Kind to be Cruel?

I’ve heard the following quite a bit lately: “If you really cared about LGBT people, then you’d spend your time encouraging them to repent of their sins; otherwise you are condemning them.” The corollary to this notion is that true Christian love for your fellow man can only really be expressed by constantly reminding them of their sinful nature. It’s an interesting notion, but only if one is ignorant of Job.

Let’s set aside the history of Job and his accusing friends (although we probably shouldn’t) and focus on God and Satan in the beginning. The word here translated as Satan means something like “the accuser.” Sort of like a prosecutor, the accuser’s job is to point out the faults of a person before God. And that is what Satan proceeds to do, pointing out that Job is faithful because Job is living the good life. Take it away and Job’s righteousness will evaporate. Whether or not that happens (read Job to find out), the key thing to take away here is that the person who spends their time pointing out sins is Satan.

This is because Satan wants us to despair. If all we know of ourselves is our sins, the weight of our foolishness or our infamy is too much. This is why the law is death; because it only shows us how much we’ve failed God, others, and ourselves.

Luckily, we are Christians. And through Christ’s Atonement, we believe that we can be forgiven of our sins and, over time, become a little less sinful. But, like the poor, our sins are always with us. Repentance is the work of a lifetime.

Is it wrong to note that people are sinners? Of course not. But it is also banal. We are, all of us, sinners and most of us know it. Is it wrong to point out how other, specific people are sinning? Well, there are admonitions about motes and beams, as well as general gossip, that would seem to indicate yes. It is the work of an individual to work out their salvation with fear and trembling before God. Maybe God has called upon you to rebuke with sharpness, but betimes means “early” not “often.” And, in any case, God has sufficient power to instill guilt in a person without your say-so.

The preaching of the Gospel is the Good News and the good news is not that you or anybody else is a sinner. It is rather that Christ is not and, through him, our weaknesses can become strengths. It is only Satan who would have us dwell exclusively on our sins and it is the work of Satan to stand in accusation of another. God alone is the Judge.

Comments

  1. Having written all that, it strikes me that what I write could be taken to mean that people should not seek succor or relief when they are mistreated. That is not my intent. Anyone, of course, should be allowed the opportunity to seek redress for wrongs done unto them. But, again, it is important to remember that the ultimate Judge of these things is God.

  2. Happy Hubby says:

    I like the tweet from Sistas in Zion that essentially said, “there is a lot more hetero sex going on outside of marriage even with members, so why are we talking so much about gays if the two are equal?”

    So why are we not spending as much time talking about straight people having sex outside of marriage?

    This reminds me of the book “A Year of Living Biblically” where A. J. Jacobs realizes he is supposed to stone adulterers. In order to comply, he finds the very smallest pebble he can and gently tosses it at someone he thinks is an adulterer where the person being “stoned” didn’t even notice. Check that item off the list.

  3. Billy Possum says:

    “God has sufficient power to instill guilt in a person without your say-so.”

    This is exactly right. Judging others as though one were God – the only one qualified to judge – is hubris. We see that fault repeated over and over in scripture (and literature generally): Lucifer, the Pharisees, the wicked servant-creditor. Judgment is really a terrible, stressful, painful, life-negating exercise. It’s better to let God handle it almost all the time, and stick with love, which is the fun part of living.

  4. Dark Traveler says:

    Thank you. As the saying goes, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you. “

  5. Eric Facer says:

    There is another point I believe should be made in the situation you describe: Is the accuser in this instance 100% convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt and in their heart of hearts, that same-sex attraction, when acted upon by a couple lawfully married, is a sin, is abhorrent in the sight of God?

    If you reflexively accept the church’s position on this issue, then this question will be lost on you. But if you acknowledge that church leaders in the past have confused culture with doctrine when issuing edicts (e.g., women should not work outside the home) and that this issue is qualitatively different from a black and white scenario like adultery or child abuse, then you should hesitate to pass judgment.

    Listen, I realize this is a really, really tough issue for the church. And, to be honest, it’s tough one for me, too. But that very difficulty, that complexity, should give us pause before we, as individual members, suggest to someone with a same-sex attraction that they need to refrain from acting upon it. (Hell, it should tell us to keep our mouth shut!)

  6. John: Excellent post. The way I see it, someone else’s sins are rarely my concern. I’m not a bishop and my children are too young to sin. My only job is to invite others to come unto Christ and not worry about what particular sins they might be burdened with.

    Happy Hubby: I think part of the difference is that you rarely hear from people defending sex outside of marriage from within the Church.

  7. Hi BCC writers, can I make a request that I think could be cool?
    I would love to read a post by each of you that gives your best argument in favor of a church policy you disagree with (a post about how marriage should be just between a man and a woman, a post about why women shouldn’t receive the priesthood, etc.). The idea being that you give what you think is the strongest argument for the case that you don’t believe in. Any takers?

  8. I was looking through Pres. Oak’s women’s session talk transcript yesterday (I didn’t listen/watch it live) and this sentence in particular stood out to me:

    “God requires us to obey His commandments because only through that obedience, including repentance, can we return to live in His presence and become perfect as He is.”

    That’s not the good news of the gospel to me. It is a great way to induce the guilt you’re talking about, because we can’t be perfectly obedient. Yes, a passing reference is made to repentance, but that only helps you get back to the requirement to be perfect.

    I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound like the Gospel of Christ to me.

  9. Brian Cowley says:

    I appreciate this post because if taken seriously people would at least be more civil to their LGBTQ family members, friends, and acquaintances. it is also a good policy in general for possible infractions like coffee consumption, etc. As a gay man who grew up in Mormonism, the very theology that God created you as an abomination by your very nature is harmful to how you view your self. The shame mounts over the years. You become someone to be pitied and never are fully accepted. I especially dislike the notion that being attracted to someone outside of the heterosexual binary is equivalent to being tempted to have sexual relations with someone outside of marriage. This is an especially damaging notion. It minimizes the real pain that someone who is LGBTQ is experiencing. As for amplifying someone sins as an act of love, that is not love but judgement. You can not love from elevation. You have to love someone as an equal. To love is never to attack. Loving is knowing God. Unfortunately, there are scriptural passages that are very confusing and contradictory about God’s love.

  10. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Learning about the prevalence of homophobia among Hindus, Africans outside the Abrahamic religions, and Chinese–to say nothing of Communism’s global obsession with stamping out homosexuality as bourgeois deviancy–has done a great deal to convince me that homophobia is not, in fact, based in Abrahamic religion. It is very much the product of the natural man and his tendency to abhor any difference from the group norm.

    This is the absolute number one issue that drives young people in the West away from organized religion, and especially from Mormonism–where the well documented effect of late birth order on male sex hormones means that everybody’s got a gay brother, uncle, cousin, or dad. (Shall we advocate for sex-selective abortions of male fetuses after the fourth child?) They know homosexuals and know that they’re ordinary human beings with all the normal human foibles. People do not want to associate themselves with religions that ask them to condemn those whose nature was baked into them before they drew their first breath.

  11. BenB: Jesus taught comfort and peace, but he also taught things like obedience, even using fear at times. Thus, we have to love the Lord more than father and mother, fear he who can destroy body and soul, be wary of blasphemy against the spirit—for which there is no forgiveness, tear out offending body parts, etc. Much of Jesus’s teachings require obedience to difficult commandments. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simultaneously empowering and humbling, joyful and reverent, comforting and disquieting.

  12. josh harrison says:

    Eric: I’m not 100% sure that same-sex marriage is sinful. Furthermore, I’m not sure at all that any sexual activity outside of marriage is “2nd only to murder”. We like to say that but it makes no sense to me that all sex outside of marriage is equally sinful. That seems more cultural than anything else. I’m not going to go on record defending casual sex. But I don’t think people engaged in this are virtual murderers

  13. I think the good news of the gospel is all about the atonement, which was directly necessitated by our sins.

  14. You say that, but there is an awful lot of “You’re perfect just the way you are.” I can honestly say, since I think you are right as to God being able to convict man’s conscience on His own, that if there was less talk about how perfect people are in their sins (and how awful the Church is for not coming around to the rest of society), there would be far less need to remind people that isn’t true. Adultery is a sin, but because we don’t have many people saying it isn’t (and that adulterers are just how God made them) there is less need to frequently raise the subject.

  15. But as long as there are people willing to stand up and claim it isn’t a sin, there will be a place for those who stand up and acknowledge that it is. Sometimes these posts seem to be an attempt to motivate believers to abandon the field while leaving those opposed to the Church’s stand on morality to preach their ideas without pushback.

  16. So through Christ their weakness of LGBT will become strength? Or their sin of acting on LGBT will be overcome?

    What are your saying here;
    this post is equally banal. Is discovering that you desire physical intimacy with your own gender rather than procreating in a marital relationship a weakness to be overcome or just turned into a strength through banal platitudes?

    Sin is a real issue and it’s not the devil that stresses the importance of turning away from sin or the seriousness of sin and it’s effect on the individual and society at large.

    The reality of the atonement covers so much more than the physical frailties of the human condition — indeed you cheapen the atonement if you make the claim that we can’t be endowed with desire resisting power. Where you are weak in desiring to give into certain temptations, I testify that living a consecrated disciples life will strengthen you to resist and someday overcome those temptations.

  17. Geoff-Aus says:

    Pres Oaks says we show our love for god by obedience. By which he means imposing his beliefs on gay marriage on others.
    I believe we show our love for God by loving our fellows.
    A lot of damage can be done by imposing obedience, especially if it is man made law. How much damage can be done by loving?
    I believe we have a moral responsibility to choose what God wants on the gay marriage issue. If we follow the Oaks obediently and it is not what God wants, can we claim the nuremburg defence? I don’t think so.

  18. Julie Sans says:

    Geoff AUS
    Believe the prophets or believe you.
    Let me think about that .

  19. As if on cue, here comes Geoff to show why it isn’t banal. You cannot repent if you deny the law, for what do you have to repent of. So when those like Geoff insist the law isn’t the law, they work to damn any who believe therm.

    To go back to the origami post, damning others to make yourself feel good isn’t kind. Standing against the world, and it’s god, and standing for the truth, and it’s God, is kindness.

  20. Wondering says:

    I wonder if the comments haven’t folded the “origami post” into something it wasn’t by stretching it beyond its first paragraph’s inherent limitation on what it criticizes.

    “Origami post” seems likely to be a creation of auto-correct, but I like it

  21. “Standing against the world, and it’s god, and standing for the truth, and it’s God, is kindness.”

    I find it is even more urgent to stand against inappropriate apostrophes. If we cannot be trusted to be obedient in small things like punctuation, how can we be trusted with weightier matters of the law, including the Lord’s work of nattering on endlessly about Teh Gayz™ online?

  22. I have an idiosyncratic reaction to the beam and mote problem. I find zero interest in pointing out sex “sins” and pat myself on the back for being well behaved on this score. But I am regularly drawn to point out relationship “sins” including identifying pointing out sins as a relationship sin itself. Caught in the circularity, I’m afraid I’m a failure at this game.

  23. ““Origami post” seems likely to be a creation of auto-correct, but I like it”

    As was it’s/its. As was “therm.”

    Fat thumbs and autocorrect aside, however, the point still stands. And many of the same people who are complaining about all the talk about “Teh Gayz™” are the same people who are proselyting the idea that the Church’s stand on sexual morality is incorrect. It appears as though, absent a convincing argument on the merits, they are seeking to silence anyone who speaks out against their position.

    For every “you are perfect just the way you are” there needs to be a “for all sin and fall short.” For every “love cannot be wrong” there needs to be a “if you love Him, keep His commandments.” We who know the truth are not to be silence in the face of lies (or even simple misstatements or misunderstandings). You don’t get to blast your preferred message constantly and then complain about those who disagree with you expressing that disagreement. That is a sign of a deficiency of your argument — you are wrong, you know it, and your argument cannot tolerate the existence of an opposing viewpoint.

    We believe in free choice in this Church — be enticed by one side and the other, and then pick your side. Hear about the worldly view of sexual morality and see the consequences of that philosophy in practice and hear about God’s view of sexual morality and see the consequences of that philosophy in practice. Then pick the one you choose to live. That is what moral agency is all about. But if you have ever posted “love wins” or “live your truth” or “pride” (really, why would any follower of Christ encourage pride?) or any of the dozens of other platitudes in support of sin, you cannot rationally complain (either as hateful or banal) when those who adhere to God’s teaching likewise speak up.

  24. “It appears as though, absent a convincing argument on the merits, they are seeking to silence anyone who speaks out against their position.”

    You poor, dear, fragile creature! Who are these monsters perpetrating this silencing you describe so volubly? How do you bear being so stifled by disagreement that you can only rail against it at length?

  25. I keep trying to figure out how being LGBT has anything to do with “sexual morality”. Despite the rhetoric, being LGBT doesn’t mean you’re rarin’ to have sex outside marriage, that you’re looking for others to “convert” (and ostensibly have sex with), or anything else of the sort. It just means we were made differently, for whatever reason God has for anything God does.

  26. Hi Jonathan,
    Let’s talk. Lurking in the same bits of internet that inspired this post, I recently saw the formulation that God would rather have someone be dead and righteous than alive and sinning. While I appreciate that God does want us to be righteous, I’m skeptical that he wants us dead (at least, not solely for our level of sin or righteousness). But saying stuff like that can trigger suicidal thoughts in people who are struggling with sin, LGBT or otherwise. It is not kind.

    If you look over what the Brethren say, they have two particular things to say about LGBT behavior. First, any sexual behavior outside of marriage breaks the law of chastity. Second, Marriage is between one man and one woman. They rarely (if ever) frame LGBT behavior itself as sinful. Now, I don’t doubt that they find it sinful; I’m just pointing out that they rarely say it is sinful of itself.

    Now, we know that the definition of marriage can change in the church. It has done so in the past. It could in the future. I haven’t seen anyone argue that the law of chastity is going to change. Based on the evidence of history, which of these is unchanging doctrine and which is potentially changing policy? And if one of them is potentially a changeable policy, why shouldn’t people look forward to the “long-promised day,” as it were?

    But all of that is future-talk. Who knows what the Lord will, in his love and wisdom, do? What about obedience now? Well, in the now, we are asked to treat our LGBT neighbors and family members with kindness. I suggest that it is not kind to vocally (or even internally) wish away the sexuality of another human being. If they are Mormon, they are aware of the church’s current teachings. If they are not, why bring it up? They won’t be condemned in ignorance and, unless you specifically want to condemn your neighbors, why add to the likelihood?

    Now, while I don’t like this solution and don’t subscribe to this solution, President Oaks suggested that the path for LGBT people who aren’t interested in complete and total celibacy is to simply leave the church behind (What this means for unmarried cis-hetero people who aren’t interested in celibacy is unclear, although implied). A level of glory is promised; there is nothing to fear. So, again, if you are a subscriber to this view, why rail against LGBT behavior? It isn’t a bug you can catch. Kindness, possibly, might be, after having stated clearly your understanding of the current church approach, to say that, while gay folks can’t get married in the temple, we recognize the legality of their civil marriages and are interested in building friendships based on the beliefs we hold in common, as well as the opportunity to learn from neighbors and fellow citizens. It is inelegant, perhaps, but there is absolutely nothing stopping you from doing this. And nothing encouraging you to spend your time talking about rates of ass cancer (another little gem of putrescence tossed my way in my time spent on twitter).

    Now, some of us look on the legalization of LGBT marriage as a miracle, like the development of the internet or penicillin, that came from outside the church but that makes the world a better place and may well, one day, facilitate the spread of the Gospel. Perhaps we are wrong about the future; I cannot say. What I can say is telling people that they are forever frozen in sin and determining their kingdom of glory based on their behavior right now, when, as President Oaks also noted, we know so little of the afterlife, is a blasphemous usurpation of God in Heaven’s right of judgment (at least, when you are not qualified to do so). So don’t do that. Be kind instead.

  27. My reading of this post and comments is informed by the experience I had last week listening to a podcast interview of Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder, Fred Phelps. WBC is infamous for, among other things, picketing the funerals of US soldiers, based on their belief that such deaths were God’s punishment for America’s sins and tolerance of gays. Westboro has long been extreme and public in their opposition of the increased social tolerance toward LGBTQI+ folks. The church selectively interprets Old Testament passages to justify their belief and their activism, that rebuking Gay people to break their pride is a loving act because God’s love is “reserved only for the penitent” and they need to be made penitent. Thus the infamous sign by which they’re known: “God Hates F*gs.”

    As I’ve read some of these comments here which try to justify treating “sinners” harshly because it keeps them from complacency in their “sin,” all I can think about is how closely this resembles the Westboro take on the same scripture passages, and consistently my thought is Oh Hell No.

    Thank God for those of you who have countered this thinking with understanding from the New Testament where the Lord both teaches and models His more effective way to reach sinners, (if that’s your calling.) Thank you all who have pointed out how we are all sinners alike, and aren’t authorized to judge. I reject the Westboro Method in favor of Christ’s way.

    By the way, Megan Phelps-Roper has left the church she grew up in and has published a book. As much as I’ve known of her, her penitence is commendable.

  28. L-dG:

    “You poor, dear, fragile creature! Who are these monsters perpetrating this silencing you describe so volubly? How do you bear being so stifled by disagreement that you can only rail against it at length?”

    I’m not railing against anything. In fact, this sort of proves my point. I highlight an issue, and rather than respond on the merits you move to mocking, hyperbole, and projection of anger.

    Frank Pellett:

    “It just means we were made differently, for whatever reason God has for anything God does.”

    To the extent LGBT is referencing attraction, you are correct. To the extent you are referencing behavior, you are incorrect.

    John C:

    “Lurking in the same bits of internet that inspired this post, I recently saw the formulation that God would rather have someone be dead and righteous than alive and sinning.”

    God wants us alive and righteous. He wants us alive and repentant. But, honest examination must admit, there are times when He would prefer us dead and righteous than alive and sinning. Or do you think it would have been better for the martyrs to deny the faith? For Daniel to have not prayed because he might be thrown into the lion’s den? Look, He judges and He knows a heck of a lot more than both of us — it may be wholly inapplicable here (I don’t presume to know). But you cannot say that the formulation is per se incorrect.

    “But saying stuff like that can trigger suicidal thoughts in people who are struggling with sin, LGBT or otherwise. It is not kind.”

    That’s a true point, and one worth a discussion — effectiveness. Acknowledging God’s Laws are what they are, what is the most effective way to share His truth to bring about repentance? I don’t think that I know. But when there are those who advocate that the behavior is not a sin, there is a need to respond to that and stand up for the truth.

    And that brings up an important point. When someone only denies the Church’s standard of morality, it is an easy thing to stand up for that standard. But, ministering in an individual context, I expect that God could direct in entirely different ways. I just don’t know. But, as the General Authorities have routinely said, in public you make the statements of general applicability and in private you are able to customize that message to the individual.

    “And if one of them is potentially a changeable policy, why shouldn’t people look forward to the “long-promised day,” as it were?”

    I saw a post once about following future prophets by not following the prophets of today. That is dangerous for two reasons. First, you don’t know what the prophets of tomorrow will have revealed to them — you might think that you do, but neither of us do (if we did, we wouldn’t need prophets to get that revelation). Second, even if God were to reveal new practice next year, this is still His Kingdom on Earth and violating His standards today is still a sin even if it is consistent with the standards of tomorrow.

    By all means, look forward to whatever changes you would like. Pray for change, if you would like. But teach the revealed standards and live the revealed standards. And, if I could speculate, I think that there is more going on in this quote than you intend. Let’s hypothesize two announced revelations. Revelation 1: Gay marriage is now approved of the Lord. Revelation 2: Gay marriage will never be approved of the Lord.

    My expectation is that those who say teaching the Lord’s standards are a kindness would be more accepting of #1 than those opposed to the Lord’s standards would be of #2. And if that is the case, then isn’t the issue not hatred of LGBT individuals by those who believe (who I expect would largely get on board if #1 was received) but rather a disrespecting of priesthood authority by those who do not?

    “If they are not, why bring it up? They won’t be condemned in ignorance and, unless you specifically want to condemn your neighbors, why add to the likelihood?”

    Taken to its logical conclusion, this would be the end of the missionary program, the existence of prophets, and just about everything else. Obviously this is not correct. As for the reason to bring it up? Harry Harrison likes to say that “Man is a rationalizing animal and it requires effort to become a rational one.” If a person hears, exclusively, that their behavior is just fine and they are perfect the way that they are and everyone who disagrees with them is hateful, how long until they believe it? Especially since it is something that they probably desperately want to believe? There needs to be the voice of truth to speak out against the voice of the world — otherwise, it is simply too easy to convince ourselves that we are righteous.

    Think about the way that we live regarding the poor. Do you think we adequately care for the poor? I think it is pretty clear we do not. But we know the standards — should we not talk about caring for the poor? Again, of course not. We want what is ours to be ours, so we convince ourselves that we are right even when we know that we are wrong. We need to hear the truth (probably more frequently than we do) — it is no different with LGBT individuals.

    “why rail against LGBT behavior”

    You are the second person to accuse me of railing, here. Now we have a keyboard and potentially a world separating us, which makes it hard to know someone else’s state of mind, but there is no railing here. Your agency is yours, and my responsibility is to speak the truth — not to convince anyone. As Joan of Arc said, the soldiers will fight and the Lord will win victory. We show up, we speak the truth, and then the Lord will do His own work. More interestingly, when any presentation of opposing ideas is perceived as railing it is (to me) evidence of exactly what I am speaking about. We share the truth, and it is the conscience that convicts. So I don’t need to rail — I just need to speak the truth and let everyone’s conscience do its thing (which seems to be taking place here). Just saying the truth feels like I am railing, because it is something internal to you that is railing — not my words.

    “Kindness, possibly, might be, after having stated clearly your understanding of the current church approach, to say that, while gay folks can’t get married in the temple, we recognize the legality of their civil marriages and are interested in building friendships based on the beliefs we hold in common, as well as the opportunity to learn from neighbors and fellow citizens.”

    I agree with 100% of this (depending on what you mean by recognize — if you mean solemnize or accept as spiritually valid or justification for sexual behavior within a gay marriage then no).

    “And nothing encouraging you to spend your time talking about rates of ass cancer (another little gem of putrescence tossed my way in my time spent on twitter).”

    And I agree with 100% of this. Wow.

    “What I can say is telling people that they are forever frozen in sin and determining their kingdom of glory based on their behavior right now, when, as President Oaks also noted, we know so little of the afterlife, is a blasphemous usurpation of God in Heaven’s right of judgment (at least, when you are not qualified to do so).”

    We are ALL frozen in sin. Now we can repent, but if we deny the truth and abandon obedience we lose the ability to repent. That means frozen in sin. It is not something unique to LGBT individuals, but neither are LGBT individuals excused from that. Elder Oaks, in fact, gave a great talk on that — talking about the three types of judgment (and stating that we were not to ever presume the final state of any soul). But there is a difference between acknowledging sin as such and usurping God’s sole prerogative for final judgment.

    “Be kind instead.”

    And that brings us back to the very start. If one statement genuinely does freeze someone in sin (‘you are perfect the way you are’) and another lights up their own conscience (sharing truth), offering freedom from sin, then I know which one is kind.

  29. Geoff-Aus says:

    So Oaks and Nelson are asserting that non hetro marriage is sinfull. There is no scripture that supports them, and although they assert it with certainty, they have not claimed a modern revelation on the subject, have they?
    If then a prophet says something repeatedly but does not claim it is revelation, what weight should it have? More weight than my personal revelation?
    Last conference there was more emphasis on love and very little on obedience. We seem to have returned to the power of obedience over love.
    It all comes down to whether you accept that gay marriage = sin or not. By their fruits. I do not see the sin. All are alike unto God. I see no evidence that God does.
    All the efforts to retain the youth by revamping the programmes, may be useless if the leaders refuse to fall in line with the gospel on the discrimination against gays and women.

  30. Geoff-Aus says:

    Although we don’t like to admit it church leaders are conservative. So we change our view on racism 20 years later than we should. Was God ever racist? “All are alike unto God, black and white, male and female, gay and straight.”
    Jonathon above asserts that it is our duty to follow the current prophets, not future ones. Should we not follow God. If we have a moral compass, and can see that God is not racist before the church changes direction, are we not obliged to do what is right, rather than continue supporting what is wrong.
    Currently the leadership, Oaks and Nelson at least, are still refusing to accept that “all are alike unto God” Is it our duty to support them in their prejudice, or to do what is morally right?

  31. “I’m not railing against anything. In fact, this sort of proves my point. I highlight an issue, and rather than respond on the merits you move to mocking, hyperbole, and projection of anger.”

    While I appreciate an adroit and underhand change of subject as much as the next person, my comment was actually addressing your claim about being silenced. It’s a helluva position to paint yourself into, seeing as how any response proves your claim false. I’ll happily cop to the charge of ridiculing you, because I think that’s the only level of engagement your comments here merit. Pray, continue with this noisy variety of silence you’ve been driven to, poor lamb; tell us more about this oppression that prevents you from speaking.

  32. “when He would prefer us dead and righteous than alive and sinning. Or do you think it would have been better for the martyrs to deny the faith?”

    It is not God who prefers the martyrs dead. Nor is it God that threw Daniel in the lion’s den. That’s God’s work is not stopped by evil’s attempts is not the same thing as endorsing martyrdom. Nobody ought to want to be a martyr and nobody should consider it a good thing. It might be necessary, but that doesn’t make it right.

    “that the behavior is not a sin, there is a need to respond to that and stand up for the truth.”

    If the general authorities are somewhat reluctant to call LGBT behavior inherently sinful, which they appear to be, then perhaps we should follow their lead. No-one is denying that sex outside of marriage is unchaste, but that is different from saying specifically that LGBT behavior is always sinful in a world with gay marriage. That said, at present, it is considered sinful for any member of the Church. But then we get into matters of doctrine vs. policy and such.

    “And if that is the case, then isn’t the issue not hatred of LGBT individuals by those who believe (who I expect would largely get on board if #1 was received) but rather a disrespecting of priesthood authority by those who do not?”

    If people behaved in accordance with hypotheticals, then maybe. But this isn’t something we’d know one way or the other and, as you say, speculating about the future is sometimes sinful. Maybe we should give each other the benefit of the doubt more often.

    ” If a person hears, exclusively, that their behavior is just fine and they are perfect the way that they are and everyone who disagrees with them is hateful, how long until they believe it?”

    If, as the Brethren teach, LGBT attraction is not inherently sinful, then folks are, relatively, perfect the way they are in that sense. As for other sinful things, we’ve all got plenty of material to repent over. It is not as if, in failing to police LGBT behavior, all other behaviors are suddenly declared righteous. Honestly, it is important to the health and well-being of LGBT folk that they believe that God and humanity are happy with them the way they are. This isn’t some great secret.

    “my responsibility is to speak the truth — not to convince anyone.”

    No. It isn’t your responsibility to speak the truth. You don’t need to shake your garments before us to absolve you of our sins. You don’t have this responsibility. That is not a thing. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons you’re not terribly convincing.

    Also, FWIW, the railing on my part wasn’t directed at you. I’ve been in some unhealthy portions of Mormon twitter of late. That said, if you feel like you are Samuel on the wall, shouting at the Nephites deep in sin, then yeah…that’s railing.

    “justification for sexual behavior within a gay marriage”

    Explain to me why not exactly. With quotes.

    “We are ALL frozen in sin. Now we can repent, but if we deny the truth and abandon obedience we lose the ability to repent. That means frozen in sin.”

    I could not possibly disagree with this more. It is the despairing that are frozen, because they have no hope. But hope is an anchor to the souls of men and, along with faith and charity, central to the message of the Gospel. It leads us to repentance, because we know of God’s goodness. Telling people that they are cut off from God’s goodness because of a particular sin (or set thereof) is to deny the Atonement. Don’t do that.

    “If one statement genuinely does freeze someone in sin (‘you are perfect the way you are’) and another lights up their own conscience (sharing truth), offering freedom from sin, then I know which one is kind.”

    And here is the nub of our disagreement. I think the effects you describe are reversed in the case of these causes. Telling someone that God loves them as they are leads them to repentance because they become familiar with God’s love. Telling someone that they are, first and foremost, a sinner leads to the despair of those who believe they cannot please God. Just because the Church is engaged in outreach to Evangelicals doesn’t mean that we ought to believe as the Calvinists do.

  33. Jonathan – pray, what behavior do you think I engage in that is sinful? I am a transgender woman. I still present (very strongly) as male. Am I being sinful having sex with my wife, whom I married in the Temple?
    There has been a transgender woman, who had fully transitioned, who was given explicit permission by the First Presidency to marry a man in the Temple – are their sexual relations sinful?

    I keep writing and rewriting more, but it seems I must forebear. Rather than try and call you to repentance, I’ll invite to be better, just as I would Pres Oaks; there is a better way. The Spirit of God and your siblings around you wait to help you gain greater light and knowledge, just as we continue to gain from other light and knowledge that you have. The Apostles are not “as one” on this. The Proclamation on the Family leaves room, and it is only with that room that it was agreed upon and signed by all involved. Narrowly interpreting it, just like narrowly interpreting scripture to lay a hedge is damaging to all. Adieu.

  34. Wondering says:

    John C: “If the general authorities are somewhat reluctant to call LGBT behavior inherently sinful, which they appear to be…” I think I missed any such appearance But maybe you mean by “behavior” something other than sexual relations.
    FWIW (on which I have no comment):
    Handbook 1, number 6.7.2 :
    “When a Disciplinary Council May Be Necessary Serious Transgression
    . . . It includes (but is not limited to) attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, . . . ”

    This does not seem to make any distinction between homosexual relations between marital partners and such relations between persons not married. While the April 4 announcement seemed to propose deletion of the relevant part of Handbook 1, number 6.7.3:
    “When a Disciplinary Council is Mandatory Apostasy
    As used here, apostasy refers to members who:

    4. Are in a same-gender marriage.
    …”
    it did not seem to propose any change to number 6.7.2.
    What did I miss?

  35. Wondering,
    “Previously, our handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy. While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
    Note the treatment of all sexual relationships in the same way.
    https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/first-presidency-messages-general-conference-leadership-session-april-2019

  36. Wondering says:

    OK, but that last sentence is dependent upon the meaning of “immoral conduct.” I guess it remains to be seen what is meant when they eventually get around to updating 6.7.2 — if at all — (or for that matter 6.7.3). Because of the prior sentence and the contrast implied by “Instead,” I had understood it to mean a change to 6.7.3 and no change to 6.7.2. It seems, “apostacy” had no role in 6.7.2, by any definition.

  37. Geoff:
    “There is no scripture that supports them, and although they assert it with certainty, they have not claimed a modern revelation on the subject, have they?”

    I don’t think that there can be any honest dispute that the Proclamation on the Family is, at least, claimed as modern revelation. President Nelson has said as much explicitly, and President Oaks contrasted the Proclamation on the Family as an example of the united Q15 (as a demonstration of how to tell doctrine). “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Like it or lump it, that is doctrine.

    “It all comes down to whether you accept that gay marriage = sin or not.”

    It comes down to whether you accept that the Church is what it says that it is.

    “All the efforts to retain the youth by revamping the programmes, may be useless if the leaders refuse to fall in line with the gospel on the discrimination against gays and women.”

    It may be worth your while to re-read Doctrine and Covenants 43. It seems directly on point.

    “Was God ever racist?”

    You don’t even notice your own assumptions. God specifically limited the priesthood to the Levites for a long period of time. Racist? Of course not. But by your assumptions, you would consider that racist (and perhaps you even explicitly do).

    “If we have a moral compass, and can see that God is not racist before the church changes direction, are we not obliged to do what is right, rather than continue supporting what is wrong.”

    You have two different arguments going here that need to be teased apart. First, if God is telling you something you do what God tells you. If that revelation is what you want to hear, then you better be extraordinarily careful about the source — you can allow your emotions to interfere with spiritual communications and will yourself to your preferred answer, but if God is really telling you to do something you do it. The Church in ancient Israel was telling the people “thou shalt not kill,” but Nephi was told something different — and it was right that he did what God told him. Same thing here online — our discussion ends when you claim revelation for your own life. If God tells you, you do it (regardless of whether it agrees or disagrees with Church doctrine or the scriptures). That doesn’t empower you to speak for the whole Church, mind you — Nephi didn’t go around saying that the whole killing commandment was wrong, and if your revelation source is telling you to change the Church you really ought to read Doctrine and Covenants 43 and second guess that source — but if God is giving you revelation or instruction within your stewardship (which includes your personal life) you do what God tells you.

    But that is only true if God is telling you something — your own reason or moral compass is a different story. If you think your moral compass trumps the prophets called by God, then you have a problem. Because, assuming that view is correct, there would be absolutely no need for prophets — we would all just trust our moral compass. The problem, of course, for anyone who knows our fallen nature is that our moral compasses often lead to the result we want — we need the prophets to remind us of the truths we don’t want to hear.

    “Currently the leadership, Oaks and Nelson at least, are still refusing to accept that ‘all are alike unto God'”

    If that is how you define that phrase then you are correct. But, of course, that is neither the most logical way to define it nor the way that it was originally used. But hey, you found a proof-text that you could wrest beyond recognition to support your preferred outcome. Umm, congratulations? Sorry for the snark, but I don’t really know how else to respond to this fallacy (if I define this such that they are violating it then they are violating it).

    L-dG
    “Pray, continue with this noisy variety of silence you’ve been driven to, poor lamb; tell us more about this oppression that prevents you from speaking.”

    You will see above that I never claimed to be silenced — I claimed (correctly) that there are those who are seeking to drive opposing viewpoints out of the public dialogue. You are right that, so long as there are those willing to speak the truth, that the silencing is not effective. But that is different from the aims being there.

    John C:
    “It is not God who prefers the martyrs dead. Nor is it God that threw Daniel in the lion’s den. That’s God’s work is not stopped by evil’s attempts is not the same thing as endorsing martyrdom. Nobody ought to want to be a martyr and nobody should consider it a good thing. It might be necessary, but that doesn’t make it right.”

    I think, if you look carefully, you will see how this is a non-responsive tangent from my argument. I said, from the scriptures, that there are times when if the choice is dead and righteous or alive and sinning the correct choice was dead and righteous. Your response is that it is better if there is a third alternative (maybe Daniel won’t get thrown in the lion’s den!). Sure, it is better if there is a third alternative. But there are times when God will prefer us righteous and dead than sinning and alive. I don’t apply it to anyone or anything in particular, because I cannot possibly apply it with any wisdom, but it is not per se invalid.

    “If the general authorities are somewhat reluctant to call LGBT behavior inherently sinful, which they appear to be”

    I see no evidence they are reluctant in any meaningful way to call LGBT behavior sinful. In fact, what I saw all through General Conference were posts about how awful it was that the General Authorities were calling LGBT behavior sinful.

    “No-one is denying that sex outside of marriage is unchaste, but that is different from saying specifically that LGBT behavior is always sinful in a world with gay marriage.”

    See the above quote from the Proclamation on the Family. And there have been countless talks that use some turn of the phrase that simply because legislation changes the definition of marriage doesn’t mean that God’s definitions have changed.

    “As for other sinful things, we’ve all got plenty of material to repent over.”

    True, but you are asking for a special pleading on the issue of sexuality — that the sin that dare not speak its name becomes somehow the sin we dare not call a sin. Just because I have to repent of being proud and selfish doesn’t excuse me from also needing to repent of being uncharitable. And, in the event that I repent of my pride and my selfishness, I am still damned if I don’t repent of my lack of charity. So just because we have all got plenty to repent over doesn’t mean that certain sins can be willfully ignored (or, worse, claimed to be virtues).

    “Honestly, it is important to the health and well-being of LGBT folk that they believe that God and humanity are happy with them the way they are.”

    Here’s where we can come close to agreement, I think. First the disagreement — I don’t think you tell anyone that they are good enough (none of us are). But I think you shout from the rooftops that Christ is so far beyond good enough that the you and Christ together ARE good enough. If the message to LGBT folk was that God loves them and arm in Arm with Christ they are enough to walk from grace to grace until they make it back to our Father I would absolutely join with you to share that message. But that sentence simply doesn’t make sense when you take Christ out of it — without Him they (and we) are not enough. And it doesn’t make sense if you take progression and repentance out of it — without change they (and we) are forever damned.

    “No. It isn’t your responsibility to speak the truth. You don’t need to shake your garments before us to absolve you of our sins.”

    I don’t care in the slightest about absolving myself of any sins (at least in this context). No, this is about standing as a witness at all times and in all places. It is about attempting to shoulder the burden of sharing with Christ in His work. It is, in fact, a priesthood obligation as well. So yes, it is a responsibility. It is a thing.

    “Explain to me why not exactly. With quotes.”

    “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”

    “It is the despairing that are frozen, because they have no hope.”

    No, it is the unrepentant that are frozen. You have your cause and effect wrong. Those who stop repenting lose hope and become frozen. So long as you are partaking of the Atonement on a daily, ongoing basis — even if you feel as though you are being crushed by your weaknesses (speaking from personal experience), you can know that Christ can overcome your sinful state. But when you give up trying to repent, you despair and lose hope.

    As Hugh Nibley was fond of saying, the world isn’t divided into the righteous and the wicked. It is divided into the repenting and the unrepentant. The goal — and I will admit my ignorance as to the best way to achieve this goal — is to get people repenting, partaking of the Atonement, and enjoying the hope that comes from that. Take repentance out of that mix, however, and you get despair. Deny the commandments, and you take repentance out of the mix.

    “And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery.” 2 Nephi 2:13. In fact, that whole chapter would be a good one to review for this discussion. But saying there is no law…it doesn’t lead to a good place.

    “Telling people that they are cut off from God’s goodness because of a particular sin (or set thereof) is to deny the Atonement. Don’t do that.”

    I think you will see that I never have done that. I don’t say people are frozen because of any particular sin (or that they happen to sin differently than my preferred sins). I have said that we are all cut off from God’s goodness because of sin in general and repentance allows for us to accept the Atonement and be reunited with Him. Big, big difference. The denial of the Atonement occurs when you say the Atonement isn’t necessary because sin isn’t really sin.

    “Telling someone that God loves them as they are leads them to repentance because they become familiar with God’s love.”

    Now, see, this is a true statement — God loves them and us as we each are. I am familiar with President Nelson’s statements on conditional and unconditional love (which I don’t think are interpreted correctly — perhaps, in retrospect, the better word would have been blessed), but I don’t think there is any doubt that God loves all of us as we are.

    “Telling someone that they are, first and foremost, a sinner leads to the despair of those who believe they cannot please God.”

    Your experience with repentance seems very different from mine. God, each time I turn to Him and seek forgiveness, seems eager to show His love and forgiveness. Whenever I turn to Him and genuinely express my desire to give my will fully to Him, He is remarkably quick to show His forgiveness — even when I am repenting for the 250th time for the same, stupid, selfish mistake. We are all sinners — that is simply the truth. And that is a good thing to remember as awareness of this condition turns us towards repentance. But to say that we cannot please God does not follow from that — when we turn to God to repent, we find He is quite easy to please and ready with encouragement to help us to continue to repent.

    Frank:
    I’ll just quote myself, above. “But, as the General Authorities have routinely said, in public you make the statements of general applicability and in private you are able to customize that message to the individual.” I won’t begin to attempt to diagnose someone spiritually in a public forum. That’s not my job. My responsibility is to speak up for the truth — not to hold court on you or anyone else. I understand that is often what you see those who speak about God’s standards as doing, but (speaking personally) I have no desire for that whatsoever.

  38. Taiwan Missionary says:

    A few thoughts that (I hope) are pertinent to this discussion:
    1. My favorite scripture is Luke 18:9-14, in which Christ praised the publican who confessed his sins, and did not focus on the misdeeds of others. Christ declared that the publican went home justified, rather than the Pharisee who criticized the Publican—and being a publican back then was about as bad as you could you could be—they were outcasts.
    2. I accept that the Church has the right and the need to set boundaries for what is acceptable behavior by members. But an obsession with rules, including sexual rules, and trying too hard to keep them (yes, one CAN try too hard) and enforce them, simply means that our limited human hearts have less energy left over to love God with all our heart, mind, might, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. The two greatest commandments. I hope that some day we can as a Church get to the point that we can treat sexual sin (whether heterosexual or LGBT) more humanely, and have the Bishop simply say, “Christ said, ‘Go and sin no more.’”
    3. Years ago, I attended a Stake Conference presided over by then-Elder Oaks. He was charming, enjoyable, and gave uplifting messages. He also made a point of having the Stake President pass on a message to the Stake membership, after he left: would the women please dress more modestly; there was too much revealing cleavage during the Conference meetings. This last message was the one truly jarring note in an otherwise uplifting conference:
    I think that the man is a bit obsessed about sexual matters. I am NOT implying prurience on his part; simply that he Is so focused on the issue of sexual impropriety that it crowds out other messages about Christ’s atonement and the beauty of the Restoration, that he might give.
    4. Our favorite pastime at Church is confessing other people’s sins. Orthodox and conservative members criticize progressive members, and “Progmos” are certainly adept at returning the favor. LGBT issues being ground zero, right about now. I think that the LGBT issue in the Church is important, but once it is resolved, one way or the other, I guarantee another hot-button issue will come up and divide people.

  39. Frank wonders how “LGBT has anything to do with “sexual morality”.

    What do you think it has to do with if not principles of behavior related to sexuality??!?

    The statement that there’s nothing wrong with gay sex as long as it’s monogamous in marriage is a moral statement. I know it’s the wrong one, by personal revelation from God the Father to me, by personal study, by temple worship, by the ministry of angels and by the words of the prophets. I have specific experiences with each of those that have made that lgbt views on sexual morality are wrong.

    It doesn’t mean all is lost and those individuals never do well, but it just means those who hold the typical sex-positive view of LGBT are not only wrong but they are missing the boat big time in terms of the plan of salvation.

    I don’t go around saying these things unless I see the major error from those who should know better. LGBT perspective of sexuality is damaging to the individual and damaging to society at large. It’s damaging in the short term and long term. It’s damaging emotionally, spiritually, and in some instances very much so physically. It’s damaging generationally.

    If I believe that to be true; if I know from the above revelatory experiences that it’s true, shouldn’t I actually say something? Or just keep my mouth shut because others tell me that it’s damaging to tell them that their perspectives are truly the ones causing harm?

    The difference here is I’m not telling anyone to shut up, just telling them they are wrong and causing more harm than good. I fully appreciate that I’m being told the same, under pain of causing despair unto death. That’s an emotionally manipulative argument, but certainly we need to be careful in how we say things to avoid needless suffering.

    I want to make clear I’m not angry at anyone here and don’t feel contentious on the issue, I just think many on this blog are wrong and occasionally speak up since it’s a quasi-public space.

  40. Geoff-Aus says:

    Jonathon, I was very pleased that Oaks was the only speaker in the conference who mentioned gay marriage, so none of the others seems to share his obsession. Perhaps Nelson.
    You are aware that we have proclamations and declarations. Declarations claim to be revelation procs don’t. The 2 older of the 15 might like proc and dec to be interchangeable but they are not.

    The calling quoting “and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” Now if you think about this; were there blacks or slaves in Nephies world or has JS added them as examples of priveledge v deprived from his day. If JS were writing today he would add gay and straight.
    I realise this scripture is inconvenient for your argument, but prooftexting how? As it is quoted in the preamble to dec2 it rather argues for the priesthood for women too.

  41. Aon, I’m a little troubled by this: “if I know from the above revelatory experiences that it’s true, shouldn’t I actually say something?” because the prophets have been teaching that our individual revelatory experiences are for us and not for the church. Maybe you should not say something except to report on your experience if you have a revelatory experience telling you to do so. There are, of course, others with privately and sometimes publicly reported revelatory experiences contrary to yours.
    You seem to have confused LGBT (often understood to refer to attractions or self-identifications) with sexual behavior outside heterosexual marriage (to which “LGB” may sometimes refer). That confusion (with “homosexuality” in place of “LGBT”) was common in Church parlance in the 60s and 70s, but in more recent years the Church has joined many others in noting the distinction. The confusion is parallel to a possible assertion that “heterosexual” means a person who has engaged in heterosexual intercourse and does not apply to a virgin who is attracted to the opposite sex.
    Understood to refer to attractions or self-identifications without reference to sexual behavior, LGBT has nothing to do with sexual morality. Could any part of your understanding of your revelatory experiences be a matter of confusion of terms?

  42. Hello again, Jonathan. I get the feeling that we aren’t going to come to a shared understanding of how things are, but I think we can at least come to understand one another in a non-threatening way. So, let’s aim for that.

    “Like it or lump it, that is doctrine.”
    It is true that it has been declared doctrine. It is also true that it is not canonized scripture. It, therefore, occupies a space in our understanding that is similar to the King Follett Discourse or the Lectures on Faith. We are under no obligation to believe it. I don’t think this is an accident. Certainly if the Brethren (or God) wanted to canonize it, they could have done so by now (especially as they are reportedly all on board). And yet, it isn’t…

    ““It all comes down to whether you accept that gay marriage = sin or not.”

    It comes down to whether you accept that the Church is what it says that it is.”

    The one does not follow as a rejoinder. There is space in the church for you to not think that gay marriage is a sin, at least for non-Mormons, and still think the Church is true. Maybe if they ever get around to canonizing the Proclamation there won’t be, but for now there is.

    “It may be worth your while to re-read Doctrine and Covenants 43.”

    It may be more worth our while (and time) if you’d just say what you mean so folks don’t have to guess.

    The Levites weren’t a “race” nor is the exclusivity of the Levirate priesthood similar to the priesthood restriction in the latter-day church. This is a bad analogy. Please don’t use it.

    “assuming that view is correct, there would be absolutely no need for prophets — we would all just trust our moral compass”

    We all do this anyway. It hasn’t obviated prophets or prophecy yet.

    “If that is how you define that phrase then you are correct.”

    So, how do you define it differently?

    “there are times when if the choice is dead and righteous or alive and sinning the correct choice was dead and righteous. Your response is that it is better if there is a third alternative (maybe Daniel won’t get thrown in the lion’s den!).”

    Nope. That wasn’t my response. My response was “The sin lies with the person placing the choice of death or dishonor before you. Testimony is not a matter of coercion or lack thereof.” Martyrdom is bad, full stop. And certainly don’t obliquely suggest to people that self-martyrdom is some sort of righteous workaround. We do not believe in Blood Atonement.

    “it is not per se invalid.”

    I disagree entirely.

    “I see no evidence they are reluctant in any meaningful way to call LGBT behavior sinful.”

    I said inherently sinful, which is an important distinction. The question is whether it is sinful like the Word of Wisdom is sinful (it is only sinful if a member does it) or inherently sinful like murder (sinful if anyone does it). Until recently, this distinction was moot because LGBT folk couldn’t get married and all sexual relationships outside of marriage are considered sinful (no matter who does it). But if non-LDS folk get married civilly (or even LDS folk), we don’t consider their relations sinful. So the question is whether civil LGBT marriages are a place where LGBT sexual relations could be considered non-sinful. The Proclamation says no, but it isn’t canon. The Nov 5 policy said no, but its retraction makes the issue murky again (see the above conversation with Wondering). I think the issue is more WoW than Murder. YMMV

    “legislation changes the definition of marriage doesn’t mean that God’s definitions have changed.”

    But we don’t live in a theocracy. Nor do we argue that it is sinful for non-members to not get married in the temple. I’m skeptical that God is interested in charging non-members with sins based on some higher law to which they are not privy.

    “the sin that dare not speak its name”

    Do you mean sex? Gay sex? We’re a safe space here, you can name it.

    “So just because we have all got plenty to repent over doesn’t mean that certain sins can be willfully ignored (or, worse, claimed to be virtues).”

    But perhaps a little spiritual humility would lead us to set aside the sins whose status is unclear and focus on the sins whose status is certain, like pride, anger, telling people it is better to be dead than gay, and so forth.

    “No, this is about standing as a witness at all times and in all places. ”

    A witness of what? That God doesn’t like gay sex? Thus do the members of the Westboro Baptist Church and they have their reward. Why engage in this witness when there are so many other aspects of the Gospel, surer and more hopeful, than this?

    ““We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.””

    Er…ya got anything from the canon?

    “But saying there is no law…it doesn’t lead to a good place.”

    You misunderstand me if you think I said there isn’t or shouldn’t be a law (or the law). My relationship with the law comes from 2 Nephi 25:23-26. Feel free to read it at your leisure. It teaches that the law is dead to those who are alive in Christ. I think this means that the law is death (to get a little Pauline) because its role in our lives is to convict us of our inadequacy. No-one lives up to the law. Therefore, we teach of Christ, that our children (and us) may know to whom to look for a remission of our sins. Like I said in the the last exchange: I think you’ve got it backward and you think I’ve got it backward. I think that’s the heart of our disagreement.

    “The denial of the Atonement occurs when you say the Atonement isn’t necessary because sin isn’t really sin.”

    This isn’t a thing I’m saying.

    “when we turn to God to repent, we find He is quite easy to please and ready with encouragement to help us to continue to repent.”

    Agreed

  43. Geoff:
    You are taking an uphill struggle to parse out a difference between a declaration and a proclamation. Nelson doesn’t agree with you. Oaks doesn’t agree with you. Eyring doesn’t agree with you. That’s the full First Presidency right there. Asking who has a better handle on what the doctrine is — the First Presidency or you — if you come up with the answer you then that really seems to be result-oriented reasoning.

    “I realise this scripture is inconvenient for your argument, but prooftexting how?”

    First of all, the darkening of skin in the Book of Mormon is referenced frequently, so to claim there were no black and white is only true if you insist black means African descent and white means Caucasian descent. Second, when it says that all are alike unto God, it is referencing they are all His children and His desire that they all come back to Him. It doesn’t justify sinful behavior because, to use hyperbole, the murderer and the saint are all alike unto God. As for proof-texting, any time you are using words to justify a position when the underlying conceptual-based argument doesn’t support it (though the words seem to), you are engaging in proof-texting. This argument is not speaking on LGBT issues, which were not in the mind of the speaker (so far as we know).

    John:
    “It, therefore, occupies a space in our understanding that is similar to the King Follett Discourse or the Lectures on Faith.”

    I don’t think this is supported. The KF Discourse was (a) only the notes of an attendee at the funeral, and (b) never, to my knowledge, signed off on by the Q15. The Lectures on Faith, though canonized, were removed as they were never created to be promulgated to the world. The Proclamation, on the other hand, is prepared and signed off on by the Q15 (and no apostle has EVER spoken out against it — those claiming lack of unanimity are trying to divine from the tea-leaves of other comments).

    “We are under no obligation to believe it.”

    We are under no obligation to believe anything. The question is, what is true. When it takes hundreds of blogposts and thousands of hours to find (or open) a small crack to keep open your preferred view that it doesn’t apply — well, to paraphrase Joseph Smith from a different context, that doesn’t taste like following the Lord’s representatives on Earth. But, as always, you get to do what you want.

    “There is space in the church for you to not think that gay marriage is a sin, at least for non-Mormons, and still think the Church is true.”

    I think there is space for gay marriage to not be a sin. If God tells someone to do something, by revelation, then they do it — and that would include gay marriage. I do not think there is space to say that there is space to say that gay marriage is generally not a sin, because that contradicts existing doctrine — and, frankly, it leads to negative consequences.

    Let us suppose, to make the best case for you as I see it, that sex within gay marriage is a sin because it is prohibited, and not because the behavior is sinful per se. Let us also assume that there are two individuals (Allen and Brian) who both, left solely to their own devices, would enter a actively-sexual gay marriage. Our next assumption is, for this example, is that because God can do whatever He wants, God determines that it would be right for Allen to enter that marriage. Brian, on the other hand, God (again, for reasons of His own) wants to remain celibate.

    In such a circumstance, I think can see, your approach to this issue would very possibly lead Brian to sin. Likewise, there are those who may lead Allen to sin in not doing what God wants. The only answer that leads to the right conclusion in both cases — especially when both individuals want something very much (including very righteous desires to love and be loved, for companionship, and so forth) — is to preach the general rule but to teach and recognize and have trust that God can intervene when and how He chooses. We don’t formulate doctrine around these personal revelations, but what God wants is right…period. But if you are going to break the commandments taught from the pulpit, you better be sure that it is coming from God — that it isn’t just a vague moral sense or the best demonstration of your reason. Like Nephi, maybe ask a couple of times.

    What it seems like, and forgive me if I am being unfair with this (I might be), is that there are those who want a certain result and know the Church teaches against it and know that the Lord won’t tell them what they want to hear, either, and they seek to circumvent both. If there is someone struggling, let’s get them to have a better relationship with the Savior and open up the channels of communication and then when revelation comes it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I expect that in all (or, at least, the vast majority of such cases) the answer would be consistent with my understanding. But I could be wrong — they are God’s children and He will guide them. But because God can tell one soul something different, that doesn’t mean that we are permitted to preach something different.

    And either way, in that scenario, the person is cared for. If the Lord instructs them differently, then they will be blessed for it. If they are to live the law of chastity as I understand it, they will still have a better relationship with the Savior and can walk arm in Arm with Him and be supported by Him.

    “It may be more worth our while (and time) if you’d just say what you mean so folks don’t have to guess.”

    Doctrine and Covenants 43 stands for the proposition that we receive revelation only for our stewardship and only the leaders of the Church may receive revelation for the world. It means that, even if God tells Allen to enter a same-sex marriage it doesn’t authorize Allen to contradict the Church’s teaching on same-sex marriage.

    “The Levites weren’t a “race” nor is the exclusivity of the Levirate priesthood similar to the priesthood restriction in the latter-day church. This is a bad analogy. Please don’t use it.”

    The Israelites were a race. The Levites were one genealogical line. And even Christ drew distinctions between Gentiles and Jews in His mortal ministry. That doesn’t make God racist — the problem is when the definition of racism gets expanded to the point where it includes such things.

    “We all do this anyway. It hasn’t obviated prophets or prophecy yet.”

    My point, exactly. God still calls prophets, and presumably He has a good reason for it that isn’t overcome by our moral judgment.

    “So, how do you define it differently?”

    We are all children of our Father in Heaven. He loves us all perfectly. We all have the opportunity to partake of the Atonement and return to Him. I do not define it as that we can all be blurred into one amorphous whole, or that God draws no distinctions based upon anything.

    “Martyrdom is bad, full stop.”

    Alma would disagree with you, and explicitly does. Joseph Smith, I dare say, needed to be martyred for the Church to survive in the way that it did. The ultimate Martyr, of course, is the Savior. I don’t think you can support this assertion.

    “And certainly don’t obliquely suggest to people that self-martyrdom is some sort of righteous workaround. We do not believe in Blood Atonement.”

    This makes me think you are referencing something specific you are hearing online that I am unaware of. To be clear (and I think I have said this before) I don’t presume to know when or how martyrdom is appropriate. If people are telling LGBT people to die, then you are right to be concerned about that (I’m assuming from context that might be what you are hearing). I make no such claim, I am just saying that martyrdom is not bad, full stop.

    “I disagree entirely.”

    Again, see Christ as the perfect example of the Martyr.

    “Do you mean sex? Gay sex? We’re a safe space here, you can name it.”

    There is a literary construction of homosexuality as “the sin that cannot be named” or “the sin that dare not speak its name.” I was contrasting that with “the sin that we dare not name a sin.”

    “Thus do the members of the Westboro Baptist Church and they have their reward.”

    The Savior is quite clear that contention in not of Him, but is of the Devil. Note that He doesn’t say that contention is of the Devil unless you are right, in which case contend away. You can say water is wet and snakes are short and if you do so with contention you are sinning. That, in my experience, is something that both sides of this discussion often fail at. That is also something I often fail at — I hope to have avoided that in this discussion, but I have certainly failed to do so before. But just because there are those who speak the same ideas contentiously doesn’t mean the ideas themselves are wrong. If that were the case, the Internet would have proven every idea in history wrong as they have all been argued with contention.

    “Why engage in this witness when there are so many other aspects of the Gospel, surer and more hopeful, than this?”

    This goes back to your “banal” comment in the original post. I would rather be talking about other elements of the Gospel. We end up in these discussions because there are those who preach that sin isn’t sin. I would love to be talking about the glories of repentance (I love me some repentance — sadly, I have had a lot of practice), but when the attempt is made to define away sin it also precludes repentance. So you are right that there are better places to spend our time, but the point demands the counterpoint — the claims that it isn’t a sin demands the reminder that it is.

    “Er…ya got anything from the canon?”

    You won’t like what I have from the canon — Old and New Testament — but I think you know what that is. It doesn’t tend to help or elevate the conversation, but it is still there. But even with that, the restriction to canonized scripture is artificial. I’ll just quote Eyring, who said of the Proclamation that “the proclamation fits the Lord’s promise when he said, ‘Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (D&C 1:38)'”

    “Like I said in the the last exchange: I think you’ve got it backward and you think I’ve got it backward. I think that’s the heart of our disagreement.”

    Yep, that probably is. My understanding of Paul et. al. is that the law is dead because Christ has overcome the Law — He did not destroy it. We are made perfect through Christ because His Grace is sufficient to overcome our disobedience — not that if we accept Christ the behavior itself becomes not disobedient.

    “This isn’t a thing I’m saying.”

    Apologies — I wasn’t attempting to strawman you. But, as you can tell from my paragraph above, it seems to me that is what you are saying even now (at least in relation to this issue). If you are saying something different, then I am not understanding your position.

  44. Jonathan,
    Re: the Proclamation, there is a specific process for making something canon. Canon is important. Until something is declared canon, it is not canon. As a member, you are obliged to believe and act in accord with what you find in canon. And there is a simple way to make something canon in the church. It is announced in General Conference and the membership raises their hand to the square in order to sustain it. This has happened in living memory. This is not a thing that has happened with the Proclamation. I’m not speculating as to why; I’m just pointing out the lack. Until it happens, the Proclamation is not an authoritative document for members of the church. Many people derive doctrines from it. It has been labeled a source of doctrine in General Conference, just like any conference talk. But it isn’t canonized scripture and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise until it is.

    Re: the use of the Bible, the question, of course, is why this and not another thing. Why consider the verses condemning gay sex still relevant today and not Paul’s statements on women’s hair or Leviticus’s instruction on what to do when someone seethes a kid in its mother’s milk? Who knows why some things stick and other things are treated as relics of the past.

    I suppose that the response to that would be that the Prophet does. Or, at least, the Prophet knows what should remain relevant today (maybe only God knows the reason why). But if the statements of the current Prophets are intended to be universal, then why hasn’t the Proclamation been canonized? And around and around we go. I know that you are satisfied that there is a clear answer to this, but I’m not (and I don’t feel like I’m wrenching scripture to get there). Time will tell.

    Re: Martyrdom. I don’t believe that if something is necessary that makes it good. I believe that God’s plan isn’t frustrated by the Devil’s intervention. And martyrdom, though a witness of the resilience of God’s plan, happens because of the Devil’s intervention (or just people, I suppose). We preach the Gospel of Christ crucified not because we think the crucifixion was a good thing, but because Christ overcame it via the Atonement. It may have been necessary, but that doesn’t make it good.

    “Alma would disagree with you, and explicitly does.”
    I assume that you’re referencing the deaths of the women and children at the hands of the Ammonihahites? Alma says that God stays his hand because the wicked acts of Ammonihahites are to stand as a testimony against them. But that is not the same thing as saying God approves of this martyrdom. He accepted the dead and dying to Himself because they were innocent. But the blood should not have been spilt.

    “The Israelites were a race.”
    What do you mean by this? I’m genuinely baffled.

    “even Christ drew distinctions between Gentiles and Jews in His mortal ministry.”
    A line that Christ crossed frequently in his own mortal ministry. Maybe these distinctions were never that important.

    “We end up in these discussions because there are those who preach that sin isn’t sin.”
    No. We end up in this discussion because there are those who preach that this is a universal and mortal sin and others who think that is an overstatement. Some may preach free love, I suppose, but that’s not generally the stakes here. LGBT Latter-day Saints struggle because they are told that any LGBT sexual expression at all, even within a marriage, is abominable. A key part of who they are makes them abominable. And, in the recent amicus brief by the church, it was argued that the mere presence of an LGBT person in a workspace was sufficiently disrupting that the church could not allow it. LGBT saints struggle because they are asked to make a bigger sacrifice than the rest of us and they are considered sinful in and of themselves.

    That said, the Church, in spite of the amicus brief, has taken steps to change these assumptions. We have been told explicitly that being LGBT is not sinful. And the recent reversal of the Nov. 5 policy included the statement that “the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.” This could mean that LGBT folks might be able to non-sinfully get married outside the church. That certainly seems to be what President Oaks was implying when he said that all the kingdoms are a kingdom of glory. They won’t go to the celestial kingdom, but nobody who isn’t a member of the church will go there anyways (unless their work is done, I suppose). Now, this is speculative and not even I like all the implications of it, but it does seem like the exact status of the sin of being and acting LGBT is currently unclear.

    “My understanding of Paul et. al. is that the law is dead because Christ has overcome the Law — He did not destroy it. We are made perfect through Christ because His Grace is sufficient to overcome our disobedience — not that if we accept Christ the behavior itself becomes not disobedient.”
    I don’t think that there is no law. I think that a proper understanding of the law sees it as a standard that we fail to meet, necessitating our reliance on Christ, our Redeemer. To believe that we will be saved through our obedience is death, because that ain’t possible. To preach that is to distort the Gospel into a meritocracy. In the end, repentance is all we can do. And God, who is gracious, leads us back to Him.

  45. John:

    I think we have likely just about exhausted the topic for this thread. But I did want to mention a couple of things in closing.

    “Until something is declared canon, it is not canon.”

    This is, of course, a tautology but I know what you are getting at. But I would suggest you have an understanding of canon more consistent with a mainline Christian model that hyper-elevates canonized scripture than one consistent with LDS theology. Doctrine, even eternal doctrine, does not have to be canonized in order to be immutable doctrine.

    “What do you mean by this? I’m genuinely baffled.”

    I mean that the Priesthood was contained within the Israelite race, seemingly at God’s behest, for a good portion of history (with notable exceptions, such as Balaam).

    “And, in the recent amicus brief by the church, it was argued that the mere presence of an LGBT person in a workspace was sufficiently disrupting that the church could not allow it.”

    I would encourage you to go to the original document. I have seen a large number of people saying this, but the amicus doesn’t support this interpretation at all. To clarify the Church is not saying it is disruptive, the Church is saying it is for religious groups to determine if something (for example, an LGBT employee in a workspace) is disruptive — not the Federal Government. Who decides is a very different argument than what the decision is. It is an unfair representation the way that you have presented it.

    Incidentally, in another conversation, I was called “gross” for pointing out that the Church didn’t say what they claimed it said in the amicus. Not that I was wrong, mind you — the language in the brief is clear. But because I didn’t accept the twisting of the language to show what the Church ‘really meant,’ well that was gross to him. There are, unfortunately, those who look at these issues as nothing more than clubs to attack the Church with and heaven help you if you contradict their claims. So, as always, it is important to be cautious in who you listen to.

    “LGBT saints struggle because they are asked to make a bigger sacrifice than the rest of us and they are considered sinful in and of themselves.”

    Funny thing, this. Discipleship requires the sacrifice of everything, so I do not agree that LGBT saints are asked to make a bigger sacrifice. Where I will meet you is to say that it is, seemingly, easier to be luke-warm in the Gospel for non-LGBT saints. Comparing two once-a-week members, an LGBT member will have a much harder time that a non-LGBT member. But when it comes to really walking the pathway of discipleship we are all called to sacrifices beyond our capacity, and there is no comfortable path to sanctification. Everybody’s cross to bear weighs the exact same — as much as the whole world and more than we could ever bear alone.

    “I don’t think that there is no law. I think that a proper understanding of the law sees it as a standard that we fail to meet, necessitating our reliance on Christ, our Redeemer. To believe that we will be saved through our obedience is death, because that ain’t possible. To preach that is to distort the Gospel into a meritocracy. In the end, repentance is all we can do. And God, who is gracious, leads us back to Him.”

    I don’t disagree with any of this.

  46. Jonathan,

    “But I would suggest you have an understanding of canon more consistent with a mainline Christian model that hyper-elevates canonized scripture than one consistent with LDS theology”
    Read Gospel Essentials, chapter 1, section 4. Get back to me.

    “within the Israelite race”
    What is the Israelite race? The Israelites didn’t think of themselves as a race. It’s a mistake to project that notion back on them (another reason why this is a poor analogy).

    “the Church is saying it is for religious groups to determine if something (for example, an LGBT employee in a workspace) is disruptive”
    Fair enough; I’m no lawyer. I admit that I’d be surprised if the church views the disruptive-by-simply-being-gay person as merely some sort of hypothetical, but things are in flux, as I’ve stated before.

    “Discipleship requires the sacrifice of everything, so I do not agree that LGBT saints are asked to make a bigger sacrifice.”
    This is true, but utterly beside the point. When it comes to sexual relations, the specific thing that is being discussed by two presumably straight dudes in this thread, LGBT saints are more restricted in the church than cis/hetero saints. That is the specific sacrifice which is greater for LGBT folk that I had in mind.

  47. Very few people in history have ever been convinced to repent by somebody that they don’t accept as a moral or spiritual authority telling them that something they feel no guilt doing is sin. We start by repenting of the things we know are sins and as the spirit comes more into our lives, we begin to feel convicted of other sins that we have not not known were sin. As disciples of Christ, it is our mission to declare the good news of the gospel of repentance. The holy spirit does the real work of convicting our hearts. Our role is not to convict, but to do what we can to open hearts and minds to the spirit. At this point, there’s hardly a soul that doesn’t know what the church teaches about marriage and sex, and continuing to beat that dead horse to somebody that already knows it won’t open their heart and is likely to actually do the opposite and close them off.

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