following from a heterosexual perspective (and it’s not entirely equivalent.) It’s one thing to confess one’s infidelities to the Bishop while struggling against them and failing from time to time. It’s another thing entirely to tell him you think the Church is entirely wrong about chastity and expect to formally remain in full fellowship although you show up every weekend with your live-in girlfriend and pr0n tucked into your scriptures. That’s not struggling with chastity or wrestling with the natural man, but it’s also not politically acceptable (from what I’ve seen) to the GLBT community.

    Check out link #8 here for an interview with a Jewish bisexual. (I don’t seem to be able to link to that #8 directly, not sure why.)

    http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/David_Benkof

  20. or insist that they are called to bear a heavier cross than the rest of us

    I have another comment about this part of the OP. I think that it is counterproductive to put a sense of competition in the midst of what mortality is for all of us. I *do* feel a great deal of compassion for those who are gay and want to be or stay Mormon, but I do not believe that it is necessarily a “heavier cross” than the many other very heavy and sometimes very private crosses people bear.

    I think that if we want our gay brothers and sisters to feel fully a part, we ought not divide them out as being so different from the rest of us in this way. I’m not saying that we don’t have a ways to go in our culture; clearly the Church leaders also feel that we do (remember, that statement by Brother Otterson is not his, but the leaders’ perspective).

    But when we meet and talk about the general principles of the gospel, we can remember and reinforce that the hope that is in Christ is big enough for any and all trials. At some point, I think we can enjoy a unity that comes from not dividing ourselves up by “my/their trials are harder than yours.” It’s not a competition. We all need Him. We all fall short. Homesexuals have a real trial, but it’s not impossible. None of our trials are.

    And we all need each other — and can learn and benefit from each other’s journeys of faith, even if they differ in specifics.

  21. Oh, and I was half asleep when I heard this on NPR and said, “hey wait, I know her!”

  22. Michelle, you might not want to impugn me for something you think I may have implied. I have no doubt that President Packer sincerely believed that his message would be helpful.

    (Also–fair warning: if you haven’t listened to the interview yet, don’t. You’ll hate it.)

  23. Ben–I hope you went right back to sleep! Sorry to have disturbed you :)

  24. “That’s not struggling with chastity or wrestling with the natural man, but it’s also not politically acceptable (from what I’ve seen) to the GLBT community. ”

    Hmm, wasn’t clear. The “it” which is not acceptable in that sentence is heterosexual marriage.

  25. I listened to the whole show (thanks to whomever linked to it on the sideblog) and I was so impressed with you and your thoughtful, composed, loving responses. I had been wondering whether to send you an email (“Hi, I’m a random lurker at BCC who just wants to let you know I loved you on the radio”), but am so glad you posted about it here. You make me proud to be a Mormon.

  26. I just love you, Kristine. If the account of Jesus’ life tells us anything it is that he chose to keep company with the fallen woman, the outspoken woman, the leper, the Samaritan, the maimed, the wounded — offering them attention and healing and unexpected revelation. I suppose I believe that any guidance I take from the church should, first and foremost, help me be a better disciple of Christ.

  27. Kristine- I thought you did a wonderful job. Thanks for sharing your perspective in your interview and with us here.

    I don’t want to open a can of worms, but I just have to say that– for me– being gay isn’t a trial/difficulty/cross/burden/etc.
    [I don't direct this in response to any particular comment, but the general tone of the discussion regarding Pres. Packer's talk.]

    It IS difficult for me to rectify the difference between my reality and the rhetoric of some in the church. It is a burden sometimes to deal with some church members who are less than kind. [Though that burden isn't unique to gay church members.]

    But in my day to day life, being gay isn’t a burden. I have burdens. But they don’t arise from being gay. They arise from being human.

  28. Chris–I’m sorry if I made it sound like that. I meant that being gay and Mormon is hard, precisely because of that rhetoric (and the insistence on celibacy (!))

  29. Great job Kristine. Thank you for your knowledge, compassion, courage, and caring. I mostly lurk and listen.

    On my way to Wyoming at about 11 a.m. Utah time I tuned in KUER and by chance caught the beginning of the show. I recognized your name and credentials and listened until I and couldn’t pick you and Doug up any more. Anxious to hear the whole show as soon as 7 p.m. rolled around, I listened in to the re-broadcast online. Chris (27) captures what became obvious to me as I listened to the show, especially the interchange between you, Doug, and the callers and commenters: “being gay isn’t a trial/difficulty/cross/burden/etc.” but that differs from its characterization among members. Of course, the link above to the (Gay) Mormon’s blog suggests some who are gay who see it as a trial/difficulty/cross/burden, too.

    I still can’t help but think that the characterization of homosexuals and their very natural sexual activity is made to be one a scapegoat like so many in the scriptures as were discussed in the DIALOGUE article by Mack. C. Stirling in the Spring 2010 article.

    Does anyone know where I can find a compilation of all scriptural references that the authorities rely on to say God prohibits it?

    Anyway, thanks.

  30. Kristine– rest assured that you didn’t make it sound like that. I wasn’t particularly clear in my “target”.

    In fact, your recognition that the rhetoric is what makes it hard is rather– for lack of a better word– progressive. :) And I think we’re coming from a similar place here…

    wreddyornot– I’m not saying there aren’t common difficulties shared by gay mormons…

    But I get the impression that some commenters around the blogosphere (and other voices, perhaps including Brother Otterson) base their calls for compassion on this idea that they have a Christian responsibility to care for the afflicted (or persecuted, or the sinner, etc.). I would agree that they do. BUT gay people aren’t inherently afflicted or diseased. This is getting a bit philosophical– but I would hope we would base our treatment of LGBT people on a simple recognition that gay people are normal people.

    As an example– the quote below comes from an email that was fodder in the gay blogosphere today. It was sent by a college professor/Mormon Bishop in WI to a student sponsoring an on-campus LGBT film festival. [This email was sent in his professional capacity as a college professor]

    “I decry attempts to legitimize [homosexuals'] addictions and compulsions. These, our fellow humans, deserve our best efforts to help them recover their lives. We only hurt them further when we choose to pretend that these walking wounded are OK the way they are, that their present injuries are the best they can hope for in life.”

    He was clearly well intentioned. He sounds like he wants to help people. But it is the very idea that we need help to “recover” that is damaging to so many. What gay kids really need to hear is that they are OK, and that their family/chruch/community loves them.

  31. I have no doubt that President Packer sincerely believed that his message would be helpful.

    And I have no doubt that you believe your message is, too. I can feel how much you care. I can.

    In reading your words here and elsewhere, I get the sense that the solution in your mind still lies in the future, in doctrinal or institutional change — that that is really the only solution that will be sufficient to really alleviate the pain of our gay brothers and sisters.

    For example, “then we are called to mourn with those that mourn–we ought to weep with frustration and grief when we prescribe celibacy as their best hope of salvation. And we ought to never stop imploring the heavens on their behalf. ”

    Why frustration and grief? Why can we not walk by their sides in support and yet rejoice with them in hope and faith in the promises of God that are already there on their behalf in our doctrine?

    Again, I absolutely hear your compassion and concern for our gay brothers and sisters in your words, and I would hope you could hear that somehow from my heart as well. But I think perhaps our perspectives are different on what we should be praying for when we fall to our knees on their behalf.

    I do pray for these brothers and sisters, but more that their personal revelation will flow upon them to help them feel the strength of God to face whatever challenges they may have (sort of channeling the message of Elder Oaks this time around — you seem to yearn for the general-level priesthood revelation, I pray for people to feel the personal-level, Mosiah 24 like strength of them keeping their covenants and finding God lightening their burdens).

    BTW, is there a way to access a rebroadcast of your interview? I don’t envy having to be on live radio. I’m sure you did a great job.

  32. Cynthia L. says:

    michelle: sidebar has a link.

    “Why frustration and grief? Why can we not walk by their sides in support and yet rejoice with them”

    That works, assuming they’re rejoicing. What is your plan if they happen to not be?

  33. Chris,

    I hear you.

    Something I love about Jesus relationships in the NT is that they so often confound his disciples, who insist on seeing an afflicted (or tainted) soul. Sometimes I wonder if Luke 7 wouldn’t be an apropos parable for church members on this issue. The men at dinner can’t understand how Jesus would let a “sinful” woman wash his feet. He responds by implying that none of them truly “see” her, and that she’s forgiven because
    “she loved much.” Its one reason i am deeply theologically as well as personally uncomfortable with polocies and traditions that stand in the way of people experiencing the healing effects of a loving relationship,

  34. What gay kids really need to hear is that they are OK, and that their family/chruch/community loves them.

    Can I ask a question in return, Chris? Do you hear a lack of love in the standards of the law of chastity? Is the problematic rhetoric in your mind there, or in the idea that somehow gays are broken and won’t stop being broken unless they somehow become heterosexual in this life? (even though I don’t think that is the Church’s position, I get the sense that that is what some people feel when they hear talk about this topic)

    As is probably obvious, I am very interested in discussions on how we can communicate love while still upholding the law of chastity. Because that is where things are now, I think it’s essential to focus on how to work within this reality. But if the only way to show love is to renounce the law of chastity as it stands, that puts most members in a place that is pretty impossible. But it doesn’t, in my mind, make it impossible to still do what Kristine is talking about here — to really try to open our hearts to the difficulty people around us face. But again, this is, as Chris said, more about being human, no? In a very real sense, I think we all at times (some more than others) need a little more of compassion for whatever is messy in our own lives? The gap between the real and ideal is so painfully large for most of us in some way!

  35. Kris — Sounds great, thus far. You have great things to share. I’m impressed.

    FWIW, this is a link to another post on another blog that has the best summary of where I’ve been at with this, and I am blown away by the response of the author at the bottom of the thread: http://templeboundparadox.blogspot.com/2010/10/paradox-is-no-fool.html

    30 — I appreciate what you’re saying here. I’m working on parsing what seems to be a tricky line to draw in what you’re saying. I get the “we’re just normal people” part. I’m not so sure where to go from there with the idea of being afflicted/challenged/struggling.

    In a faithful LDS perspective, I see challenges for people who are gay to either find a heterosexual marriage solution (doesn’t seem to work for many) or to live celibate for life. And I have an understanding what living celibate for a long time is like, having been separated for more than fifteen years — it’s a damned hard thing to do, and I just have to consider the possibility that it might extend the rest of my life, as opposed to facing that that possibility is a requirement.

    So can you help me get what you’re saying here? I can’t promise I’ll be where you want me to be after, but I would like to understand better what you’re asking.

  36. That works, assuming they’re rejoicing. What is your plan if they happen to not be?

    This is part of what I would hope there could be more discussion on. I actually wasn’t assuming they were rejoicing (sorry I wasn’t more clear) because I know for a fact that many are not.

    But I do think that ultimately the gospel message is one of hope, that we have sufficient in our doctrine of the Atonement to face whatever the specifics of our trials may be. We talk often of talking more of Christ. I think this is one of those times when so doing is essential. It’s one thing to just talk of Christ, though. I’ve been amazed at how hard it really is to let that doctrine distill and make a difference when life is at its messiest, but I think it’s sort of like the Paul’s thorn in the flesh thing. It’s in our deepest pain that we often can come to find Christ’s love and strength and power. I think that was the bottom line of Pres. Packer’s talk (even though I know others got different messages). We come to Him through our covenants and enduring our difficult paths with faith in Him.

    I don’t know that there is really any other way to help anyone in their struggles, whatever they may be, without ultimately looking to Christ and trying to walk by their side in that journey.

    That’s my view. On one hand, perhaps it sounds simplistic. But it’s the only thing I know that won’t fail someone.

  37. Chris, just to clarify, I believe it probable anciently mankind unfairly scapegoated homosexuals/homosexuality. I don’t believe God did or does. I accept that it is no burden or cross for you, and I believe we have and are perpetuating a terrible misunderstanding that has been prolonged like other instances done to the innocent in our more modern history. We are all aware of them and the great suffering they caused until corrected.

  38. Kristine, your interview was thoughtful and insightful, and this piece is beautiful.

  39. michelle:
    I actually think the church is doing a decent job distancing from past positions that homosexual orientation is pathological (i.e. a mental illness). Obviously there is still more to be done…

    This is NOT a problem unique to the church (i.e. the church isn’t the sole messenger here). The world sends lots of messages to gay kids that they are not OK. I think one of the difficulties is that– at least for me before I came out– those messages from the world and the messages of the church combine into a giant demon of condemnation.

    To your difficult question:
    I think it is easy to mistake or conflate the absence of vocal condemnation with acceptance. One can express love without communicating acceptance of a behavior.

    If gay people enter relationships– it is NOT because they haven’t been sufficiently “warned”.

    So from my perspective– I think the right thing to do depends on your “role” in relationship to the gay person. But if you are not their ecclesiastical leader or parent, I can’t see how it is the responsibility of any church member to express their disapproval of a gay member’s behavior.

    [BTW-- I'm not implying that you personally engage in open condemnation of gay people. But I have personally had random church members come up to tell me that they "love me" but they just can't accept my decisions. I'm not sure how frequently that happens to other categories of people regarded by the church as greivous sinners...]

  40. Blain–
    I would say celibacy could be labeled a struggle/cross/burden/whatever you want… But that difficulty doesn’t arise per se from being gay (it arises from the act of celibacy). That is an admittedly narrow distinction of rather limited importance…
    [And I won't bemoan what I perceive as a distinction between chastity and celibacy...]
    And my apologies if I hijacked this thread. That wasn’t my intent. Thanks again to Kristine for her great interview and post.

  41. bdelloid rotifer says:

    michelle, your attitude is exactly that which makes gay kids kill themselves. Your definition of “loving” is understood by anyone in the position to be subject to it as hate dressed up in church clothes. Kids are dying. Have you no heart?

  42. Okay. I see that we’re pushing at the line and it remains difficult to draw, but I appreciate your effort.

    I very much agree that your sexual behavior is your business, and, unless I’m your bishop (and I’m not), it’s not mine. I don’t hold much hope that this attitude is going to catch on among Mormons, but I’m doing what I can to share it. “Every member a mission president” also works as “every member a bishop,” and I don’t know what can be done about it.

  43. With all due respect to Pres. Packer, it is very difficult to accept answers on life’s most vexing questions from those who ask no questions.

  44. Chris, thanks for your thoughtful response. I hope we can all have more dialogue about how Church members can “express love without communicating acceptance of a behavior.” And I think you have articulated one important one — don’t make it your business to personally call out others’ behavior when you have no stewardship to do so. Seriously, I hear too many of these kinds of things in lots of categories (singleness, or childlessness or other things).

    Another thought I have is that if someone is at church, I can assume they are there because they are trying to strengthen their faith. God asks us to give our best, and if they are there in that pew or chair, I’d better just assume that they are doing their best, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that space on the pew next to me feels like a safe space to be wherever that person is in their personal journey…that I’m there with a smile and a handshake or hug, with interest in their life, and a willingness to really listen when I ask the habitual, “How are you?”

    Where it can get difficult, I think, and one reason why I asked what I did is because on the flip side, I have also seen people be afraid to talk about basic beliefs and standards of Mormonism — and this happens in situations not just related to homosexuality, but with other charged topics (Mother’s Day, anyone?) — that our worship can be hindered by that fear and then could become less a safe place for building on the foundations of our faith. For all the uncertainty there is in life, at some point, I think the plan of salvation does offer us some certainty that can take bits of our faith to more perfect knowledge of Christ’s reality and the reality of God’s plan of happiness. (Even as we should also realize that others not currently worshiping with us are still on Their radar screen and we should never treat them otherwise.)

    So I think there is a tension here. We absolutely should show mercy and love but also should not be afraid to talk about truth as it is taught. This is not the same as using church to talk about personal pet politics or whatever. I’m talking talking about regular, repeated doctrine without having to fear that it would be offensive to someone whose life may not match those ideals right now. Because again, whose life fully does? I’m reminded of Elder Holland’s reminder that “the Church is not a monastery for the isolation of perfect people. It is more like a hospital provided for those who wish to get well.”

    I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  45. Go to bed, everybody.

  46. ” Our religious certainties ought to be troubled by our encounters with our fellow human beings; no moral abstraction should matter to us more than the pains and joys of our brothers and sisters.”

    Kristine, you nailed it.

  47. michelle, your attitude is exactly that which makes gay kids kill themselves. Your definition of “loving” is understood by anyone in the position to be subject to it as hate dressed up in church clothes. Kids are dying. Have you no heart?

    Alas, it’s comments like this that lead me to ask the questions that I do. I’m asking how I or anyone like me (which is most Mormons and a whole lot of other people in our society) can maintain integrity to my beliefs without being dismissed as a hateful, heartless person.

    I have another concern about your comment. This article sums it up well:

    Expert says media dangerously ignores mental illness in coverage of gay teen suicides

  48. Michelle, my #45 was also directed at you.

  49. Yeah, well, I saw your 45 after my 47.

    I guess you didn’t know I have insomnia, though. (Just for you, I won’t include a smiley.)

  50. Cynthia L. says:

    michelle, I think your line of questioning here is fundamentally misguided inasmuch as you are trying to get BCC to articulate for you some kind of Emily Post comprehensive guidebook for you to follow in interacting with your fellow saints who may be gay or lesbian (or other gays and lesbians for that matter). Kristine’s whole message, as I read it, is that we should face and really see the person right in front of us at any given moment, and react to that person as an individual. Even assuming you plan on adopting to a T whatever advice you extract from us, acting according to some rigid flowchart that BCC draws up for you is the opposite of that suggestion to really know and be present with individual people. Go out and meet people. Whoever they are, gay straight, whatever, hear their story and engage with them in the complex mutual dance that is quality, empathic human interaction.

  51. Mommie Dearest says:

    I’m too tired to even begin to take this on. I listened to the audio piece. Kristine, I thought you were as successful as anyone could possibly be in addressing with grace and honesty the hard parts of this latest incarnation of our suddenly stepped-up learning curve.

  52. Cynthia, fwiw, actually what I was trying to do is engage Chris, an individual who seemed willing to engage, with real questions I’ve had (sorry if that was presumptuous, Chris, and sorry if that was beyond what y’all want to see here).

    To me, blogging is part of doing what you are talking about — trying to hear others’ stories and thoughts and experiences and perspectives and ask questions of those who are willing to respond who can help me understand more of the perspectives of gays in the Church (or vis-a-vis the Church). I seek to do this in my “real” life too. But I see this as part of that process, and I keep hoping that we can all have more discussions that meet somewhere in the middle.

    In short, I’m trying to engage in the dance you have described. I would hope that people could try to give me the benefit of what you describe: “face and really see the person right in front of [your] face at [this] moment, and react to that person.”

    I believe there are many others like me who genuinely care and want to reach out but feel caught between a real rock and hard place by ultimatums about how we can’t show love while holding to our beliefs. I can’t believe that it’s that simple, though, that there is such an impasse that nothing will be better unless either gays suddenly become straight or Mormonism suddenly abandons or changes its doctrine. To demand either extreme to me seems to ignore the responsibility we have to engage in the very complexity and dance you are talking about, to ignore the very real need for each of us to go where ever we may be uncomfortable dancing.

  53. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Our religious certainties ought to be troubled by our encounters with our fellow human beings; no moral abstraction should matter to us more than the pains and joys of our brothers and sisters.”

    Awesome.

    I’m reading – actually I’ve read, in the last 24 hours – a book called “The Kindness of Sisters”, about the ugliness between Anabella Milbanke, Lady Byron, Lord Byron’s wife, and his half-sister and lover Augusta Leigh. In short, Lady Byron, full of moral rectitude and religious certainty fails utterly to do just this thing you’ve described so well to her own and others deep pain, even emotional and spiritual ruin. It’s a really good study on the subject. ~

  54. It seems to me like what you’re trying to do is describe your dance style and get some validation from us (? gays on BCC? the world?) that it’s ok.

    I keep hoping that we can all have more discussions that meet somewhere in the middle.

    Some actual people in this thread have said that dancing middle is unacceptable to them. You insistently repeating the demand to dance in the middle seems to be a pretty strong message of rejection of their dance preference, no? That’s fine if you feel you have to reject it, I’m just sayin, maybe the impasse is real. Then what? You standing in the middle and insisting that they come to you to dance may be the only viable choice for you, but you can’t expect that they will be compelled to join you there. Maybe their loss, I’m not saying it wouldn’t be. But issuing ultimatums is totally their prerogative! If that leaves you caught, I’m not sure that’s their problem.

    But I hear you. Most of us here on the blog are caught between that rock and hard place too. Maybe we’re just less inclined to ask that other people change their ways to get us unstuck.

  55. Cynthia, I think we are sort of talking past each other. I am not trying to change anyone to “help me get unstuck.” I don’t need your validation (although efforts at understanding rather than making assumptions are nice). I don’t need a flow chart. I was hoping for thoughts of those who *are* willing to dance in the middle somewhere, but I do realize that some simply won’t want to, and as you say, that is their prerogative.

    But I don’t see a hope for more discussion being so different from what Kristine is hoping for at some level — I think both lines of thought recognize that heartfelt human relationships sometimes require that we reach across differences and divides — even if we don’t necessarily change where we are. It can change our hearts, though, no?

    But I don’t want such hope to be misunderstood as a *demand* that people somehow change their dance to suit me personally, or change their dance at all if that is not something they choose to do.

  56. Kristine,

    Much brotherly love to you for your kindness and sensitivity to all sides. I very much like your call not to be ignorant of the doctrinal dead-end the church appears to be in with regard to homosexuality. But God may well be able to help us through it if we but ask. In the meantime, simply loving his children will have to do.

  57. Thank you for sharing this. It was an inspirational message and I especially appreciate the connection you made between suffering-with and revelation. I believe that this has helped me see more clearly where and how I have failed in my attempts to minister to those I care about.

  58. michelle, isn’t the problem here that the way Elder Packer presented his oral talk opened it up to be easily interpreted as saying from the General Conference pulpit that God does not create people gay, i.e. that homosexuality is not an inborn trait?* This is the aspect of the talk that ties into being insensitive about gay youth who have recently committed suicide or that can lead to accusations that Mormons deny the existence of gay people.

    The point is that very often gay people realize that they are gay quite young, as pre-teens or in their early teens — and this isn’t directly tied to sex but rather to more fundamental and innate feelings.

    For our gay members, obeying the law of chastity means committing to lifelong celibacy and not merely abstaining from sexual relations until lawfully married. Lifelong celibacy for our gay members (without the hope of having a relationship) is undeniably a greater burden than for straight Mormons who can at least theoretically hope to one day experience a loving relationship (including intimacy) with their chosen spouse in this life. This is where Kristine’s reference to weeping “with frustration and grief when we prescribe celibacy as their best hope of salvation” comes into play. It seems obvious.

    This isn’t or doesn’t have to be a conservative/liberal thing. One can still fully believe that engaging in homosexual sex is against God’s will and against the law of chastity (in other words, not expecting any change to the law of chastity, i.e. a very conservative, orthodox position) without making the claim that people are not born gay, meaning that homosexuality is not in some manner, whether genetically or biologically, an inborn trait. This is what a lot of conservative commentary on the internet in defense of Elder Packer seems to be missing entirely, such as Maurine’s long, angry posting on Meridian.

    Faithful Mormons who were concerned about Elder Packer’s talk as delivered in General Conference wondered whether he was jettisoning the Church’s orientation/action distinction and, if so, what that would mean for our thousands of gay members who are struggling daily to obey the law of chastity without needing to feel morally condemned for merely being born gay. In discussing this, Mormons weren’t crucifying Elder Packer upside down or stoning the prophets or rejecting the prophets by any means, which Maurine essentially accused them of in her Meridian essay. Mormons were not questioning the law of chastity or pushing to have the law of chastity amended. Rather, Mormons discussing this were curious about what appeared to be Elder Packer’s claim that homosexuality is not an inborn trait, in fact that God would not do that to someone.

    What Maurine’s Meridian essay also seems to miss is that, upon reflection, Elder Packer appears to have shared this concern because he changed his talk to eliminate the possibility of this ambiguous reading from the print version. Maurine also seems to ignore that the print version that will appear in official Church publications is the official version and represents Elder Packer’s own intent, as he will have had to approve any such change.

    —————–
    * I agree that the way he said it very easily leads to this understanding of his meaning but in my own opinion, even his oral talk does not make this claim. I think that one of the foremost priorities for Elder Packer is the principle of unity with the Brethren and that he would not strike out on a course of his own in a General Conference talk. Thus, his talk should be read in the context of the Church’s present position on homosexuality (and not conflicting with it), as has been expressed in recent years by Elders Oaks, Holland, Wickman, Jensen and others, which seems to be to respect an orientation/action distinction whereby the Church holds that the causes of homosexuality are not known or well understood and that simply being a homosexual (i.e. feelings of attraction for people of the same sex rather than for people of the opposite sex) is not a sin or morally culpable but rather only if one breaks the law of chastity, the same as for those who are heterosexual.

  59. michelle,
    The inherent problem in even our current discourse regarding homosexuality is that we officially regard homosexuality as a flaw, but healthy homosexuals understand it as a key element of who they are. Asking homosexuals to overcome their homosexuality (in this context) is like demanding deaf folk all get cochlear implants. We may argue that it corrects a defect, but many deaf folk don’t feel defective. If you don’t feel defective, why should you change?

    Now, of course, we are all defective. And certainly we all have elements of our self-identity that we should sacrifice on that altar of discipleship. It just seems that the current demand that homosexuals sacrifice their homosexuality, the element of their identity that, once embraced, made them feel happiest or finally honest about themselves with the world in many cases, is a step too far. And I’m not just talking about sex, but about their whole homosexual identity. The church is moving away from rhetoric insisting on its removal, but the institutional demands of premarital celibacy continue to extend farther for homosexuals than they do for heterosexuals.

    At this point, I don’t feel like I ought to promote church membership to gay folk. I hate to say that, because I believe that the church, the gospel, is a great force for good in the world (possibly the greatest). But it doesn’t really have a place for gay folk right now. Consider, for instance, our afterlife. We don’t have any concept, at present, of gay folk in it. Our emphasis on eternal families (and on their eternal fecundity) means that non-hetero relationships can’t be eternal ones. Perhaps we do have unexplored room at present (maybe that’s what those other two celestial glories are for), but I think that we need to undergo a great doctrinal shift regarding our understanding of our eternal goals before we will become truly welcoming to LGBT folk. I’d love to see it happen, but I kinda doubt it will (of course, I doubted that Elder Packer’s talk would be edited, so you obviously can’t trust my intuitions). In the meantime, I think God loves gay folk, but our ecclesiastical approach (by being ambiguous) doesn’t and, therefore, I wouldn’t recommend to them that they join (unless they really, really enjoy the notion of perpetual therapy). Which is a tragedy.

  60. >we need to undergo a great doctrinal shift regarding our understanding of our eternal goals

    It would seem so, but I think there’s a great deal of merit in that old saying that it “takes a village to raise a child.” I can see Mormonism one day imagining a less nuclear-family-centric view of eternal family, one where the man-woman unit’s “increase” is aided and nurtured by wider modes of relationship. Or, to be more folksy: imagine heaven with mum, dad, kids, and your beloved gay aunt all working together to God’s glory.

    Thing is, for more and more Mormons, that’s not hard to imagine. The theology might catch up, if that is God’s will. In the current impasse, we simply have to pray that we can be loyal to the church and love our gay friends. It’s wildly difficult, but such may be the path of discipleship in a religion which demands of us that we have to love both God and man to be saved. I have faith we can do it. Somehow.

  61. John, while I hear what you are saying, it seems you offer only one alternative: the church must change. While the church may change (and over that I have no control), for now that does not seem likely, even given the milder communications than Presdent Packer’s.

    I can’t get out of my head the single sisters in the church who never marry. While it’s possible for them to have the loving relationships of which many have spoken, some simply (well, from what I’ve seen, it’s never simple) do not. From Kristine’s language, we mourn with them. But we do not offer an easy time-bound solution. And yet many stay active in the church and close to the Lord.

  62. Paul–there’s a world of difference between saying “you are fundamentally good and whole; your desires will be fulfilled someday” and saying “you are fundamentally flawed and broken; you will never have what your heart longs for.”

  63. Paul,
    Single sisters can kiss and be kissed back without feeling guilty in a gospel context; Single LGBT folk cannot. Of course, some won’t, but we believe that in the eternities their earthy desires can be fulfilled. We don’t believe that about gay people.

    Ronan,
    I agree that some folk within the church are already fighting the good fight on this front. Maybe if we hit a critical mass, God will see fit to send a revelation. We can hope.

  64. Steve Evans says:

    “Or, to be more folksy: imagine heaven with mum, dad, kids, and your beloved gay aunt all working together to God’s glory.”

    Quite right.

  65. >one day imagining a less nuclear-family-centric view of eternal family

    Let me amend that: I hope and pray that the nuclear family lives to all eternity as it is just about the only thing that matters to me. However, there is plenty of room in Mormonism to graft into that family the many expressions of love and faith that exist in our wider human lives. We lose nothing by believing that.

  66. Nicely said, Ronan. Indeed, for those of us with, uh, more than the usual quotient of great-great-grandmothers, a certain flexibility in the definition even of “nuclear” family would seem to be required.

  67. Ronan,
    I’m skeptical that anyone wants to spend eternity as a spinster aunt or some such. We want eternal relationships of our own, not just to be an appendage to someone else’s. Until our doctrine embraces the LGBT couple as their own eternal unit, rather than as an addendum to some hetero family, they will continue to feel (and be) second-class citizens in the house of God.

  68. My understanding of homosexuality is based on my understanding of deafness. Deafness because it is intrinsically tied with language and thus communication, encourages it’s own culture-it really demands it-It changes the way you see the world . There is deafness which is the actual physical situation and Deafness which is the community. You can attempt to understand and join the community-but unless you are VERY closely tied with someone who is Deaf AND you sign, AND you are dedicated you still really aren’t accepted. Many Deaf Mormons I know don’t want to be Hearing. They don’t want to be healed or fixed. They understand they may not be deaf but are worried they might not be Deaf. It’s just so much a part of them they wonder if they would recognize themselves were they “healed”. I warble between wondering why someone wouldn’t want to hear!! and wondering if very dear characteristics I value in them would be healed away.

    I go back and forth…from over here where I sit…of course we want Jesus to heal us..but on such a personal level what does that mean?

    I worry about calling Elder Packer’s words mean–I myself misheard them..on my second listen I realized it didn’t say at all what I thought it said. The words hadn’t changed–it must have been me. It’s difficult to not only express what you want to say, but what you want people to hear. Why do I get to assume my hearing is more accurate than his telling? Packer has always been on the bolder, black-white, side of things…maybe he was born that way and is still seeking healing-but maybe he doesn’t know that he wants to be healed…

    I haven’t gotten enough sleep so pardon..

  69. Kristine,

    I just finished listening to it. You nailed it. I think you came across as somebody who cares about the issues and the church. They could not have picked a better person to have on. Thank you.

  70. oh dear…I reread. sigh. What I meant when I wrote all that is that what seems so clear from one angle, can feel VERY different for the person experiencing it.

  71. 68 — I think that’s a good fit for where I have this remaining issue. I don’t see a doctrinal basis for seeing eternal SSM working — it requires a more fundamental reunderstanding of the nature of eternity than even giving up plural marriage did — and that makes the idea of being gay in the eternities very problematic. While I can imagine the Church reaching a “it’s better to be in a SSM than it is to burn” point, I can’t imagine that extending into eternity. Reality’s not hampered by my ability to imagine it, I recognize, but it’s also not required to satisfy all of anybody else’s wishes. The doctrinal basis for seeing eternal SSMs seems to be “because I want it to,” and that’s not very persuasive.

    My father was deaf in one ear for most of his life, and was losing hearing in his other for the last thirty years of his life. I have imagined him since his death (and spoke of him in his eulogy) as being able to hear perfectly in both ears when his barbershop chorus sang at his funeral for the first time. I do not think we necessarily will all be physically beautiful by current standards in the resurrection, but I do accept that my friend with CP will be able to speak clearly and walk smoothly. That my great-nephews with autism are going to be able to communicate their thoughts and feelings with words, and to interface with the world without destroying things and hurting people. That my clients who were born with the effects of their mother’s drug use while they were forming are going to be able to control their emotions and behavior in ways they are not able to now. Am I wrong to wish that my friend Rex, who is gay, but has been faithfully married to the only woman he is attracted to for more than 30 years, will no longer feel sexual attraction for men?

  72. Re: the interview. Doug Fabrizio refers to BKP as the “second highest ranking” in the Mormon leadership. Is that correct (I know he’s “next in line”) or would he more correctly be referred to as the fourth highest ranking.

    Its not terribly relevant, but it does make me very curious.

  73. “Next in line” and “second highest” are pretty close. We could easily view the President of the 12 as the second highest ranking.

  74. John,
    I don’t have an appendage model in mind, actually. I’ve painted the picture poorly. Instead, I mean mum, dad, kids, grandparents, aunt and her partner, friends, worlds without end.

  75. Blain–
    I’m afraid this might seem snarky, which is not my intent:
    Would I be wrong to hope that after this life you would be able to feel attraction to men? I think it WOULD BE wrong to hope that.

    I wish you could meet my boyfriend, Josh. I love him so much. He brings more happiness to my life than anything I have heretofore experienced. And one day, I hope to have the opportunity (legally) to marry him.

    Am I wrong to wish that Josh and I could be together?

    I believe in the restoration of the gospel. I quite frankly miss the church. But I’m also a 25 year-old openly gay man, living a somewhat stereotypical east coast urban life.

    There is NO theological consistency between those positions. But I came to the understanding that the closet is a very unhealthy place to be. And knowing that, I couldn’t continue to intentionally harm myself. There is no other gospel principle I can think of that is unhealthy and/or harmful to those that follow it.

  76. On the analogy of single Latter-day Saints of whom celibacy is required, what of those who, perhaps after many years, despair of finding a partner whom they can marry in the temple, and choose instead to wed a non-member so as not to miss out on the blessings of marital love, companionship, and family in this life? There is certainly room in the Church for such individuals, even though opportunities for temple sealings and certain leadership positions are denied them (and many might view their choice/situation as less than optimal). Could this ever be a workable model for gay and lesbian members–our theology does not allow you sealings and celestial blessings, but we acknowledge your desires to live life as best you can, given the circumstances, and we’ll trust in God to sort things out eventually. (Though this would probably entail an acceptance of civil same-sex marriage in order to remain true to the law of chastity, so perhaps this idea is a non-starter. . . )

  77. 62 Kristine — yes, I agree, and I almost added that very thought to my comment. Presdent Packer’s words, taken the way many understood them, seemed to communicate that message. But do other expressions, such as those that indicate that we do not know the causes for ssa, say the same thing?

    63 John C, yes, they can. But I’m not thinking of those sisters, but rather those that are alone, those who also do not know the tenderness of being who their nature compels them to be, either. It is not by their choice. And yes, they have the possibility (and I agree with Kristine’s point). My point is not to establish that gay men and women are equal to unmarried heterosexual women, but that their situations may be analogous.

    I frankly heard President Packer’s talk very differently than others did, because of my own circumstance of having a loved one who is an addict. I heard Elder Packer’s message of hope for change in the fact of addiction, though my addicted loved one for years told me that he was what he was and I needed to accept him as he was.

    I don’t suppose to know what goes on in my addicted loved one’s head any more than I suppose to know what goes on in the head (or heart) of a gay person, but to hope that the atonement and all its blessings reach all of us.

  78. Kristine, (I’m listening to your radio segment in bits throughout the day). When asked about whether you agreed with a caller that “just as many people in the church have problems with Pres. Packer’s talk” you stated, what is probably true, that the bloggernacle leans left, and there you’ve seen some of the pain and disagreement, but that you weren’t sure that it had the same reception in the average Mormon home.

    FWIW, I’ve talked a little bit about this talk with a couple people I know:
    Father – a man that I’ve lovingly called homophobic many times over the years. He’s not your meat and potatoes Mormon (after all, he went to Hollywood High School), but he is of an older generation (63 now – older than me, not to offend any people over 60 who might be reading along) and gets really embarassed and uncomfortable when confronted with anything resembling gay (including the “Legs of Steel” VHS that my sister gave him for Christmas last year as a white elephant)
    When we were talking about that talk last week, he got visibly upset questioning “I just don’t understand what the point of the talk was. I don’t see that it accomplished anything, and only would have the potential to hurt people”.

    My wife – Raised VERY conservative, and not really one to question the authorities in church. She was bothered by the talk and felt that it was generally presented in bad taste.

    I assume that there are many more Mormons who found the talk insightful, useful, and good. I’ve spoken to a few of them as well. But I think its very interesting just how many didn’t respond well to the talk or the delivery.

  79. 75 — It doesn’t sound snarky at all. It’s what I’m asking for: your perspective on the question I’m exploring. I can’t know what you see unless you tell me, and I’m glad that you have.

    I guess the point isn’t so much what any of us want to have different in the next life — it’s what the resurrection will mean. I was going to say what God wants for us, but I think this is something having to do with The Law — it’s not a matter of wanting, it’s a matter of what is and what works. What will happen is that we will be freed of the weaknesses of the flesh, which we’ve been given in this life for the reasons laid out in Ether 12:27. That is solid doctrine.

    What is less solid is determining how much and which of the things we struggle with in this life are weaknesses of the flesh, and what it means to be freed of them. I know people who consider a gay orientation to be such a weakness which will be healed in the next life. I’m thinking about it.

    I also can’t get past the clear statement that no commitment in this life will have any meaning in the next unless sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Which also means that it’s not what we want that will rule — it’s what The Law requires.

    I don’t agree that accepting that position is logically equivalent to requiring you to be in a closet. I also don’t have a plan for what you should do with your life, nor the hubris to try bringing such a plan to you if I did. I would like the Church to be a place you can be and participate without it being unhealthy, and I’m doing what I can toward that goal in my own little sphere of impact.

    I’m just trying to unpack all of the meaning behind messages like “We love you just the way you are,” and “You’re just fine just the way you are,” to see if I can mean them.

    I’d like to meet Josh. And you, for that matter. Don’t know how possible in person meeting would be, but it would be nice.

  80. Kristine,
    When my fellow Latter-Day-Saint friends can’t, for the life of them, understand why I (as a heterosexual member) am so anguished over the issue of homosexuality in our church; I am just going to shut-up, smile and hand them a copy of this wonderful post.

  81. Paula,

    Maybe there could be a way to get this, and other BCC posts, as pass-along-cards.

  82. It is significant to me that Judeo-Christian scripture begins with, what from a Mormon view, are conflicting and opposed commandments, and Eve and Adam were given a choice for which they would be accountable. They chose to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and as a result were excommunicated from the Garden of Eden and from God’s presence. And yet, when it was all over, Eve and Adam concluded it was right and worth it.

    My LGBT brothers and sisters face a similar choice. They are confronted with a prohibition through organized LDS religion to abstain from a lifelong partnership with a person whom they deeply love, which prohibition conflicts with one of the first things God said in the Garden: “It is not good for man to be alone.” The consequence of choosing not to be alone (in accordance with the principle announced by God in the Garden) is excommunication (formal or informal, voluntary or involuntary) from our Church, which does not have a place for such relationships. It is difficult for many to live outside the communion of the Latter-day Saints, but it was also difficult for Eve and Adam to live outside the Garden of Eden. Eve and Adam felt that it was worth it; I suspect that many of my LGBT brothers and sisters also believe it is worth it. Others choose to stay within the communion of Latter-day Saints and I am sure many believe that the lifelong loneliness required is worth it.

    We have mentioned here the challenge of living alone for heterosexuals who are not married. My straight brothers and sisters who are single sometimes face a similar choice if they find a person they love but that person does not qualify for the temple. Do they risk potentially forfeiting blessings of the sealing power by marrying outside the temple, or do they follow the principle announced by God in the Garden, that it is not good for a human to be alone? Some choose one way, some choose the other. It is a tough choice.

    Just as it is not for me to judge a choice made by an LDS brother or sister who chooses to marry outside the temple (which fortunately does not result in eccelesiastical disciple), or who chooses instead to live a life of faithful singleness, I do not believe it is for me to judge a choice an LGBT brother or sister makes when confronted with the analogous choice.

  83. Pass-along-cards…hmmmm…what chaos might be wrought if internet thinking got passed around in the chapel???

  84. ClaudiaHen says:

    Kristine, this resonates with me. I will have to listen to your broadcast when I get some time.

    Sometimes I feel so alone. I need to practice speaking up. I get disheartened often and the bloggernacle is an oasis. I don’t begrudge anyone their opinions, but I can’t help my mouth almost falling open when a member of my ward got up in testimony meeting and spoke of President Packer’s talk being “my favorite of course,” oblivious to how many people it hurt and that there might be people in the audience who disagreed with the tone if not the message.

    I really hope there is a day when gay members can sit with their spouses in sacrament meeting and that will be ok (not that I’m saying you espouse that hope, as I don’t know, but it is my hope). What we have now is not working. I would love to see the day when a gay member can choose celibacy or marriage, and that marriage will be seen as a valid choice and a way to stay in the church, even if we never marry gays. I don’t care. I just want them to stay, I want them to be here with us, I want them to feel loved and valued, I want them to be able to feel fulfilled as whole people. This is their church too, just as it is mine, despite my heterodoxical views.

  85. Blain– I appreciate all of that. Thank you.

    And fair enough– it was certainly imprecise for me to say that the doctrinal requirement is being closeted.

    But as long as we can’t/won’t say “we love you just the way you are”– people WILL stay in the closet. It was the idea that people wouldn’t love me the way that I am that kept me in the closet.

    You can believe that gay people will be straight people after the resurrection. I’m not really offended by that in doctrinal terms (nor would it matter if I was).

    But saying anything other than “we love you just the way you are” to a gay kid– harms them. This is one area where there is actually no real dispute in the legitimate scientific literature (at least that I can find). [It's not that you offend gay kids by refusing to acknowledge they are OK. We are talking about actual harm.]

    Here we are trying to figure out what will happen in the eternities. But these words have real meaning and impact in the here and now.

  86. MikeInWeHo says:

    I really like what you have to say, Chris. Thanks for being in here.

    The idea that gay couples could be treated similarly to member/non-member couples in the church is an interesting idea that I never heard before. That might help a lot, actually.

  87. The reason we expect the Church to change is simple:

    Those of us who are sensitive to the gay issue are sure that the Church is on the wrong side of this issue. In some ways this seems to us “immoral.” It is apparent that this must change and will change.

    We have historical perspective on our side, namely polygamy and the blacks, and, to some extent, equal rights (by simple acquiescence). Therefore, we feel that we just have to wait 50 years for the “old” generation to die and for a new generation (the ones now in their teens, or maybe yet unborn) to take over the leadership.

    Doctrine is not immutable, see the 14 elements of Pres. Benson. (I cannot believe I said this.) The future prophet has precedence over all of the past ones and can make the required changes.

    I am of the “older” generation, sort of. I had a little trouble with blacks, but God taught me almost directly. I had trouble with gays until a gay man worked for me and we became friends. Homophobia, like racism, will die hard.

  88. RW: “LIKE” Until that time comes when the LDS Church does change its stance (which will be soon), I’m encouraged each time I find a like-minded thinker.

    I am/was a “checked all the boxes”, dad was bishop, mom sang with the Tab Choir, mission, BYU grad, Utah Mormon, and I don’t even know anyone in the LGBT community, BUT I DO KNOW that this issue of homosexuality is being dealt with unjustly and will die hard. Can’t wait!

    :o)

  89. Kristine,

    I thought you were wonderful, as is your way.

  90. Kristine,

    I listened to the whole thing live (even tried to call in) and then listened again to a good chunk of it on the rebroadcast in the evening. I thought you did a spectacular job. I only wish the program was twice as long.

  91. Is there really any other way to respond to the absurdities of human life than to surrender in mourning, grief, weeping … and faith?

    “Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)

    “What do we do now? Now . . . we pray.” from “God on Trial”

  92. elizabeth thatcher lucas says:

    david h, your post comparing the choice of gays to that of adam and eve in the garden really struck me as meaningful. thank you. i had forgotten that scripture tells us that is is not good for us to be alone. i know that my soul suffered over the decades in which i struggled to find a suitable companion, but i thought it was just human instinct guiding me. i finally chose to trust that god wouldnt mislead me and i trusted my choice of companion and am now happily married, tho it took a leap of faith.

    ps i posted earlier, a rather looong comment. it is gone now. any idea why? there wasnt anything offensive in it i dont think.

    pps i dont think i am e e cummings. my phone is suddenly not letting me use symbols beyond the peiod, and the caps button is not working either.

    thank you all for this amazing dialogue. i would love pass along cards of this and may make copies of the podcast. i have felt heart sore over this topic for years, and this blog has made me feel much better…now it needs to infiltrate church membership at large. so thank you, all of you, for the time you spent thinking, caring, writing about this. i am passing this on to my faithful conservative knee jerk mormon friends, and my knee jerk gay friends. you folks here have the ability to build bridges and be the peacemakers. god bless you for trying to do that, so dont give up.

  93. Steve Evans says:

    elizabeth, re: your earlier comment, you’ve hit on it — loooong. tooooo loooooong.

  94. Just finished listening, and sent the link to a gay friend of mine.
    Thank you, Kristine.

  95. I LOVE THIS LINE: Our religious certainties ought to be troubled by our encounters with our fellow human beings; no moral abstraction should matter to us more than the pains and joys of our brothers and sisters.

  96. 85 — Chris, I’m fine with “I love you just the way you are.” I’m more problematic with “You’re perfect/just fine just the way you are” for anybody. I can go with “You’re okay” as in “acceptable,” but I can’t be congruent with the idea that anybody is without room and need for improvement. But, thinking about this enough to say it, I’m not sure anybody other than a serious narcissist is going to take “You’re okay the way you are” to mean that they’re beyond the need to improve (and a serious narcissist hears everything as “… and you have no need to change because you’re perfect the way you are.”

    So maybe I’m okay with that too. I’m getting toward it, anyhow. Hmm.

    I’m trying to get as much value out of this greater conversation as I can. It seems to be working. Thanks for your help in that.

  97. Blain, I find that most people I like are perfectly okay just the way they are. Where I have a problem is when they start to believe this themselves.

  98. What was most hurtful about President Packer’s talk, I think, was the tone of absolute moral certainty, the definitive insistence that such certainty mandated the rejection of the reported experience of thousands of gay Latter-day Saints. President Packer articulated a vision of a moral universe so tidy that it couldn’t account for the messiness of human love and yearning; his proof required ignoring some of the data–the living, breathing, aching data of women and men who cannot, despite their heroically faithful effort, be something other than their nature compels them to be.

    Yes! Thank you for articulating this so well. This was what bugged me most about President Packer’s talk, that he has a nice theory about how things work in the world and he clearly isn’t interested in being swayed by reality, even painful reality.

  99. Asking homosexuals to overcome their homosexuality (in this context) is like demanding deaf folk all get cochlear implants.

    John, I think this sort of confuses how the recent statement separated this out. We aren’t asking homosexuals to “overcome” their homosexuality per se, but to not let the trial overcome them. That to me is not cheap verbiage, for I think that we will all have our trials that test our souls.

    we believe that in the eternities their earthy desires can be fulfilled. We don’t believe that about gay people.

    I think that depends on what desires you are talking about. Homosexual desires, as you say, don’t have a place doctrinally, but desires for love, companionship, marriage, family do. (I understand this is unsatisfactory to some, though, as you bring up in your comment, and I know that reflects real feelings of real people. And yet, I think God’s promises can even transcend our limited mortal understanding of what eternity might look like and how it might unfold for each of us.)

    At this point, I don’t feel like I ought to promote church membership to gay folk.

    This breaks my heart. To me, this position seems to ignore those who want to stay and are navigating that journey, and also seems to me to deny what the Atonement can do in helping people in that journey.

    I’m not trying to force anyone to stay, mind you, or to change their minds, just sharing my view and the hope that I felt President Packer was sharing — for any and all of us. I felt him testifying that God’s power and promises are sufficient for anything any of us may face. To me, his messages was not rejecting gays, but in a real way, quite the opposite. I see it as reaching out to them and saying, “Your struggles are real but are not impossible with the help of your Savior and your Father.”

  100. michelle,
    One of the problems with your sentiment is that gay people do not see being gay as a trial. It’s who they are. It’s not a test.

  101. Thomas Parkin says:

    “One of the problems with your sentiment is that gay people do not see being gay as a trial.”

    Well, it becomes a trial if they decide to try and take on Baptismal Covenants. And if a gay person chooses that trial, I think michelle is right, and it is not a trial of a different _kind_ than those any of us face. The trial is likely to have some areas of intensity that have no exact equivalent for any of us – but that is just the matter of the individuality of each person (a person’s sexuality only being a single aspect of character which can and will be tried). For me, then, it isn’t so much a question of whether I would recommend a gay person to the church as I’d want to make sure I was qualifying what is offered. I don’t think there is much in simply being a Mormon that I could recommend to a gay person that would nearly outweigh the sacrifices s\he is going to have to make.

    The payoff is in spiritual gifts that lead to a knowledge of God – but this has to do with a lot more than just joining the church. These are, with the exception of a few dozen people, the only reason I’m a Mormon. If it weren’t for the knowledge of God that I’ve received through a very difficult process … there are any number of sub-cultures in our society where I will find a greater number of people who are basically like me, and whose manner of living I find more aesthetically pleasing and interesting. I believe in the covenants, the ordinances, the revelations, and the hidden knowledge, and in the process that alters my person, my nature, and scrubs my connectors so that I can better walk in a newness of life – and those things I would with qualification recommend to a gay person even in the current situation. I don’t believe in being a Mormon, per se – and there are many people I wouldn’t recommend that for.

    (I have developed an admiration and attraction to Mormons, but I still experience that admiration as an outsider … sometimes I feel that I’m more on the inside, then something will happen and I’ll just feel ‘who ARE you people’ … but, and I’m fortunate here, I do feel very at home in the Temple … )

  102. mmiles, Thomas captured well where I’m coming from.

    But maybe I should say again that in expressing my thoughts, I do realize that being in the church won’t click for everyone. The path of discipleship can be very difficult, and the difficulties for gays are perhaps more obvious and are very poignant — in some ways that many of us will never fully understand because our challenges will come in different ways.

    But as Thomas captured so beautifully, the path can engage one in a process that has fruits that are very real. Exercising agency to keep covenants can be difficult, yes, but it also unlocks spiritual power and blessings. It’s not impossible.

    Not all will desire that path, but imo, those who do choose it deserve our support and confidence that they can do it.

    (I also realize that those who don’t choose this path need support and friendship as well.)

  103. And can I just say that I think that first sentence of Thomas’ comment could be a post in and of itself? Interesting how something that may not be considered a trial before baptism or covenants could be afterward. The paradoxes that come with the gospel path are fascinating to me, if not sometimes frustrating to parts of myself.

  104. michelle,
    I suppose that I have insufficient faith (which is often the case). I think that the hostile environment toward LGBT externally means that embracing that aspect of oneself becomes foundational to personal character. It is hard to declare oneself gay in America; it isn’t hard to declare yourself straight (mostly because people generally don’t have to). I imagine that gay folk feel toward their gayness like I feel toward my Mormon-ness. I grew up in an environment hostile to Mormonism, but I fought back hard in order to define myself in that way. It wasn’t easy, but now, if I’m ever asked to define myself, the first thing that comes to mind is that I’m Mormon (not necessarily a very good Mormon, but Mormon nonetheless). After that, I might go into family and career choices, but Mormon-ness is always first.

    I understand that the church isn’t asking folks to not be gay anymore, which is good. However, I worry that the reality on the ground is that gay men are asked to give up all physical signifiers of being gay. In particular, I imagine that they are asked to give up physical affection (by which I don’t mean sex) with people to whom they are attracted. But I also imagine that, in social settings, they are not encouraged to discuss people that they are attracted to and, possibly, interests of theirs that might be seen as related to their sexual orientation. They are, I imagine, constantly asked to “tone it down,” not because what they are doing is seen as sinful necessarily, but because it may be seen as unmasculine or simply out of place in our cultural context. This isn’t, of course, a unique problem of the Mormons. I should also note that I do realize that not all homosexuals meet the Hollywood stereotypical flamboyant standard.

    “Homosexual desires, as you say, don’t have a place doctrinally, but desires for love, companionship, marriage, family do.”

    Unless we are talking about homosexual love, homosexual companionship, homosexual marriage, and homosexual family. I suppose that we can (and possibly should) assume that God will suck the homosexuality out of people when they enter the eternities, but to some degree that is like assuming that God will suck out my Mormonism or the human tendency to be bipedal. If it is a fundamental part of who you are, it is hard to imagine yourself otherwise. Certainly, I’m sinful now and I know intellectually that if I get to the Celestial Kingdom I won’t be sinful, but what that actually means? No idea whatsoever.

    “this breaks my heart”

    It breaks mine, too. I certainly don’t intend to discourage those who stay to leave. Those who choose to stay, I admire, but I don’t pretend to understand and I do assume that it is incredibly difficult. For instance, I admire Darius Gray for his decision to stick it out in the church before the 1978 revelation. But I don’t think that I could do it and I don’t blame those that didn’t. The fault, in those cases, was often the church’s (in the sense that the doctrinal folklore of the era often made black folk uncomfortable and the priesthood ban kept them from full participation in church ritual). I have a tendency to see the fault in this case (the case being that gay folk born into the church statistically don’t stay in the church) as being the church’s in a similar way.

    That said, I still believe that the church is a force for good, that it is led by revelation from God and by men who want to do good in the world, and that it is trying its best right now to do right by LGBT folk. I also think that it can (and possibly will) do better by them.

  105. Unless we are talking about homosexual love, homosexual companionship, homosexual marriage, and homosexual family. I suppose that we can (and possibly should) assume that God will suck the homosexuality out of people when they enter the eternities, but to some degree that is like assuming that God will suck out my Mormonism or the human tendency to be bipedal.

    I understand what you’re saying John. At the same time this statement relies heavily on the idea, I think, of sex in the afterlife. I think if sexual attraction were “sucked” out of all of us, there would be a similar outcome. I guess I usually think of attraction in the *purely sexual sense to be something temporal. A “gift” God gave us to make sure that populations increase.
    I’m not saying this will be the case, I have no more knowledge of the afterlife than any other human, but I think it might change the argument a little bit if we factor for that likelihood.

  106. B.Russ,
    I guess I just think that sexual orientation is more fundamental to who we are than you do. Which is just fine, I suppose.

  107. Kevin Christensen says:

    In the December 2003 Sunstone, page 46 Steven Fales’s play, Confessions of a Mormon Boy recounts confession to Emily Pearson Fales. “Are you having an affair?”
    I couldn’t lie anymore. “Yes.”
    “With whom?”
    “Several.:
    “How many men?
    “Twenty.”
    A question this raises in my mind, beyond all the sad paradigm-establishing stories about being different, the unhelpfulness of social disapproval, the Miracle of Forgivness, Reparative therapy and such, is there a taboo against considering sexual addiction as a significant factor in his behavior, whether directed towards the same sex, opposite sex or media or whatever? Would there be any hesitation in such a diagnosis whatsoever had the same numbers and behaviors been applied to opposite sex affairs?

    And if sexual addiction is a significant factor in behavior, then we can recognize that one of the key diagnostics for the presence of addiction is, according to Patrick Carnes, the addicts core belief that “sex is my most important need,” i.e., my inner first and great commandment, the essential value for which any other value will, without treatment, eventually be compromised?

    Reparative therapy, stories of the failure of which are very popular, paradigm-defining attrocity stories, is not directed at sex addiction but at the direction at which it points. As helpful as putting a tatoo over a cancer. On the other hand, 12 step programs, for those who agree with Bill W. and A.A., that “half measures availed us nothing!” not only secure changed behavior, but actually lead to measurable changes in the physiology of the brain. Recovery changes more than behavior, but leads to physical healing.

    In Goodbye, I Love You Carol Lynn Pearson asks Gerald, “Even if if was a mistake you have a wife. You have children. We are here! Aren’t we worth some sacrifice?” Does Gerald’s life response, “No. I love you and the children but I cannot love you that much, cannot sacrifice that, blame God, not me,” occur primarily because of untreatable, inborn, God-Given, Divinely sanctioned SSA, or because of unrecognized, untreated sex addiction?

    Can we even ask these days?

    Healing from sex addiction leads to a change in which sex (same sex or heterosexual) becomes truly optional. Something that can be either extended to one’s life partner, or freely sacrificed, depending on the other’s need, and not one’s inner compulsions. I recently saw a study that noted that the most successful, stable, long term gay relationships included an average of eight affairs per year.

    Is is permissible to ask whether sex addiction is a factor, or is the question taboo? Something not to be raised in polite company. Does the answer matter? I noticed that this last conference ended with a talk on addiction and the LDS adoption of and sanction of 12 step programs.

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

  108. Sometimes I wish I had said, “That’s what she said” after a bunch of these comments.

  109. elizabeth thatcher lucas says:

    In regard to comments made about homosexuality being equivalent to sex addiction—

    Please read David Eccles Hardy’s letter to Boyd K Packer @ http://www.lds-mormon.com/hardy.shtml

    Hardy is a faithful LDS member, father of a gay son, was on the board of Evergreen, and bishop of student ward at the U of U and counseled many gay Mormon students.

    He has insights that should be read by anyone who feels that being gay is a condition that can be changed in this life.

  110. Thanks, Elizabeth. It’s a great letter.

  111. Kevin,
    Certainly some homosexuals are addicts (as are some heterosexuals). Engaging in dangerous or out of control sexual practices is a better diagnostic for sexual addiction than simply homosexual activity. We don’t have any reason to conclude that homosexuality is an addiction, primarily because it cannot (or has not) been demonstrated to be inherently harmful to homosexuals (just as heterosexuality isn’t inherently harmful to the rest of us (unless you subscribe to Augustinian Christianity, I suppose)). The APA has not considered homosexuality a mental disorder since the 1970’s. I see no value in second guessing those folks and asserting that it is one today.

    It may be that the point of confusion in the conversation is between sexual orientation and sexual preference. Saying that a man is sexually attracted to men is different than saying someone is sexually attracted to blondes or that I am turned on by feet or some such. There are clear cultural reasons for this (categories of sex are more immutable than categories of hair color). The difference is real, I think, but it is at the strange, inscrutable place where culture and biology (and possibly spirit) meet. We shouldn’t dismiss it lightly.

  112. Also, Kevin, Steven Fales is a performance artist–it has been known to happen that art exaggerates certain details of reality for effect. To draw conclusions about what gay people are like from Steven Fales’ play would be like drawing conclusions about what straight people are like from a Madonna video. Unless you’re willing to have me ask questions about your sexuality based on such “evidence,” you might want to think about using some different sources from which to draw your “questions” about homosexuality.

  113. I think the love that most LDS are willing to extend toward members of the LGBT community is not really that loving from the perspective of those on the receiving end. At its absolute best, it is a compassionate love toward people who struggle with what most LDS view as an affliction. We argue about nature and nurture, the natural and unnatural, the inborn and the chosen, the biological and the cultural, but regardless of how that debate gets worked out, it eventually, for LDS, ends up in the same place: non-heteronormative sexuality as a defect, an affliction, a burden, a handicap, something to be courageously resisted. And, oh, will we ever support your courageous fight, and mourn with you as you mightily struggle. We will uplift you as you wrestle your demon, and we will try to judge you mercifully as you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, anguish and self-loathing.

    But this love is conditional, conditional on the willingness of the gay object of our love to understand and accept their sexuality as we do. Our extended love is a form of compassionate sorrow for the broken, the injured. Because _you_ live a life of profound sadness, because you recognize your curse for what it is (i.e. what we insist it is), because you suffer the pain of trying to repent of and suppress this part of who you are, you reduce the totality of your longing for companionship and mutual love to an ungodly kind of self-indulgent lust, you desire to desire something else entirely—you do all this, you treat your sexuality as we would have you treat it, as we insist that you must treat it, you do this, and YES, YES we will feel sorry for you and tell you that we have compassion for the cross you bear and support you in your suffering and tell you over and over again how much we love you. If you do otherwise, well, don’t accuse us of not loving you since you’re the one not accepting our love.

    If I were gay, people offering to extend this particular form of love to me, even with absolute sincerity, would make me feel angrier and more abused and more reviled than a thousand Westboro Baptist Churches.

  114. “We have historical perspective on our side, namely polygamy and the blacks, and, to some extent, equal rights (by simple acquiescence).”

    I think you’re overplaying the historical hand. Both of those things had serious precedents: polygamy (in the Bible) and ordaining black men (Joseph Smith and Elijah Abel). There’s no such precedent for blessing homosexual unions, and there’s a lot more at stake doctrinally that would have to be overturned. I’m not saying it can’t happen; just that those who assume the Church *always* comes around based on those two examples may be making overly optimistic and simplistic assumptions.

  115. Jonathan and David, Ben ;)

  116. There was also no precedence for treating wives/daughters as non-property before we started doing it, or treating women as being as spiritually and morally mature as men (as opposed to being more like children) before we started doing it, or treating non-whites as social and intellectual equals before we started doing it. These practices and attitudes were deeply embedded in our doctrinal and theological discourse.

  117. I was sad about El. Packer’s talk, too, for the same reasons that Kristine pointed out so well.

    At the same time, this is what homosexual people seem to say the most – I’m normal, not flawed. And as long as we don’t view them as such, there cannot be understanding and true love and acceptance. And while it is, of course, very natural for them to feel so, the Church’s position seems to be clear (here is the interview with El. Oaks and El. Wickman about the church’s official stand on same gender attraction – http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/official-statement/same-gender-attraction) – there was no same-gender attraction in the premortal life, and there won’t be in the next life. Not that it will be forbidden, just nobody will be attracted this way.

    And it’s not the best comparison, but take predators, for example. They were not predators in the Garden of Eden, and won’t be predators starting the millennium, while they are, now, and it’s a very defining characteristic of who they are now.

    Or take those who believe they are a different gender, for example. A boy is born, and as he grows he is sure he is a girl. And he too, will claim that that’s what his true identity is, that he is a girl by all means. And now he can undergo a surgery and look like one, too. What will become of him in the next life? Either way there would have to be a major adjustment.

    And all of us will undergo tremendous changes at the moment of resurrection, anyway. And for some it might be who they are attracted to, even if they don’t wish for it, right now.

  118. Antoinette says:

    Well said, Kristine!
    I agree wholeheartedly because that’s the most important element, is Jesus’ love and compassion. Like you said, doctrinally, we may disagree, but I still love you with the pure love of Christ, who is our redeemer.
    He is a righteous and merciful judge.
    I liked President Packer’s talk, personally, and I don’t think the goal was to hurt and/or ostracize; I felt the message of hope and help, but Otterson’s response was well thought out and did express the need for understanding and compassion toward not just gays and lesbians, but to everyone who is suffering in whatever situation.
    As an African American, I have experienced prejudice, and it hurt, because I can’t help the color of my skin. The pain of prejudice reached further than I thought and it affected me deeply. So I wouldn’t dare bestow that kind of pain upon someone else. Human sexuality is a complicated thing, and all the research in the world cannot probe the complexities of the human mind completely; however, he’s given us the Plan of Salvation, and through Scripture, we have deeper understanding of who Heavenly Father is, and the blessings he wants to give us.
    This temporal sphere, our mortal state isn’t easy, but the power of the Atonement is mighty and awesome for anyone who will come into it.

  119. Antoinette says:

    *I meant to say that Heavenly Father has given us the Plan of Salvation. I deleted part of my comment, and it got all messed up.

  120. Lana, I recognize that the Church’s position is clear. Perhaps you missed my point, which was that it is *precisely* those convictions we think are most clear that we need to allow to be shaken. Think Abraham and human sacrifice–if there was ONE moral conviction Abraham had that was clear and unshakeable, it was that human sacrifice was wrong. And that’s the very certainty God asked him to abandon.

    (And, btw, the comparision w/predators is not only “not the best”; it’s grotesquely offensive and has no place in civil discourse.)

  121. Lana–

    I have to say– as a gay mormon who has avoided church attendance for a couple years– I was taking heart in the conversations I have witnessed on this blog over the last couple weeks. I was finding newfound hope that maybe church members were ready to treat gay people differently.

    But your comparison of gay people to predators, quickly brought me back to reality.

    That comment reflects where 99.9% of church members are in their relationship to their gay brothers and sisters. Believing I’m comparable to a predator is where most of the church remains. The conversation we see in these other comments is simply a (pleasant) outlier.

  122. Kristine, I wasn’t comparing gays TO predators, that is I wasn’t comparing same-sex attraction to killing and eating animals. I was saying that something that is very defining, and natural, and real now, might not be so in the next life, on the example of animals. And examples from animal life are parts of many civil discourses (medical and bible being a few).

  123. Chris – I just said that I wasn’t. I’m sorry if it sounded like I was comparing gays to someone bad. And predators are not bad, either. They are just animals, like sheep are, and people are compared to sheep in the bible and it’s ok. My point was different, as I explained to Kristine.

    Some time ago I had some prejudice towards gays, until I’ve learned more about what it is, and how it works, and how real this attraction is. That’s why I said that El. Packer’s talk was sad to hear.

  124. Just a thought, but perhaps a more appropriate comparison in the future might be, um, animal homosexuality.

  125. Lana–if you were really talking about animals who eat other animals, my apologies for the harshness of my reaction. Surely you know, though, that gay people get compared to pedophiles and sexual predators on a horrifyingly regular basis, and in the context of the rest of your comment, which was all about sexual and gender identity, it was easy to misread.

  126. Lana– I’ll echo Kristine on that one. I completely misread your comment. I’d just say that “predator” is a REALLY loaded word related to this topic.

    In all sincerity– thanks for allowing yourself to go through the process you describe of recognizing “how real this attraction is”. I know it’s hard for me to re-evaluate my positions and beliefs on any topic… And I know that this topic is hard for lots of us to evaluate from a different perspective.

  127. 126–
    I just want to be clear that in our convo earlier, I wasn’t trying to say that in my life I have no afflictions OR that I’m fine just the way I am. I need to grow and develop and be better.

    It’s ironic that people will often say, “I don’t have a problem with gays. I just don’t understand why being gay has to define their lives.” Yet it seems many in the church want my homosexuality to be my defining struggle. So it can only be defining in negative ways…

    Please help gay people with their problems. But focus on the real ones.

    As a side note: by the time you know they are gay, they USUALLY aren’t looking for a place to sit in church anymore.

  128. “Jonathan and David, Ben ;)”

    I think those are misreadings of the story through a modern lens, one that construes masculinity in a way somewhat different than the OT culture (see here for a modern Middle Eastern example), but it’s not impossible.

  129. I’m going to do what I should have done a while ago–close comments and thank you all for your participation.

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