When there’s love at home

June 5, 2022 in Salt Lake City. Photo by Austen Diamond

Robert George is in a difficult spot. As co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, opposing same-sex relationships has been a major focus of his public intellectual work even while the tide has been shifting in the United States—polls show more and more people approve of gay marriage. A record high 70% support it today according to the latest Gallup poll. Even Latter-day Saints follow this trajectory, with support doubling in the past decade.

I’m not optimistic enough to think the battle is over. America’s political makeup ensures that for the foreseeable future an increasing minority will have outsized influence on all kinds of things, from abortion rights to the contents of elementary school libraries. George seeks allies among conservative religious groups to keep his hope alive, that the state can be used to discourage and even prevent queer relationships from flourishing. George seeks allies to further his cause, including among Latter-day Saints. One recent think piece of his can be found at the unofficial LDS publication Public Square.

In a nutshell, George believes queer folks wrongly place their gender or sexuality at the core of who they are. He (dismissively) calls this “LGBT+ identitarianism.” Considering how much time and effort George has given questions of sexual orientation, it’s weird to see him accuse others of making sex and gender too central to their identities!

One of the biggest problems facing conservatives like George is how to be kind and loving to queer people while also insisting on the moral inferiority and even danger of their sex or gender identity. If being gay is damaging to self and society (and also threatening to one’s salvation) as George believes it is, it would be “unloving” to affirm that identity in others. Which is why George says we should “treat each other decently and compassionately” and seek loving friendships with people even where “deep disagreement” exists. He has gay friends, apparently. I wish he spent more time saying how a person can be loving towards someone while also condemning an important part of their identity (I suspect queerness would be less “central” to a person’s identity the less social pressure and regulation they’d face about it).

George is in a minority of conservative thinkers who actually acknowledge the existence and power of social constructs. In his view, sexual orientation “is an artifact of 19th-century psychology.” By invoking history he invites us to make an obvious parallel. We could exchange “race” for “sexuality” in his article and basically make the exact same arguments. He could have written the same essay about “The Philosophical Basis of Biblical Segregation,” pointing out how we (white folks) should love and be kind to BIPOC folks, but that racial identities are not truly central to our eternal identities as children of God, that the whole idea of “race” is a human construct, and therefore, there is no problem with asserting the importance of traditional conjugal relations within racially homogenous marriages—as can easily be interpreted as binding from the biblical record (Acts 17.26 for example, as well as the frequent commandments that Jews not marry Gentiles).

In fact, Latter-day Saints used to believe such a sexual/racial hierarchy was God’s will. Taylor Petrey is one among many scholars who have discussed this history. This isn’t a simple after-the-fact equation of race issues and sexuality issues. Within Mormondom, “the doctrines about race and the doctrines about gender [were] joint ideologies that were emerging in the middle of the twentieth century. They dominated the way the Church structured its teachings, its public policy, and the practices they were engaging in.” (Check out Petrey’s interview with me about it here.)

George’s initial assessment seems entirely correct:

If one believes that ‘sexual orientation’ or “gender identity” truly is central to one’s identity or being, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ teaching about marriage and family, including but not limited to the Proclamation on the Family, will always be highly problematic and, indeed, mysterious. It will be defensible, if at all, sheerly by appeal to authority.

Instead of gender identity/sexual identity being “central,” I might say “important to.” Because things are more complicated than George accounts for. Some queer folks feel tension with broader culture precisely because sexual attraction isn’t really their thing, for example. But since the church has acknowledged the value of sex being not just for procreation but also “to express love and strengthen the emotional, spiritual, and physical connections,” it’s even trickier to claim there’s something inherently sinful about same-sex intimacy.

George (and Public Square by extension) worries Mormons are falling back on little more than an appeal to authority (General Authorities particularly) to shore up their anti-LGBT+ positions, and he offers some resources that might help steady the intellectual ark a bit. He invites us to listen to a chorus of philosophers, historians, theologians, and others who’ve been raising objections to a sort of hyper-individualism—bordering on narcissism—of the modern age, believing that being gay is somehow an extreme and especially dangerous way to be too individualistic (as though queer people are incapable of forming meaningful relationships?)

I actually share a lot of those concerns about hyper-individualism—it’s one of the reasons I became more politically progressive. But I don’t share George’s belief that God inherently disapproves of queerness or that it’s against the laws of nature. To me, basic gospel principles like faith, hope, and charity—as well as more generalized values like respect, commitment, and service—can just as easily (or with as much difficulty) play out in relationships beyond the heterosexual binary. I believe there is beauty all around when there’s love at home, including queer homes, because I’ve witnessed it for myself.

Happy Pride Month!

Comments

  1. BHodges says:

    Terminological point: In this post I use “queer” and “queerness” as a broad term relating to the whole gamut of identities and expressions that don’t neatly fit within heterosexuality or align with assumptions about the socially predominant gender binary.

  2. Blair, thanks for your post.

    In the past, I’ve felt uncomfortable with the comparisons to race. It seemed to me that marriage between a man and a woman, combined with “male and female creation”, is much more theologically embedded in our doctrine and scripture. But I’ve come to increasingly feel that it might be on the same track: it doesn’t seem that we have any strong defense against gay marriage beyond appeal to authority (“God says so”), as George has written: we lay down the doctrinal hammer, but rarely do we have provide a compelling NARRATIVE or THEOLOGY that would make sense of why it’s wrong. (Whether that’s because we have a dearth of theologically trained leaders or that, simply, there IS no good narrative is unclear to me.) Compare this with New Testament scholar Richard Hays analysis of Homosexuality and the Church. Whatever you think of his conclusions, his analysis is empathetic, systematic, rooted in scripture (vital for a Protestant), theologically engaged, and humble—in that he acknowledges there are situations where experience and new cultural understanding can lead to new revelations of God’s will. It’s a humility I hear seldom expressed by our leaders, which surprises me, given that we believe in continuing revelation.

    If marriage between a man and a woman *is* ordained of God, then I desperately wish we had a clearer narrative or theological defense (in the systematic style of Richard Hays) that this doctrine could make sense with. (Maybe there is some good defense in that list of links George points to—that’d be interesting to explore here at BCC!) But if it is NOT ordained of God, or if it was but it is no longer, I wish we had the humility and theological resourcefulness to question it, and seek open answers from God. Either way, something has to change.

  3. “America’s political makeup ensures that for the foreseeable future an increasing minority will have outsized influence on all kinds of things, from abortion rights to the contents of elementary school libraries.” Which minority is this referencing?

  4. I am not super familiar with this guy, but when LDS Church leaders say on the one hand that one shouldn’t treat their sexual orientation or gender identity as primary to their identity but on the other hand insist that those things are defined by God and central to exaltation … well, I call BS. I talked a bunch about this & Petrey’s book over on Wheat & Tares a few weeks ago.

  5. alien236 says:

    Bryan – the theological reasoning (which I agree isn’t actually mentioned nearly as often as “God says so”) is that only marriage between a man and a woman can lead to exaltation. What the church has never explained is how, under this paradigm, being alone is morally superior to being in the “wrong” kind of marriage. The church could stop condemning time-only same-sex marriages without changing any of its current theology. Being unable to marry for eternity would of course still confer a second-class status on queer members, but it would be a big improvement over the current status quo where their membership is jeopardized altogether.

  6. BHodges says:

    Bryan, you say “we lay down the doctrinal hammer, but rarely do we have provide a compelling NARRATIVE or THEOLOGY that would make sense of why it’s wrong.”

    I think that’s mostly because the theology behind the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage makes members and leaders alike uncomfortable in a “too-sacred-to-discuss” kind of way. I think the basic theological story is like this:

    Male gods and female gods are authoritatively coupled together (or rather, one male god is partnered with multiple female gods) in the eternities. Their existence consists of procreating spirit children who are to become embodied in mortal flesh to undergo the plan of salvation, advancing to the status of gods and goddesses as others have before them. Eternal sex, literal viviparous spirit birth, is the underlying logic of the church’s heteronormativity. Gods are bound by eternal processes that require a male and female in order to procreate.

    My research traces the origins of LDS belief in literal sexual reproduction in the eternities to the mid to late 1830s, and it was discussed as part of the church’s millennial expectations. Literal millennialism connects to belief in literal spirit procreation. See “’My Principality on Earth Began’: Millennialism and the Celestial Kingdom in the Development of Mormon Doctrine” in Dialogue. https://doi.org/10.5406/dialjmormthou.46.2.0040

    This theological story raises a whole lot of questions. A few include: Why must female gods be bound to only one male god? Why can humans procreate technologically using sperm and egg outside the mechanics of direct sexual intercourse but gods would not be able or allowed to? Why would resurrected female gods give birth to spirit beings rather than fleshly embodied babies? How does Christ’s atonement work, considering that it took place on this particular earth and is said to be infinite? Does it cover all possible spirits past and future, or are there multiple systems with multiple Christs atoning? I have never seen any official positions on these questions.

    There are other theological models Latter-day Saints have believed, which could yet be mainstreamed in the church, including adoptive models of eternal family building. But right now the literal spirit birth story is the lynchpin of the whole system, and it is the reason the church is so insistent on same-sex marriage and also the reason we are so cryptic about the reasons for its rejection of SSM.

  7. BHodges says:

    Benson: the minority or Republicans, especially white conservatives. Take a look at the Senate, which is split 50-50, with Democrats representing 41 million more people! I’m referring to stuff like increased voting restrictions, gerrymandering, a lopsided SCOTUS and other federal courts, and we’re possibly headed for a constitutional crisis. I think we’re in trouble. https://www.npr.org/2021/06/09/1002593823/how-democratic-is-american-democracy-key-pillars-face-stress-tests

    Elisa: I think that’s exactly right. Church leaders have tried to say people shouldn’t focus on sexual orientation or gender identity because everyone is a child of God while also saying hetero and cis-gendered experience is central to exaltation.

    alien236: Right, even that half-measure would be preferable to the current status quo. The holdout seems to be that resurrected queer folks won’t be queer anymore and will desperately wish that they had been straight-married in the temple in order to participate in eternal procreation, so it would be wrong to encourage them during mortality because it would wrongly encourage them to miss out on greater blessings.

  8. Clueless in Seattle says:

    From what I have observed, the scriptural defense for binary gender and heterosexuality comes from the creation accounts.

    Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

    I believe this is what the Proclamation refers to when it says marriage is ordained of God. A Latter-day Saint understanding of gender seems to come from an LDS notion of preexistence where creation was strictly male and female and all are literal sons and daughters of God. God’s gender seems clearly to be male as scripture consistently refers to Him as Father and He.

    In traditions where God is not embodied; questions about His gender may be less consequential?

    These days most Latter-Day Saints don’t take much in the creation narrative literally and yet most LDS take these verses very literally. How should we understand gender and marriage as described in the creation accounts? Because of the Book of Abraham and LDS temple ritual most Latter-day Saints take the creation accounts very seriously. I think our experiences with polygamy also reinforced ideas against same sex marriage. Historically, LDS made exceptions regarding marriage but these exceptions stayed within the gender binary, man and wife, OR man and wives.

    What are we to make of of these accounts in a theology of marriage and gender? Is the issue simply an appeal to authority or is it differing approaches to biblical interpretation? Perhaps the question is, Who gets to interpret scripture?

    If LDS were to adopt same sex marriage… or a more fluid theology of gender, what would be the scriptural justification for such a shift? Given the very limited corpus of scripture that speak to these issues we would still be a difficult spot regarding a theology of gender and marriage? Given the relative silence in scripture, interpretation is everything.

  9. BHodges says:

    Thanks, Clueless. See my earlier comment about the theological story behind the church’s current position if you missed it. You’re right to point out the scriptural and ritual histories that inform current LDS theology, although our tradition contains the ultimate loopholes of imperfect scriptural records, and the understanding of revelation being a co-created between humans and God, where meaning is negotiated, filtered through limited human understanding, and where promises of great and important things yet to be revealed portend future change in understanding.

    One problem with the Genesis account is that Latter-day Saints already don’t have to take it as a literal story that happened 6,000 years ago. Looking at the Hebrew Bible we actually see two creation accounts, one of which depicts the creation of a genderless human who is then differentiated. That account says nothing about whether other intimate relationships should or shouldn’t be formulated. Also, the divine feminine still appears in the Hebrew Bible, although it’s been obscured.

    Others have put queer theological possibilities on the table, including Taylor Petrey and Blaire Ostler.

    Click to access Dialogue_V44N04_420.pdf

    http://www.blaireostler.com/journal/2021/6/23/queer-mormon-theology-an-introduction

  10. @clueless in Seattle, I think the scriptural interpretation would be that the scriptures were written by humans and reflect those humans’ understanding of God, identity, and the universe.

    I’m sure there are fancier answers about actual scriptural justification … but I personally honestly don’t care. There is a lot in scripture that we don’t follow. Because it’s crazy.

  11. Celebrate Pride Month!

    I’ve spilled a lot of ink on these subjects and made my personal position clear, so very briefly:

    1. George’s “not central to identity” argument strikes me as a sophistic rephrasing of the disease theory that we’ve left behind, and good riddance. Just ask if not central to identity, then what would you say it is?

    2. We don’t believe it. The non-essential bit. Everyone I know–*everyone* in all sections of the LBTQIA++ including hetero spectrum–believes their own sexuality or non-sexuality or complicated sexuality is an essential part of their being. Almost everyone I know in the 21st century believes everyone else’s sexuality is an essential part of their being. And for those who call for testimony or God-evidence, the testimonies that God made me like I am are legion and from all corners.

    3. At an important level there is nothing to the Church’s current position but an appeal to authority. At another important level there is a challenge to our current theology. So long as we feel locked in to anthropomorphic gendered gods, and an anthropomorphic gendered apotheotic future for ourselves, both of which are key to most LDS understanding, we have some work to do making sense of the extreme variety and complexity of the real world, the universe we live in, and the humanity all around us.

    4. Without regard to the niceties of philosophy and theology, the fact that we–the LDS Church–are unwilling to recognize a legally valid binding civil marriage as the real thing is nonsense. Unredeemable, unexplainable.

  12. What gets me about the current discourse on the gender binary is the complete ignoring of the times when even the Church accepted that assignment can be wrong; that of intersex people. I recall one instance where an intersex person successfully petitioned the Church for a gender marker change (truly wish I could find the reference again). Just that breaks the “eternal gender is what you’re assigned at birth” theology. It means a person can be assigned the wrong gender and be same-sex sealed.
    But we do like sweeping things into the “God will work it out in the afterlife”

  13. I suppose the “minority with outsized influence” is subjective and dependent on personal political affiliation. For me personally, I have long felt – especially the past few years – that the extreme left is far and away the minority with unfortunately outsized influence, largely thanks to a sycophantic media and a spineless center-left who refuses to put appropriate bounds on the fringe. Then again, I’m from Portland, so it’s a little more personal when the mayor decides to let Antifa run wild and calls their pipe bombs “freedom to protest.”

    For someone clearly so educated, I’m surprised, BHodges, that you’ve given into the fearmongering of the “constitutional crisis” peddled by the left. SCOTUS is almost always split 5/4 (swaying either direction), gerrymandering is a time-honored tradition by every political party, we are actually a “representative democracy” and are not majority-rule (thank goodness for that!), and federal court overreach, historically, has been the province of the left. So….where’s the fire?

    Please remember that Democrats currently control both chambers of Congress and the White House. If the leadership’s proposals can’t even muster the votes in their own party…well, their inability to govern and legislate is not the Republicans’ fault, intransigent though the Republicans definitely are.

    But this is tangential to the topic at hand. I’ll stop now.

  14. To me, it always seems a bit odd to find articles on a supposedly Mormon blog (with supposedly active-ish authors and posters) in such strident support of that which runs counter to Church teachings. Maybe I’m just commenting on the wrong article, as it’s clear the author and the majority of the commenters clearly revel in their allyship. A couple thoughts come to mind:

    @Bryan – if you’re looking for recent theological underpinnings, you might start here: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2013/04/we-believe-in-being-chaste?lang=eng

    @BHodges – you state as fact several conclusions that are, as yet, unknowns. These include:
    — “one male god is partnered with multiple female gods.” Yes, I’ve read D&C 132 and seen the myriad quotes in Journal of Discourses. However, when President Hinckley was speaking to Church educators in the late 90s, he said, “Now, as to the eternal nature of polygamy, I don’t know. And if *I* don’t know, *you* don’t know.” (related to me by an attendee who heard it in-person.) This is a mystery of the hereafter, and why shouldn’t there be mysteries that don’t get resolved until the hereafter?
    — “literal spirit birth…is the lynchpin of the whole system.” While rational, this is also speculative, as there have been differing apostolic interpretations over the decades (Pres Young and Elder Talmage come to mind). Certainly this is *a* reason for insistence on the necessity of male/female marriage, but it’s hardly the only – or even primary – one.

    @AFP – not accusing you of this, but since you broached the topic, I’ve often seen “intersex” interpreted as someone literally right in the middle, equally male/female or non-male/non-female. But the intersex category is actually a rather broad umbrella used to cover a whole host of conditions that don’t conform easily or completely to the male/female dichotomy. Many (most?) of the people categorized as intersex actually “lean” or present in a visibly typical way – it’s not like they’re all androgynous anomalies. For the <1% of people who *might* fall into this category, is it that weird of a notion to acknowledge that it will take a Superior Intellect to work this out?

  15. A parting thought. I’ve come to understand the law of chastity as a protection against all kinds of sexual temptations. This conversation is so often, ironically, portrayed as binary, the Straights and Gays just trying to be understood and get along. But human sexual attraction is hardly limited to adults or even to humans. A governing ethic with Divine backing is crucial to avoid being led down the strange roads of mortality.

    When I was living in Oregon, the homosexual mayor of Portland got in hot water for his sexual relationship with a 17-year old boy, and there was a not-insignificant faction that really did believe “love is love” and that the mayor had done nothing wrong. The only possible concern (and a minor one at that, pun intended) was the power differential. But calling 18 the “age of consent” is just a social construct anyway! LOVE IS LOVE!!!!

    We all draw lines for what constitutes “acceptable” morality. Rail against the Church’s / God’s lines if you’d like and enjoy the inevitable sanctimony that comes from boundless inclusivity. Perhaps there’s yet some wisdom in being more humbly aware of our own mortal limitations when trying to interpret Divine law?

  16. And now I’m going to have to apologize once again for the time I spent arguing much of what Benson is so lovingly declaring. I hope I’ve managed to be at least somewhat better lately.
    .
    Benson, I don’t find it strange that some things will be fixed in the hereafter by a loving God who is ultimately fair to everyone, but it is frustrating that so much knowledge that has come in the past century continues to be ignored, fingers in ears, reciting over and over again how cis-hetero is absolute.
    But it’s rare for someone to be forced out of such a place, much less convinced by argument. I know the only way I could have come out of it was to not only listen to the stories of LGBTQ+ people to learn compassion for their travails from their own experiences, but to spend time in prayer and study to find where my understanding was insufficient.
    Those “mortal limitations” in our understanding are what we continue to try and overcome.

  17. alien236 says:

    We can infer what a challenge intersex people pose to most Christians’ worldview by the amount of effort spent pretending they don’t exist. I constantly see people insisting that sex and gender are as simple as XX = female or penis = male and those liberals are so absurd for trying to obfuscate something so simple. It’s frustrating because information about the many exceptions has been easily accessible for a long time and their ignorance is a choice, apparently driven by fear. It’s probably true that most people lean one way or another. But might, say, a woman with XY chromosomes and androgen insensitivity syndrome be resurrected as a man?

    I heard this idea somewhere. Genesis says that God divided day and night, yet we acknowledge a spectrum of brightness and darkness between day and night. Could the same principle apply to male and female?

    I argued with someone today who said that animals never engage in homosexual behavior and never identify as transgender or non-binary. The first part is ridiculously wrong and everyone knows it. The second part is probably true, but how the heck would he know if they did? I explained to him that some kinds of animals change their sex, and I don’t think he liked that very much. But it occurred to me to wonder, do these animals’ spirits have eternal genders like ours do? Why or why not?

  18. @alien236, I know Blair Ostler uses that example in Queer Mormon Theology, where she runs laps around arguments like Bensen’s. Laps and laps and laps.

    IMO it is an interesting academic exercise to look for theological support for the full inclusion of queer folks, but to me it comes down to fruits. We’re taught we will know that something is good based on the fruits it bears. Alma taught this. Jesus taught this. Many have taught this. And it’s the only observable, concrete way any of us has to judge something as good or evil.

    The fruits of the Church’s homophobic policies and teachings are ruined families, suicide, and estrangement from God.

    The fruits of loving and committed same-sex
    marriages are, in my direct observation, stability, happiness, and connection.

    This isn’t hard. It’s just not.

  19. Benson,
    You can take all of your “supposedly”s and “active-ish”es and you can fuck right off. Do not have a nice day.

  20. Anonymous says:

    And people wonder why groups like DezNat form.

  21. it's a series of tubes says:

    Classy, John C. That’s how to win hearts and minds.

  22. Tubes and anon,
    When you show up here and, first thing, intimate that folks here are liars, rational discourse is not your aim. If Blair wants to, he is welcome to pull down the comment, but Benson is an ass.

  23. Oh, John C, and we were so close to being friends! *sigh*

  24. Bensen,
    I apologize for misspelling your name. Also, you are an ass.

  25. @Elisa – SO many laps! Intellectual superiority really is an exhausting burden. In your certainty, however, you’re ignoring the vast array of sexual proclivities experienced by humanity to which I already alluded. Do not be so reductionist as to claim that gay and straight are the only two categories for possible marriages! Bigotry has no place in this comment section.

    If your morality allows for absolute equality for a heterosexual marriage and a homosexual marriage, at what point would you say, “Nah, that’s not appropriate.”? Your word choice intimates that you believe in objective truth, at least as far as not-so-subtly claiming that you’re enlightened and I’m a blinded TBM. If our lines are so different, where’s yours?

    @John C – Oh, I am definitely an a$$ sometimes. With that salient reality, maybe there is yet common ground between us from which we can build friendship.

  26. Bensen,
    It is unlikely. You malign my friends for rhetorical points.

  27. Perhaps I do. Maybe I’m lashing out rhetorically to compensate for my tears on the inside. But more seriously, proponents of LGBTQIA rights within the membership ranks of the Church too often equate love and acceptance with outright permissiveness, as if *true* love and respect never involved boundaries, walls or warnings.

    From someone who has experienced certain dysphorias first-hand and second-hand, I believe that it’s not right to suggest that feelings / attractions alone are the ultimate arbiter of truth. I also believe that it is reductionist and patronizing to preach that anyone living an LGBTQIA lifestyle would experience irreparable dissonance unless allowed to pursue every emotional whim, biochemically induced or otherwise.

  28. MDearest says:

    Happy Pride Month indeed. My experience with all things LGBTQ+ has expanded in the past year with a member of my family identifying publicly as transitioning. We’ve had some difficult experiences, and I’ve felt called to relearn some supportive practices in alliance within the atmosphere of pushback from some parts of our family.

    One thing I can report with gratitude, is the contribution of one of my conservative siblings, a return missionary and faithfully active in their ward. They offered the wisdom of their experience in health care, that people who come to the health care community for help are going through a very real life-or-death experience, and are navigating a lot of newly- or uncharted science. And because their lives are at stake, those of us in spectator position nearby are wise to remember that although much has changed for the better, there is so much that is not fully understood, and the most fruitful course in working for improvement in an uncertain outcome, is to listen closely to those people experiencing transition, and the medical professionals working to help them find healing relief.

    I have found healing relief in this advice, as I try to meet family members wherever they are with kindness, as we try to keep connection and a form of unity in our family, and face the future outcomes together.

    I no longer feel like I have the luxury of theorizing and pontificating about these things. I just want my dear ones to stay alive for their natural life and find peace and meaningful love during that time.

    I thank all of you here who support this, and for those who will not, carry on with your rhetoric without my participation.

  29. Kirkstall says:

    Bensen, this “vast array of sexual proclivities experienced by humanity” you’re talking about is a moot point and it’s actually quite offensive. There’s a huge difference between a consensual relationship between adults and the pedophilia you’re alluding to. Do you really need someone to explain the power differential between children and adults to you?

  30. Chadwick says:

    Thank you MDearest; beautiful comment.

    I tend to agree with Elisa. The outcome of listening and loving those whose experience is different than mine has certainly enriched my own life, as well as benefiting the other party by providing them an allyship. The fruit of inclusion rocks! Exclusion, on the other hand, is exhausting. Don’t people get tired of finding reasons to dislike other people?

    Normally I encourage folks like Bensen to do the same; listen to their stories. But that only works if your mind is open. Based on my read of the comments above, that doesn’t appear to be the case, and therefore I couldn’t in good faith ask someone to engage in such a dialogue.

    And for the record, I’m a Democrat and proud of it. But I also am a proud supporter of informed consent. So there’s that.

    Lastly, the whole ‘God will sort it out in heaven’ shtick really frustrates me. I mean, it’s no coincidence that our white male leaders have a direct, knowable path to the Celestial Kingdom. But for everyone else, we don’t. Perhaps if our leadership was more diverse, the nature of our petitions to the divine would be more broad. One can hope.

  31. your food allergy says:

    Bensen, this sentence of yours, assuming it is not facetious, is exactly what this moment calls for:

    “Perhaps there’s yet some wisdom in being more humbly aware of our own mortal limitations when trying to interpret Divine law?”

    Humility. It is obvious that our understanding of gender and sexuality is limited, to say the least. The situation calls for exploration, study, ambition, and expansive theological inquiry, the kind of ethos that characterized early mormonism. Instead, what we have from our leadership are definitive pronouncements of unchanging doctrine, with no coherent explanation or scriptural support other than Leviticus. I would love to see a more humble awareness of mortal limitations in interpreting God’s will for us today.

  32. Benson, you seem to be operating under the assumption that most LDS LGBTQ+ members and their allies “equate love and acceptance with outright permissiveness” in a way that brooks “no boundaries, walls, or warnings.” That is absolutely not the case. What most of us are hoping for is that the law of chastity be applied equally to everyone, that is, that there should be no sexual relations except with one’s husband or wife to whom one is legally and lawfully wedded. It’s that simple. Of course, everyone deals with sexual desires that are outside of these bounds, and it is as challenging, and as spiritually rewarding, for LGBT members to abstain from premarital sex and to have complete fidelity within a same-sex marriage as it is for heterexual members in opposite-sex marrages. (And yes, CTR stands for current temple recommend, which I have.)

  33. If something is biologically inferior, is it socially inferior? If something is socially and biologically inferior, doesn’t that at least give credence to moral inferiority, certainly depending on how you debate morals?

    Is it biologically inferior for an increasing number of a species to chose never to propagate and never have the chance at propagation even if it’s reproductive systems function normally? Could that even be said to be true to one’s self to deny that fundamental, core component of not just humanity, but every species – ie. passing on one’s genes.

    Now it could be said that the species and biology is strengthened by some individuals not procreating and indeed if they self select themselves out of the gene pool, maybe thats for the best of the species.

    But I find that a sad argument. So much in our bodies and it’s functions are designed around procreation, replication etc. To deny that sounds misguided at best. Pathological most likely.

    Our genetic history certainly depends on it. Severing that link in the chain across eons seems an inferior choice.

  34. Loursat says:

    Happy Pride Month!

    In his original post, Blair wrote, “One of the biggest problems facing conservatives like George is how to be kind and loving to queer people while also insisting on the moral inferiority and even danger of their sex or gender identity.”

    This is the practical problem that the Church faces. We can and should talk about the theory that Robert George wants to infuse into LDS discussion on queer issues. But theory can’t displace the elephant that refuses to leave the room: How do we treat real people in real situations?

    Religious leaders from many faith traditions talk about treating queer people with genuine love and respect, even while they disapprove of the “lifestyle” or the “behavior.” So what does that look like with real people and real relationships? Events at BYU are giving us a case study now, and it’s not working well. Church and university leaders talk about respect, but where the rubber meets the road, they keep creating policies that marginalize and slight LGBTQ+ people. Sometimes the rhetoric of love and respect breaks down, and we get official expressions of hostility. On the available evidence, it’s not possible to hold these contraries at once. We can’t actually love queer people while constantly stressing our disapproval and systematically treating queer people as lesser.

    Even after all that, I like the rhetoric about treating people with love and respect. We need it. When we keep asking people to act with love, many people do it. They see a gay person or a trans person for who they are, and they learn that the way of love is the way of Christ. Love casts out fear.

  35. I find the whole viviparous spirit birth concept to not make a lot of sense. I tend to lean heavily on Joseph Smith’s concept of eternal coexistence of spirits and/or intelligences to be more compelling. Certainly there is a lot about what Smith meant that we don’t understand, but to me it is the best explanation. We clearly do not believe in creation ex nihilo, so do we believe that gender was assigned arbitrarily at spirit birth? The thought makes reason stare, as it were. We already know that we come to this earth with any number of physical or genetic imperfections, so why is it so hard to extend that to gender identification? The evidence is already there in such things as individuals with XXX, XXY or XYY chromosomes.

  36. Please do not take my perhaps poorly worded statement to mean that gender identification is an imperfection. I only mean that the transition from intelligence/spirit to mortal being is clearly not as straightforward as some assume.

  37. @Chadwick, you’re letting your opinions show!

    1) Be open-minded, “listen to their stories.” Why would you assume I have not listened? Why would you, of all people, be so close-minded as to imagine that your reaction to hearing LGBTQIA stories is and should be universally experienced?
    2) “I couldn’t in good faith ask someone [like Bensen] to engage in such a dialogue.” Trust me, I understand very well the challenge in trying to persuade someone that they might not know something.
    3) “White male leaders.” Racist AND sexist. Got it.

    @CTR – Believe it or not, I really do agree with your sentiment that divine law should be applied fairly and equally. I believe, however, from a personal and Mormon-theological standpoint, that you are putting the cart before the horse. Just because a practice is legally sanctioned does not imbue it with moral rectitude. YouTube is full of rather fascinating philosophical discussions on the origin of morality, and whether humans really are capable of originating their own objective morals. If nothing else, it’s a good rabbit hole when you’re bored.

    I take issue with your claim, however, that sexual fidelity within a homosexual relationship is as spiritually rewarding as sexual fidelity within a heterosexual relationship, at least as far as “spiritually rewarding” is couched in Mormon theology. There are numerous problems with that statement from many different angles. Congrats on the current temple recommend…though in light of your comment, you may want to review the questions again: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/october-2019-general-conference-temple-recommend#questions

  38. Having digested the OP and all of the comments, I started to draft a witty reply to some of the more repugnant reader responses. You have to have faith that my reply really was a well-crafted rebuttal, because as I proofread it for typos and autocorrect errors, I felt the still, small voice whisper, “Do not feed the trolls.” And so, instead you get this testimony that even queer apostates like me can be moved upon at times by the Holy Spirit.

  39. Kristine says:

    Bensen, questioning another commenter’s temple recommend status a) is grotesquely rude and self-righteous, b) earns you a timeout from commenting around here. Bye.

  40. BHodges says:

    christiankimball re: your #2, exactly! George seems to say things took a really wrong turn when people started thinking their gender/sexuality was tied to their own subjective experience when in reality one’s subjective experience has always been a factor on one’s identity conception if one has enough cognitive ability to reflect at all on it. Heterosexuality is HUGELY important to their understanding of self, as evidenced by the fact that they are so protective of it and active in policing it. And I agree with your thoughts generally.

    Alma: ignoring intersex issues is a whole thing, yes. And thank you for your other comments.

    Bensen: It’s not the fact of 5/4 splits, it’s the publicly perceived legitimacy of the system and the personnel, and the court’s own decision-making taking into account public sensibility, which it does to varying degrees. If you think antifa is a significant political force in this country right now, approaching anything like the influence of qanon believers and trump true believers I really don’t have any way to convince you otherwise because we live on different planets.

    Also, “reveling in my allyship” is an interesting way to put it. you think it’s easy and fun to publicly counter my church like this?

    You think a single off the record comment from President Hinckley about afterlife polygamy being a mystery outweighs the century-plus of rhetoric that suggests otherwise and the ongoing sealing practices that literally enact the fact of eternal polygamy?

    Invoking pedophilia is a time-honored tradition when it comes to homophobia. I don’t know anyone who argues for “boundless inclusivity.” I don’t personally know a single person who says NO BOUNDARIES AT ALLLLLL despite whatever their bumper stickers say. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about the intersection of consent, boundaries, and intimacy are from queer people who resisted models of dominance that have long been a part of heterosexual interaction. Kirkstall and CTR are on point here, thanks.

    Also Bensen, please don’t stealth recommend Jordan Peterson YouTube videos in my comments section thanks! And you said “I take issue with your claim, however, that sexual fidelity within a homosexual relationship is as spiritually rewarding as sexual fidelity within a heterosexual relationship,” but how would you know this exactly?

    Amen, alien236. All the bloviating about DEFINE A WOMAN! is so much arrogant posturing that assumes its own argument is correct and then goes from there to nowhere.

    Elisa: amen to fruits. Amen and amen.

    Anonymous: I don’t wonder why DezNat forms. Fascist thinking isn’t an anomaly, it has a long and storied history. It isn’t surprising to see Mormon manifestations of it.

    MDearest: thanks for sharing your witness. Comments like yours are water in the desert.

    Chadwick: Thanks. Mormonism taught me to study stuff out, listen to testimonies, listen to the light of Christ and the Spirit, and obey the prophets, but it didn’t prepare me for what to do when those sources of verification don’t all line up other than saying “the prophet trumps everything else.” So the default for many is to defer to church authority. I didn’t ultimately feel right about doing that here, even though I’m still a member. (This accords with your food allergy’s comment, thanks for that.)

    Aeon: If you want to boil it down to biology we need look no further than the broader animal kingdom for queer corollaries. The capitalist mindset would argue that more always = better, but you’re assuming a lot in your comment and we didn’t really get into biological fitness in the original article or my response to it.

    Loursat, I think you’re right. we can talk all day long about loving queer folks, but what does it actually look like in practice? It doesn’t look good at BYU right now. But the rhetoric might be helpful in shifting the tide. By trying to be inclusive maybe we’ll encounter enough queerness to change our hearts about it.

    kevinf: I agree!

    MTodd: This thing is really running its course here with Bensen, but I hope other onlookers and lurkers get some thoughtful ideas to convey to people in their lives!

  41. BHodges says:

    Thanks Kristine!

  42. If you have the sympathy and moral or financial support of the media, the mainline churches, the entertainment world, the corporate CEOs, the universities, and much of the political class, you are not a “marginalized group.”
    A lot of people condemning hate and bigotry are pretty full of hate and bigotry towards certain deplorables.
    We all should be careful when removing the beams from our eyes.

  43. BHodges says:

    Most churches aren’t queer-affirming. Conservative media outlets are a HUGE business with substantial audiences and significant cultural influence. Plenty of toxic stuff in the entertainment industry. And when the practice of universities and businesses and politicians catches up with whatever affirming rhetoric they produce you’ll have a stronger point.

    I’ve noticed a lot of cis-het white people become extremely attuned to social justice when they’re the ones who feel under threat. I see the same dynamic in the antiracist activism I’ve done.

  44. Hi everyone. Long-time lurker, rare commenter. Interesting back-and-forth here. I’m hesitant to join the club, but some points have been raised that piqued my curiosity.

    Please bear in mind that these questions have the following theological assumptions as their foundation (please excuse the brevity):
    — There is an embodied Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and we are Their children.
    — Our time on earth is part of the Their plan for our progression and development, that we might become as they are.
    — Jesus Christ is the central figure in making that happen.
    — Jesus gave us a Church for lots of good reasons.
    — There was a Restoration with Joseph Smith, which included restoration of divine authority
    — There really are prophets, seers and revelators today leading the Church.
    — The Book of Mormon is scripture.

    I know this is too simplistically worded for this group, but I thought it’d be helpful to outline what I think is theological common ground for Mormons. At least as a preface for my questions.

    christiankimball: “So long as we feel locked in to anthropomorphic gendered gods, and an anthropomorphic gendered apotheotic future for ourselves….” What real alternative do you see in our theology as an end destination?

    Kirkstall: at the risk of defending Bensen (who could use lessons in diplomacy), I read just the other day about a rising niche of psychotherapy in Japan where counselors help their clients (almost exclusively single, middle-aged men) to navigate their relationships with “companion dolls.” For these men, it goes way beyond intimacy – they share meals with these companions, take them to the movies, have one-sided conversations, etc. I admit it’s a bit strange and beyond my experience. And I am **NOT** comparing the LGBTQ experience to pedophilia, bestiality, nymphomania, or whatever this thing in Japan is called. I bring it up to illustrate that yes, sexual attraction is ridiculously complex and messy, and the interplay of nature and nuture is all over the place. Couldn’t this reality be an argument in favor of the simplicity of the Law of Chastity? To keep sexuality from taking up too much space in our lives? Especially when so many power dynamics in our societies *are* socially constructed?

    BHodges: our theology teaches that when we make and keep covenants with God, enacted via the authority of God’s priesthood, those covenants can be waypoints or stepping stones to bring us closer to God and more in tune with his Spirit and vision. With this assumption as a foundation, shouldn’t a heterosexual union sealed in the holy temple have as its default a greater chance for higher and broader spiritual “rewards” than any kind of union outside of it?

    I appreciate those who have taken time to share personal things. Not always easy to sift through a comments section, but I’ve found gems here and am grateful for it.

  45. Aeon, there is a thing called “kin selection,” and now there is some evidence for it. If passing on genes is so important to you, (interesting and disturbing idea, however, that moral imperative be equated somehow with passing on genes, sounds a bit Nehorian to me). but anyway, if that is important to you, here is this.

    https://www.livescience.com/6106-gay-uncles-pass-genes.html

  46. Kristine says:

    Tuna, now try working through your list of foundational theological propositions assuming for the moment that you (or your child) is exclusively attracted to persons of your same gender. The simplicity of the law of chastity becomes dramatically less appealing if it can’t account for people’s actual experience. If some unchosen and apparently immutable traits put a small fraction of God’s children permanently beyond the reach of the exalting covenants you describe, should we just write those people off? Or should we rather consider the possibility that our covenants could be rewritten? If, as you say, human sexuality is messy and complex, why should we prioritize tidy theological abstraction over the actual lives of God’s children? My certainties about how to parent were upended by my actual children; might not our heavenly parents expect us to similarly alter our easy certainties about what kinds of unions can be spiritually rewarding to accommodate their actual children?

  47. Tuna, as I note about our theology, there’s work to do. My own work leads me to places that would not fit your list of foundational propositions, nor do I feel bound by them personally. But the easiest way in for an LDS audience is to say that I focus my attention on building Zion, which is a this life, this world, present tense exercise, and assume and hope the eternities will work themselves out. Building Zion is very much a part of our LDS/Mormon tradition, although less prominent in this century. Building Zion for me is an extraordinarily inclusive concept and demands that we find a way to not only accept but celebrate the tremendous variety of God’s creation.

  48. “With this assumption as a foundation, shouldn’t a heterosexual union sealed in the holy temple have as its default a greater chance for higher and broader spiritual “rewards” than any kind of union outside of it?”

    I think you’ve stated the heart of the problem for me. What you wrote it exactly what I was taught and believed growing up. But now as an adult (in the second half of life) I can see the ripened fruits (spiritual and otherwise fruits) of hetero temple-unions, the fruits of hetero non-temple-unions, and the fruits of non-hetero unions. I’m not seeing that the fruits are different based on either just being hetero or just being temple-unions. I am seeing that integrity, respect, kindness, generosity, love-of-God-and-neighbors (and many other attributes taught by Jesus) create very beautiful, deeply spiritual relationships.

    All of which leads me to thinking that like several other big ticket issues in the past, the church’s doctrine/understanding on marriage isn’t complete yet.

  49. Hoff Hassler says:

    BCC used to be an interesting place. Now it feels like a microcosm of the factionalism that plagues our country. So many echoes. So little respect for different perspectives. Worth a read and little self reflection for all (myself included) – https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/05/social-media-democracy-trust-babel/629369/

  50. Kristine says:

    Hoff, I’m reasonably sure there aren’t a lot of places where there’s thoughtful discussion of viviparous spirit birth in relation to queer unions. Maybe read the whole post?

  51. MrShorty says:

    Tuna said: “Couldn’t this reality be an argument in favor of the simplicity of the Law of Chastity? To keep sexuality from taking up too much space in our lives? ”

    My comment is similar to Kristine’s but a little less hypothetical. After years in a sexless marriage, I have come to question the assumption that sexuality is supposed to take a small space in our lives. At one time I believed it should be small (I recall early in my sexless marriage being frustrated that I could not let it go). Now I believe that sex is an important part of heterosexual marriage (not something to be minimized), so I have my doubts that sexuality should be a small part of everyone’s life. Certainly there are different circumstances, but, even if one chooses to be sexually inactive, sexuality is still often a significant part of one’s life, and understanding how sexuality fits into life (and spirituality) is often a big part of what we are doing in this life — even when keeping the law of chastity.

  52. Cynthia L. says:

    A thousand amens to Elisa.

    “IMO it is an interesting academic exercise to look for theological support for the full inclusion of queer folks, but to me it comes down to fruits. … The fruits of the Church’s homophobic policies and teachings are ruined families, suicide, and estrangement from God. The fruits of loving and committed same-sex
    marriages are, in my direct observation, stability, happiness, and connection.”

  53. Hoff Hassler says:

    Kristine, this is a place where Bensen (I don’t know him and can’t speak to his motivations) was told to “fuck off” and called an “ass” and subsequently banned from the conversation for using rhetorical devices routinely employed in BCC comment sections. His sin – using rhetorical devices in the wrong direction.

    I find Bryan’s first comment (June 7, 11:27am) notable and perhaps reflective of the current state of BCC as I see it. The burden of proof, so to speak, is on those who seek to defend doctrinal norms, scripture, statements by church leaders, etc. (the Richard Hays excerpt Brian links is great a great read BTW, though I suspect Hays’ thoughts would not be welcome in a BCC comment section)

    I think Bensen raises a valid point. I will state it differently. If you continually beat the drum of undermining the integrity of scripture, doctrine, priesthood authority, and the institution of the church–it all “vanishes away” (2 Nephi 2:13). Where do we go from there? What is the framework around which we develop what it means to follow God’s law?

    It seems a foregone conclusion here at BCC that the church and its doctrine is wrong on all things LGBTQ+. I can accept that as a hypothesis, a point of sincere discussion, or a question asked in search of solutions to the suffering our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. It is, however, dangerous as a foregone conclusion and I think it reasonable to believe that a TR-holding member of the church should show some level of fidelity to church doctrine and scripture on the subject.

    Perhaps the burden of proof should point in the other direction. That seems to be a conclusion reached by Hays in the excerpt linked by Bryan. In Hays’ view scripture deserves not just a seat at the discussion table, but the seat at the head of the table. How novel.

    It is concerning to me that BCC has cultivated an atmosphere where church doctrine, scripture and the statements of church leaders at times don’t even have a seat at the discussion table. To what end?

  54. Hoff,
    “His sin – using rhetorical devices in the wrong direction”
    No, Hoff. That is not his sin. Arguing in bad faith is his sin. If your initial tactic is to allege that the members of the blog are misrepresenting themselves, you should have no expectation of reasoned response. You don’t start a reasonable conversation by calling the opposition liars. I did not sanction him because he was conservative or faithful or something. Actually, I didn’t sanction him at all, Kristine did. And again, it was when he accused someone of misrepresenting themselves. Bensen was and remains an ass.

    “ It is concerning to me that BCC has cultivated an atmosphere where church doctrine, scripture and the statements of church leaders at times don’t even have a seat at the discussion table.”
    This is, I believe, a gross misrepresentation of the atmosphere at BCC (or, at least, a very carefully selected one). And yet, you will almost certainly not be banned for expressing it. Wonders never cease.

    Please let’s end this thread jack now. It’s boring and not related to the OP.

  55. I like to use Pride month to review the excellent talk “Beware of Pride.” It helps to understand that Pride is the most universal of sins.

  56. BHodges says:

    Hoff, you said “It is concerning to me that BCC has cultivated an atmosphere where church doctrine, scripture and the statements of church leaders at times don’t even have a seat at the discussion table. To what end?”

    It’s concerning to me that the church has cultivated an atmosphere where the experiences of many queer members have no seat at the discussion table. But if you read through the comments you’ll see direct discussion of doctrine and scripture, and my original post directly quoted a member of the 12.

    Are you sure your concern is that such things have no seat at the table, or are you uncomfortable that members like me don’t keep it to ourselves when we disagree with the church or church leadership about something? Your responses are off-topic. This post is about queer issues and a piece published in Public Square. I invite you to engage with it rather than focusing on sidetracks, however important.

  57. BHodges says:

    Hi Mark. It’s too simplistic to merely say “pride” is bad. Pride about what? How does that pride function? What is its source? The second dictionary definition of pride is “consciousness of one’s own dignity.” By that definition, understanding oneself as a child of God is a point of pride.

  58. Kristine says:

    Hoff, people for whom the Brethren’s position “doesn’t have a seat at the table” don’t bother trying to articulate their objections to that position.

  59. Hoff Hassler says:

    Not sure how it’s a thread jack or off topic. The post states: “I don’t share George’s belief that God inherently disapproves of queerness or that it’s against the laws of nature.”

    In the concluding thought in a post on a self-described Mormon blog, the author seemingly rejects, scriptural authority such as Romans 1, and church doctrine/statements by church leaders (too many to list), in deference to some other framework through which the author arrives at conclusions about God’s approval of “queerness”.

    It seems relevant to inquire about and discuss the “theological defense” (to use Bryan’s words) for your conclusions. For example, I note other commenters have raised the discussion of “fruits” as a sort of theological/scriptural defense to your conclusions and as a means of discerning the truth/falsity/appropriateness of the church’s stance on LGBTQ+ matters.

    You are clearly advocating a belief about God’s perception of “queerness”. Who are you advocating to? Those who agree with your position without question? Do you intend for the comment section to be an echo chamber of your personal beliefs? If not, is it not relevant to consider and discuss how you arrived at your belief and how it fits within the framework of church doctrine? Is it not relevant to consider and discuss the potential ramifications of dismissing scripture, doctrine and current church teachings on the topic? This is, after all, a Mormon blog.

    I’m not uncomfortable with a discussion that reflects a disagreement with church leadership. I believe there is a place for that. BCC has served as a thought-provoking and respectful outlet for the discussion of many difficult topics over the years that I have been a reader. But I do believe that a discussion around church doctrine (especially by believing members of the church) demands some level of respect, responsibility, good faith and deference to scripture and existing doctrine. That kind of discussion, from my vantage point, has eroded over the years at BCC.

    All that said, to Kristine’s point, maybe I have misread the room all these years. If the purpose of BCC is to serve as the intellectual blog equivalent of /r/exmormon I am apparently in the wrong place…

  60. MDearest says:

    To refocus on the OP:
    I think Cynthia L emphasizing Elisa’s comment is the direction to which both the proverbial iron rod and liahona lead— that in a world of messy situations that just won’t stop presenting, and make a hash of our simple guidelines that we keep trying to simplify— that measuring by the fruits is the most revealing way to determine a path through the murkiness. It’s not always simple and it takes work, and it needs compassion, but it gets us more aligned with what Christ taught, especially for people who get stuck in a bog. And for the people who love them and don’t want to abandon them.

    To focus a bit more on the thread-jackery:
    Every. Single. Comment. In this thread, of you warriors who presume to Defend Doctrine against the BCC infidels, is riddled with half-baked and some fully intentional misrepresentation. Better scholars than me have itemized some of that for you, just upthread. Read it again. You’re unfairly trolling people, in bad faith, who live this struggle first-hand or through loved ones, every day. These are serious, life-or-death matters for us, and when you show your mockery and disrespect, you deserve to be told to F off, and be banned from commenting.
    .
    .
    Also, I’ve said it here before, though this is an egregious thread jack violation, to which no one should respond: cussing or not cussing is a poor marker for measuring character, either good or bad. It’s superficial and doesn’t rank on the hierarchy of what’s significant.

  61. Loursat says:

    Hoff, the original post quotes Robert George to the effect that LDS teaching on LGBTQ+ issues is “highly problematic and, indeed, mysterious. It will be defensible, if at all, sheerly by appeal to authority.” George is right about that. I suggest that you give some thought to that problem before you criticize others for not affirming the appeal to authority.

    The fact that you’re asking a question does not make it worth answering. It’s possible that you’re behind the curve in this conversation. Don’t accuse people of being bad because they choose not to backtrack and explain for you.

  62. BHodges says:

    Not sure how it’s a thread jack or off topic. The post states: “I don’t share George’s belief that God inherently disapproves of queerness or that it’s against the laws of nature.”

    It’s a threadjack because you’re focused on the perceived orthodoxy or worthiness of discussants rather than the substance of the original post. I would suggest you’re missing the forest for the trees but it seems we are looking on different landscapes. Your forest is the forest of infallible prophetic leadership.

    In the concluding thought in a post on a self-described Mormon blog, the author seemingly rejects, scriptural authority such as Romans 1, and church doctrine/statements by church leaders (too many to list), in deference to some other framework through which the author arrives at conclusions about God’s approval of “queerness”.

    Paul seemed to believe in a sexless/genderless eternity, and to him the second coming of Christ was literally right around the bend. So like most Latter-day Saints, I read Paul with some discrimination. To me, not everything he said is right. Not everything he said was accurate. Nor do we know for sure whether he was the author of everything attributed to him. The scriptures are authoritative but also limited.

    It seems relevant to inquire about and discuss the “theological defense” (to use Bryan’s words) for your conclusions. For example, I note other commenters have raised the discussion of “fruits” as a sort of theological/scriptural defense to your conclusions and as a means of discerning the truth/falsity/appropriateness of the church’s stance on LGBTQ+ matters.

    I responded to those comments. Fruits. A limited and polyvocal scriptural record. Prophetic fallibility. Promises of further light and knowledge. Imperatives about building Zion and ministering to the margins. This isn’t the place to do it, but people have been drawing on scripture to counter anti-queer scripture for a long time.

    You are clearly advocating a belief about God’s perception of “queerness”. Who are you advocating to?

    To the people who read BCC.

    Those who agree with your position without question? Do you intend for the comment section to be an echo chamber of your personal beliefs?

    You recognize this question seems accusatory, right? I’m actively responding to you, which suggests I don’t merely want an echo chamber.

    If not, is it not relevant to consider and discuss how you arrived at your belief and how it fits within the framework of church doctrine? Is it not relevant to consider and discuss the potential ramifications of dismissing scripture, doctrine and current church teachings on the topic? This is, after all, a Mormon blog.

    To me it isn’t about whether those things are relevant, but how relevant are they in relation to the purpose of the discussion as outlined in the post itself. It’s not a yes or no question, it’s a matter of degree.

    I’m not uncomfortable with a discussion that reflects a disagreement with church leadership. I believe there is a place for that. BCC has served as a thought-provoking and respectful outlet for the discussion of many difficult topics over the years that I have been a reader. But I do believe that a discussion around church doctrine (especially by believing members of the church) demands some level of respect, responsibility, good faith and deference to scripture and existing doctrine. That kind of discussion, from my vantage point, has eroded over the years at BCC.

    You’re comfortable with disagreement but you also want deference. What does deference to scripture and existing doctrine look like to you?

    All that said, to Kristine’s point, maybe I have misread the room all these years. If the purpose of BCC is to serve as the intellectual blog equivalent of /r/exmormon I am apparently in the wrong place…

    More like if you’re disposed to accuse BCC of being the blog version of exmormon reddit you’re probably off topic.

  63. B. Randy says:

    My friends – why are we attacking these people? Hoff took the time to craft detailed and relevant comments, careful to be direct without being overtly offensive. He stated his position clearly without any ad hominem attacks, and his most recent question is legitimate and pertinent to our discussion. Paraphrasing: when should appealing to the authority of the Brethren (and when is that synonymous with Divine authority?) be trumped by appealing to the authority of self? Dismissing his approach as “behind the curve” does not serve our ends of having a healthy discussion on a topic that *needs* healthy discussion.

    MDearest – this subject is clearly close to home for you. Thank you for providing context for where you’re coming from. Rereading this comment thread, however, I don’t think Bensen or Tuna or Hoff began commenting in bad faith or as trolls, though they were clearly treated as such.

    Bensen said he/she/they suffered from dysphoria – that took courage to admit, and no one showed sympathy or even acknowledged it.

    Tuna’s preface might as well have been a summary of “What do Mormons profess to believe?” And Kristine used inflammatory language to put him/her/them down, as if Tuna had never considered how certain commandments might sound to someone who doesn’t feel like they fit in the box.

    The challenge of blog commenting as a form of conversation is that we miss pacing, intonations, volume, emotions, body language, and everything else that makes person-to-person communication so rich and fulfilling. Though I really do understand the emotional nature of LGBTQI+ issues as it relates to the Church, I think we can be more gracious to each other.

  64. Folks I apologize that the discussion has focused on whether or not I was correct to be dismissive of Bensen. The answer, dysphoria aside, is yes, yes I was. If you would like me to, I’ll attempt to post something on Friday about whether or not I’m a big smelly jerk who hates doctrine. But, for now, please save your thoughts on my appropriateness generally for that hypothetical post and instead talk about Blair’s actual post. Thank you.

  65. BHodges says:

    B. Randy: thanks for encouragement to be gracious. I disagree with some of your descriptions. I wrote a whole response about it. But honestly, it’s beside the points I’d like thread to be about. So I deleted it. Let’s leave it there.

  66. Kristine says:

    “All that said, to Kristine’s point, maybe I have misread the room all these years. If the purpose of BCC is to serve as the intellectual blog equivalent of /r/exmormon I am apparently in the wrong place…”

    There is an enormous difference between disagreeing with the Brethren on particular issues and being (or wanting to be) an ex-Mormon. If this were a discussion about vaccination, we’d all be on the side of the prophet and vast swathes of members whose loyalty you wouldn’t question would be on the other. The space is only divided along ideological lines when you read it that way.

    Also, people have been saying that BCC has gone downhill probably since about the three-month mark…

  67. Christian Cardall says:

    I’m puzzled that the “fruits” discussed here focus almost exclusively on adult fulfillment, with nary a notice of what “being fruitful” refers to in foundational scripture and sacred ritual: the responsible generation and stable nurturing of new life.

  68. Christian – So, an 81-year-old man, after fathering 10 children with his first wife, remarries a 56-year-old woman just 14 months after his first wife dies. Please explain to me how that relationship and marriage relates to “being fruitful” as referred to in foundational scripture and sacred ritual?

  69. I’m echoing Mr. Shorty’s comments that church rhetoric about sexuality being “not a big deal” sounds hollow for those who have difficult sex lives. Like him (I’m assuming Mr. Shorty is male), my marriage has struggled. Not exactly sexless, but definitely passion-less with a large portion of dysfunction – it’s not just women who can shut down that part of themselves because of heavy-handed, shame-filled teachings around chastity. By every other optic my marriage is wonderful. But I cannot overstate the pain, heartbreak, and loneliness I have felt for decades because my sex life is not what I hoped and imagined it would be. (Or what we were promised it would be: “keep yourself chaste and guard your thoughts when single and you’ll be blessed when you’re married.”)

    So when I hear the Brethren say that the LGBTQ+ community is making a big deal out of the importance of sexual fulfillment in a committed relationship, I have little patience for that. And I’m a straight woman married to a straight man.

  70. Christian Cardall says:

    Tim, Latter-day Saint doctrine gives such a couple hope for a fruitful union in the resurrection, which they can begin to prepare for and commemorate sacramentally now. This is the most important consideration. Secondarily, she can join him in nurturing the mortal family he’s already generated. Also secondarily, while not actively producing children, such a union follows the pattern, and therefore reinforces societal expectations and understandings about, the type of union (marriage between a man and a woman) that generically can produce children.

  71. Christian Cardall says:

    Margot, I don’t think Church leaders ever say that sexual fulfillment between a married man and woman is unimportant. I think they would say that the unity this generates *is* important—but not as a free-standing good or end in itself, as the rhetoric around same-sex marriage seems to assume. Instead it is a good in the service of uniting them in a higher purpose beyond themselves, namely, the stable and permanent nurturing of their posterity, and the sacramental commemoration of their future hopes for the continuing generation of life in eternity.

  72. B. Randy says:

    Margot, I’m sorry for your experience – it sounds so challenging to have gone through that pain for so many years. I myself was quite surprised to find how much “work” needed to go into something I expected to be naturally passionate and blissfully straightforward. You have a sympathetic ear here.

    I was rereading the comments and couldn’t find anyone who was quoting any “church rhetoric about sexuality ‘not being a big deal.’ ” With the reference to Mr. Shorty, I’m assuming you’re referencing Tuna’s comment about the simplicity of the Law of Chastity helping to ensure that sex doesn’t take an inordinate place in a marriage? While I can’t speak for Tuna, I read that comment not as a condemnation or belittlement of the sexual relationship or romantic attraction, but rather as the need to put it in its proper place and context. Hopefully, no leader out there is advocating for abstinence in the name of spiritual piety!

    I admit I haven’t heard any of the Brethren accusing the LGBTQ+ community of making a big deal out of sexual fulfillment. Where have you heard this from them before?

  73. Thank you for those who took time to reply. I know how precious free time can be!

    Kristine, I admire your passionate defense. I imagine we’d find agreement on many, many subjects. You do make a couple of leaps I’m having a hard time following.

    — “unchosen and apparently immutable traits.” I’m glad conventional wisdom and society in general has come around to understanding how “unchosen” so many of our emotions and tendencies really are. Why do you think that the traits that might lead someone to identify as LGBTQ are immutable? If those traits are indeed imperfect in their current state, wouldn’t the promised resurrection address them?

    — Blessedly, the scriptures make it very clear that God can and will treat all of His children fairly. I love the equality of the Gospel. The only way an exalting covenant would be permanently beyond the reach of a child of God is through that child’s own choices and rebellion. “Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” I know it comes across as too simplistic (and even cavalier) to claim that our sexual behavior is fully in our control, but I’m reminded of an old Elder Maxwell quote: “Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability.”

    At the risk of being too bold, I might rewrite one of your well written sentences to express my view: “Since human sexuality is messy and complex, God provided – and asked that we prioritize – a tidy theological principle to provide structure and balance to a simultaneously wonderful and dangerous human capacity.”

    christiankimball, I love your focus on building Zion. A worthy and worthwhile goal. :-)

    ReTx, we’ve had a similar experience! In my youth, I would sometimes wonder about my non-religious friends. (What Babylon-esque lives they must lead in their pagan homes!) I was humbled and gratified to learn how many Christlike attributes are given in abundance to all of God’s children. I know there are many modern-day Christians (and probably many LDS) who believe that a same-sex marriage, being outside God’s law, couldn’t produce any good fruit at all. I do not believe this. Living in a committed and faithful relationship with *anyone* will hopefully yield increased respect, greater generosity, and an endowment of charity. I have friends in SSMs who have definitely been changed for the better. I’m reminded of President Hinckley’s famous statement: “Bring all the good that you can, and see if we can’t add a little more.” We are definitely a rough stone rolling, but I believe a loving Heavenly Father cut that stone out of the mountain without hands, moving it forward with divine purpose to bless ALL of his children.

    I’d love to hear more thoughts on “LGBT+ identitarianism,” as it seems ‘core identity’ is at the unwritten root of many comments in this thread. But this comment is already way too long!

  74. Christian – You are dancing around the indefensible if trying to claim that heterosexual relationships are the only moral relationships, or that moral relationships must be founded on procreation. It feels like your defense of an evolving and inconsistent set of Mormon teachings is an apologetic attempt to justify hurtful discrimination against the homosexual community and individuals.
    The procreation argument, or fruitful union argument, simply falls apart. Even the church has evolved its position and recognizes that emotional union is important. I will make no illusions here. I have concluded that the Church is absolutely wrong in their teachings. I am not a faithful TBM reinforcing the apologetic tropes on this blog. I am trying to respectfully show the holes in the argument.
    I don’t know all the reasons Rusell Nelson remarried, I am not going to try to guess his heart and mind and intentions or motivations. But it clearly was not to have more children, or to nurture the children he currently has, and it can’t be defended that he married Wendy so he could have more spirit children in the next life. That is unfounded conjecture. The Church has regularly walked back the many assumptions about eternal increase and physical sex or the manners of eternal creation in the resurrection. It is laughable if not disgustingly offensive to claim that a man in his 80’s needs to marry another woman to practice the sex act as a sacrament in preparation for celestial sex in the resurrection.
    It is equally ridiculous to assume that Wendy’s role is to help Russell nurture his current mortal family.
    The most reasonable conclusion is that he remarried for companionship, for intimacy, for love, perhaps even for sex.
    I used to be a faithful TBM and extremely bigoted in my views and treatment of other people. But then I learned. I listened, I studied, I opened my heart and mind.
    I would hope that all Latter-day Saints would learn from Russell’s experience and actions and learn that marriage and union is about not being lonely, about spending your life with another person, about desiring and fulfilling both emotional and physical intimacy. I wish they would learn that marriage is not about having or raising children only, or even primarily. I wish they would learn and accept that humans crave and need physical intimacy. I wish that they would accept all people, regardless of who they choose to love. The reality is that the Church only pretends to know the will of God. And millions of church members and leaders run around reinterpreting everything and justifying everything to fit their own prejudices and biases.

  75. Referring back to the OP–Robert George believes that if Latter-day opposition to same-sex marriage and equal treatment for LGBTQ+ people relies solely on appeals to authority, it is in a precarious position, so he offers some additional justifications. After considering his arguments, and those of his allies at Public Square, Blair has found them unpersuasive, particularly in light of the precedent of unequal treatment for African-Americans in both the Church and the nation. The comments have tended toward a discussion of appeals to authority, that is, the very thing George was trying to bolster.

    As for me, I am very familiar with the arguments brought forward by Bensen, Hoff Hassler, Christian Cardall, and Tuna (whose diplomacy I genuinely admire) in defending the status quo. I once agreed with them myself. But I have since carefully studied what the scriptures say about homosexual relations, and what apostles and prophets have taught over the years about marriage, gender, homosexuality, the nature of spirits and eternal life (including spiritual procreation), and I found much less certainty than I expected. On the other hand, the science on human sexuality has become clearer, and the lived experience of LGBT people has become much more widely known. As a result, my ideas have changed, especially when I put things in the context of the golden rule. If I were gay, would I be happy to be celibate for my entire life–missing out not just on sex, but on every other good thing that comes from marriage, including children–in the hope for better things to come after I was dead? If the shoe were on the other foot, would I be comfortable thinking that after the resurrection my natural inclinations would turn to being exclusively attracted to other men? I now think that being born gay or lesbian has no more moral significance than being born left-handed. For me, all this adds up not to a choice between the Church and the world, but between the Church and the equality, fairness, inclusivity, and love that I find in the teachings of Jesus.

    And then returning once more to the OP–the problem with wholeheartedly accepting current policies of the Church on LGBT issues is that the Brethren have been wrong before, specifically on Blacks and the priesthood, when Church leaders were more influenced by longstanding social prejudices than by eternal gospel principles (even though they had all read 2 Ne. 26:33 for years). How do we know that this isn’t another such instance? I imagine that many of our commenting friends would quickly argue that the two issues are not at all comparable, but I disagree. I have already considered the arguments they might raise and have found them unpersuasive in light of everything in the previous paragraph. I don’t think their opinions carry any more weight than the justifications for the priesthood ban that I heard before 1978: about how Black people were less valiant in the preexistence, or how they would get the priesthood in the Millennium, etc. The good news is that Church members who put loyalty to the Brethren above all else would turn on a dime if there were an announcement from the Frist Presidency that the law of chastity should be applied equally to LGBT members (no sex outside of a legal marriage) and that same-sex marriages are henceforth to be treated equally to opposite-sex marriages (even if we don’t exactly know what that means in the eternities). Indeed, I suppose that many of the strongest defenders of current policies would suddenly start talking about how they had been a little uncomfortable all along, about how much they appreciate continuing revelation and now rejoice to see their LGBT brothers and sisters welcomed in full fellowship to every blessing the restored gospel has to offer. (I saw it happen in the years after 1978.)

    So my question for those who defend current Church doctrine and policies on LGBT issues is: If today, in 2022, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still banned Black people from the priesthood and from temple ordinances, would you still be LDS? It’s not a gotcha question. It’s one that I have struggled with myself. There are Church policies that I disagree with, and even a few doctrines, but I am deferent to our General Authorities because I have a testimony, because I am willing to give Church leaders some leeway, and because I may be wrong–acknowledging that I do not see the full picture and that modern apostles and prophets have more access to revelation than I do. There is so much that I value in the Church that I willing to let some things slide. But I do not believe that the Brethren are infallible, and loyalty to the institution is not my ultimate moral principle. LGBT equality (and women’s equality) are very high on my list of values. I am not going to leave the Church over our current discriminatory policies, but I refuse to defend them, and I am waiting and hoping for the day when they change. Perhaps I’m wrong, Maybe it really is God’s will to treat LGBT people as second-class members of the Church and that is how things will always be. In that case, the Church will fail in its progress and over time will become more orthodox, more defensive, more rigid, and smaller. I work with young adults every day, and it doesn’t matter what the many people like Bensen or Cardall or the proprietors of Public Square say. In 10 or 20 years, the LDS Church will have no more appeal for the rising generation than a church that denies the priesthood to Black people. Indeed, that may already be the case. It’s possible that God has a future in mind where the LDS Church has about the same numbers and social relevance as Christian Scientists, but that would be a far cry from what I thought the Restoration meant when I was growing up. Everything changed in 1978 (and in 1890). It can happen again. Or if not, I don’t hold out much hope that my grandchildren will continue in the faith that I have loved and served for my entire life.

  76. CTR – Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  77. Christian Cardall says:

    Tim and CTR, Church leaders are understandably reluctant to speculate about, and reticent in their comments on, the specifics of the biology of resurrected beings. However, there is no backing away in Church teachings from the basic idea that the generation of life requires the union of male and female, both here and in the hereafter. It is clearly taught in D&C 132, which remains in our canon. It continues to be articulated by prophets and apostles today as the reason for Church teachings and policies surrounding gender and sexual relations. It is inextricably woven into the temple endowment from bottom to top. It is even one of the very few ideas listed as essential to Latter-day Saint theology in the recent book “Thinking Otherwise” by James Faulconer in the Living Faith series from the Maxwell Institute, whose production Blair H. himself must have had a hand in before his departure from the Institute.

  78. Christian Cardall says:

    Tim: >>> I would hope that all Latter-day Saints would learn from Russell’s experience and actions and learn that marriage and union is about not being lonely, about spending your life with another person, about desiring and fulfilling both emotional and physical intimacy. I wish they would learn that marriage is not about having or raising children only, or even primarily. <<<

    This issue, the definition and purpose of marriage, is exactly the crux of the matter discussed in the OP. Because the Church teaches that the generation of life is a defining aspect of deity, our response to this very issue distinguishes an honorable life and a terrestrial hereafter from exaltation in the celestial kingdom, which God offers through the ordinances and covenants of the Church.

  79. Christian Cardall says:

    CTR: >>> I now think that being born gay or lesbian has no more moral significance than being born left-handed. <<>> the problem with wholeheartedly accepting current policies of the Church on LGBT issues is that the Brethren have been wrong before, specifically on Blacks and the priesthood, when Church leaders were more influenced by longstanding social prejudices than by eternal gospel principles (even though they had all read 2 Ne. 26:33 for years). <<<

    The key to distinguishing LGBT issues from race issues is to apply the principle Jesus taught in connection with divorce policy: “From the beginning it was not so.” When applied to race, “From the beginning it was not so” clearly points to availability of the gospel without regard to race (the Abrahamic covenant, 2 Ne. 26.33, the gospel to be preached to “every creature,” early ordinations of black men, etc.). When applied to LGBT issues, “From the beginning it was not so” points clearly to the restriction of sexual relations to marriage between a man and a woman (creation narratives as scriptural foundation, D&C 132 as scriptural capstone, and the liturgical union of these in temple ordinances).

  80. Christian – I’m not trying to pick a fight, and I enjoy thoughtful and respectful conversations and disagreements. Where I believe that the majority of TBM defenders and apologetics fall short is their trust in the current leadership regime and current translation of scriptures. Given the history of radical changes (e.g., blacks and the priesthood, plural marriage, Adam-God theory, Brigham Young’s teaching on blood atonement, and many others) it is not honest to claim that anything is absolute. The president of the church can make any declaration he wants, no matter how radical or transformative. Nothing is inextricably woven. That is the point. Many of us have learned that the prophets cannot be trusted or relied upon. That has been a painful learning, and you obviously disagree with me. But please try to see it from another’s point of view. The current teachings can only be defended by a limited authoritarian translation, which can easily shift over time, and most likely will.

  81. “Appeals to authority” is consistently mentioned here as if there’s a shared, commonly understood bucket into which it automatically belongs: logical fallacy. But there we run into intellectual trouble, because one could rightly assume that if every piece of the Gospel – including the law of chastity – was easily deduced or refuted by human logic, then that would be an argument for the Gospel’s human origins. And yet: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” There are evidently many things that are simply beyond the grasp of the mortal mind.

    Prophets and apostles routinely say things to the effect of, “Look, if this was OUR decision, we’d update A or B. But it is the Lord Jesus Christ who stipulates this doctrine – don’t shoot the messengers.” Interpreting the original phrase, then, in a broader context, I think everyone here is appealing to some kind of authority. Some want to defer to Church leaders, believing they receive direction from God. Others believe the highest authority is personal experience/desire, and that if there is in fact a “god”, his will is beyond mortal comprehension. Most probably reside somewhere on a spectrum.

    I’m curious why BHodges (and others) reject so forcefully the idea of “LGBT+ identitarianism.” For myself, the proverbial “fly in the ointment” when considering non-heteronormative sexual desires from a Church perspective is the many married couples where one of the spouses (usually, but not exclusively, the man) experiences same-sex attraction but reports being happily married to their other-gender spouse. What are we to make of men who profess same-sex attraction while also living truly to their female wife and abiding by Church teachings? Are they fake gays? Are you claiming they are somehow deluded? If only they would “listen and learn”, then they, too, would share your opinion and perspective?

  82. Public Square Mag has published a response to Bhodge’s blog post here: https://publicsquaremag.org/bulletin/is-it-time-for-latter-day-saints-to-support-same-sex-marriage/

  83. Dino, I think your first two paragraphs make some good points about authority: there’s a genuine question of what to do when experience, reason, science, tradition, scripture, and prophetic words come into conflict. (Not saying they’re *all* involved here, but there’s definitely an “epistemic conflict” at the root of this.) For Christians, the key challenge, as I see it, is this: the Bible, and thousands years of tradition, is FOR marriage as being between a man and a woman and AGAINST same-sex marriage; it’s only in the last 50-ish years where that’s seriously come into question. For Latter-day Saints, this is our challenge too, augmented by our unique theology of heaven. So the question is: how does the church “process” the collective testimony of gay and lesbian members?

    Your third paragraph is marred by a really bad tone: no one, least of all Blair, is accusing anyone of being “fake gays” or “deluded.” Please don’t bring that tone here! But you do make an interesting point: that the “collective testimony” is diverse and not univocal. There are gay people who see no future for themselves in the church. There are gay people who see reckon their sexual orientation as a cross to bear: they don’t deny it, but find greater identification with their membership in the church and the doctrine, and accept this situation. (This number is smaller in our church, given that we don’t emphasize Paul’s acceptance of celibacy but rather marriage as the ideal.) There are, as you say, gay people who marry, and some are happy; but we also should not forget the church’s rhetoric has forced a number of people into those situations to THOSE MEMBERS DETRIMENT, and it has ended in pain and divorce. There are lots of stories of that pain; that’s why I think your tone there is not great.

    Again: how does the church “process” the collective testimony of gay and lesbian members? How do we look into our scripture and theology and work forward from that? That’s a question with a non-obvious answer, and with this post as one entry into that larger debate. (For which, again, I’m really grateful.)

  84. Danyal, Blair will likely add this, but it’s worth noting that Blair has already responded to PSQ’s response. An enlightening back-and-forth, all told.

  85. Thanks for the reply, Bryan, and my apologies if the tone came off harsh. I think someone else commented on the challenge of blog comments versus live, in-person conversation. Here, then, is Exhibit B. My bad.

    I guess I’m trying to understand why proponents of this worldview (the Church needs to update the Law of Chastity to allow for same-sex marriages) interpret sexual orientation as an either/or. Gender identity is allowed to be a spectrum, but sexual orientation is straight or gay (with some allowance for bi). Viewed in this light, asking “the gays” to live a heterosexual existence is an affront to their very identity, and you are right to call out that many have suffered greatly in attempting to reconcile that experienced dissonance. And yet while it sounds like a silly semantic distinction, I really do believe there is a major difference between identifying as someone who experiences same-sex attraction and identifying as gay. Maybe a metaphor will help me clarify this better.

    Imagine with me for a moment that we existed before earth life as a spirit in the same shape and form of a human body. I think a lot of Church members see earth life as a time when we are, at our core, that same spirit that has existed for some time. But while we’re here on earth, we’re wearing all sorts of different ponchos (just trying to think of a single piece of clothing that more or less covers us entirely). One poncho might be athleticism or a tendency toward graceful movements. One poncho might be a blood condition that we’ll have for years…but it won’t kick in until we’re an adult. One poncho might be an extremely short fuse. One poncho might be an abnormal capacity to love unconditionally, which could be a blessing or a curse. And one poncho might be sexual desire. These ponchos absolutely – and necessarily! – contribute to our current reality. Some of the ponchos are out of sync with the others, because that’s the nature of ponchos in mortality, and some are dangerous and will somehow consume the rest if not controlled (stretching the limits of this metaphor, but stay with me). And yet it would seem that these ponchos don’t have to be permanent! That we currently see through a glass darkly, that we don’t see everything as it really is, and that it might not be wise to value one poncho above the rest, basing the worth of all other ponchos on the mortal experience of that one poncho.

    Others imagine the spirit as being a gay spirit. Sexual proclivity isn’t a poncho, but is inextricably linked to pre- and post-mortal reality.

    Obviously, there are huge limits to my metaphor. I don’t believe that sexual orientation is a choice (though I *do* believe that sexual desire can be reinforced and cemented through repeated experience, but that is tangential and another topic for another post), nor do I believe that we can or need to find a way to “remove that poncho” during mortality. The point of my metaphor is simply to try and give a mental visual that represents (however poorly) the two sides in this discussion.

    It’s not meant to be an evasion to your question. But if “gay and lesbian members” decided to elevate other ponchos above sexual orientation, would the Church need to process anything? While sexual orientation is CLEARLY a major contributor to mortal experience and the lenses by which we process the world, some people feel homosexual feelings and desires and define their very existence by it. And others feel those same feelings and desires and choose to subjugate them to other priorities. What do we do with that reality?

  86. Dino, REALLY interesting metaphor. And “What do do with that reality” is a GREAT question, you framed it well I think. Thank you! I do have a thought in reply, which requires a bit of a lead-up. Sorry for another long-ish comment.

    In New Testament scholar Richard Hays’ 1996 article (which I linked to in my first comment), he talks about how the Bible, on the whole, “demythologizes” sex. He writes: “The Bible undercuts our cultural obsession with sexual fulfillment. Scripture (along with many subsequent generations of faithful Christians) bears witness that lives of freedom, joy, and service are possible without sexual relations. Indeed, however odd it may seem to contemporary sensibilities, some New Testament passages (Matt. 19: 10– 12, 1 Cor. 7) clearly commend the celibate life as a way of faithfulness. In the view of the world that emerges from the pages of Scripture, sex appears as a matter of secondary importance.” He doesn’t discount their important, or the need for constraint and proper direction for the passions. But he notes that the Bible never makes sexuality the basis for a meaningful or fulfilled life.

    In my experience, LDS theology “remythologizes” sex. Marriage is made essential, for us, to exaltation. And consider this from President Packer: “Romantic love … is not only a part of life, but literally a dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly religious. There is no abundant life without it. Indeed, the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom is unobtainable in the absence of it.” I don’t know if this is too strongly stated—but it’s certainly the STRONGEST reading of our attitudes toward sexuality and romance in *this* life.

    To bring it back to your metaphor: as a Christian, I’d be inclined to agree with your point about the poncho being something we wear. It’s easier to imagine because our sexuality is made secondary, and a celibate life is a viable and honorable path; I think here of gay christian Wesley Hill’s excellent article “The Long Defeat”, which meditates on that path. But as a Latter-day Saint, whatever the rhetoric of our leaders, it seems like our theology *encourages* the legitimization of our romantic feelings and sexual desires as something essential to our souls, rather than a poncho. Marriage is essential to exaltation. Romance is a major part of marriage and the “abundant life.” And the end goal of the law of chastity is never celibacy; it is always (heterosexual) marriage. This means people who are single, and especially people who are single AND gay, in a tricky situation to make sense of. Some people can do it, and see it as a poncho (or “thorn in the flesh”, to use Paul’s term). But many cannot, and I don’t blame them, given what we teach.

    Does that make sense? Want to make sure

  87. Kristine says:

    Dino–try it this way, and see if it’s still convincing to you:

    But if “straight members” decided to elevate other ponchos above sexual orientation, would the Church need to process anything? While sexual orientation is CLEARLY a major contributor to mortal experience and the lenses by which we process the world, some people feel heterosexual feelings and desires and define their very existence by it. And others feel those same feelings and desires and choose to subjugate them to other priorities. What do we do with that reality?

    ————————-

    The Church is ALL ABOUT defining your life by your heterosexual desire and its sequelae. If tomorrow the prophet announced that you would need to marry a person of your same gender, but not to worry because it’s possible to subjugate sexual desire to other priorities, would you still write this paragraph?

  88. Very late to the party here, but one observation: It seems to me that we should more carefully consider how quick we are to point out how someone else must change, adapt, accept an existence dramatically diminished, or fit in to our interpretation of scripture in order to preserve some belief, identity or world view that we hold.

    A much better premise from which to start is to accept Paul’s admission that he sees through a glass darkly, and so do we. And then proceed in a manner that increases love, acceptance, fulfillment and joy and minimizes loneliness, isolation, rejection and misguided judgement.

    In other words Love others as we would be loved.

  89. Bryan, Kristine – thank you both for engaging respectfully. Your insightful questions show that my poncho metaphor needs work! I’m out of pocket for the next few hours, but will respond then. In the interim, if you have time, I’d appreciate reading your thoughts on why the “pro-SSM” side insists on defining self-identity so restrictively: 1) either you’re gay, or you’re not, with no room for the “messy spectrum” that seems to exist; 2) your sexual desire forms the foundational, eternally integrated poncho on which all others must rest.

    Much appreciated!

  90. Christian Cardall says:

    KRISTINE: >>> some people feel heterosexual feelings and desires and define their very existence by it <<>> The Church is ALL ABOUT defining your life by your heterosexual desire and its sequelae. <<<

    To the extent this is so, perhaps the conceptualization of those in the Church who think this way needs to shift away from a Disney-like promise of individual fulfillment of heterosexual desires to an emphasis instead on considering the restraint and deployment of our sexual powers as matters of sacrifice and consecration for the Lord’s purposes (as with any other means, gift, or power the Lord blesses us with).

  91. Christian Cardall says:

    KRISTINE: “some people feel heterosexual feelings and desires and define their very existence by it”

    I think George (and those at PS who agree with him) would say that this also is an exercise in “expressive individualism,” and therefore philosophically and morally incorrect, even if in the case of heterosexual desire it sometimes and partially aligns with God’s purposes. I think their point of view is that the sex and gender components of someone’s identity should be defined instead by the objective functionality of their sex organs rather than their inner experience, feelings, desires, etc.

    “The Church is ALL ABOUT defining your life by your heterosexual desire and its sequelae.”

    To the extent this is so, perhaps the conceptualization of those in the Church who think this way needs to shift away from a Disney-like promise of individual fulfillment of heterosexual desires to an emphasis instead on considering the restraint and deployment of our sexual powers as matters of sacrifice and consecration for the Lord’s purposes (as with any other means, gift, or power the Lord blesses us with).

  92. Christian Cardall says:

    Sorry about the partial duplication of that comment. My formatting with the “greater than” and “less than” characters apparently caused some of it to be cut from my initial submission. And it looks like the same thing happened to my comment at 7:53am, which was supposed to read as follows:

    CTR: “I now think that being born gay or lesbian has no more moral significance than being born left-handed.”

    Being born left-handed entails no complications for the generation of life through the union of man and woman. Thus the blithe equivalence expressed here speaks volumes by way of a trivializing attitude towards the bearing and raising of children.

    CTR: “the problem with wholeheartedly accepting current policies of the Church on LGBT issues is that the Brethren have been wrong before, specifically on Blacks and the priesthood, when Church leaders were more influenced by longstanding social prejudices than by eternal gospel principles (even though they had all read 2 Ne. 26:33 for years).”

    The key to distinguishing LGBT issues from race issues is to apply the principle Jesus taught in connection with divorce policy: “From the beginning it was not so.” When applied to race, “From the beginning it was not so” clearly points to availability of the gospel without regard to race (the Abrahamic covenant, 2 Ne. 26.33, the gospel to be preached to “every creature,” early ordinations of black men, etc.). When applied to LGBT issues, “From the beginning it was not so” points clearly to the restriction of sexual relations to marriage between a man and a woman (creation narratives as scriptural foundation, D&C 132 as scriptural capstone, and the liturgical union of these in temple ordinances).

  93. Dino, yeah, this is a good exchange! Thanks for the respect as well. Hope we haven’t strayed too far from the OP. (Looks nervously for Blair.)

    Re: your question about identity. I’ll only add that I like how Wesley Hill frames it. In talking about ministries that have helped him deal with homosexuality, he says the TRULY helpful ones ones do two at least two things: first, they “recognize that my sexual orientation affects everything about me, just like heterosexuality does for others… Just as your (straight) sexuality suffuses much more than your overt romantic encounters, attractions, or relationships, the same is true for a gay or lesbian person. Our sexuality is more like a facet of our personalities than a separable piece of our behavior; it is more like a trait than a habit, more like a sensibility than an action.” This goes back to Kristine’s point: if you can’t swap “homosexuality” for “heterosexuality”, at least when you’re talking about the EXPERIENCE of things, you’re probably being disingenuous. Then there’s his second point: the helpful ministries simultaneously “recognize that my sexual orientation does not define me. In other words, same-sex attracted people throughout history have not always understood themselves as having fixed sexual ‘orientations’ and cultural ‘identities,’ nor will they go on doing so forever. Those understandings of what ‘being gay’ amounts to are a reality of our particular cultural moment, and same-sex attracted people like me must figure out how to navigate them.”

    I think—just my opinion—the Church has done poorly on the first part (recognizing that our sexual orientation affects everything about us) while attempting to speak to the second point (our sexual orientation doesn’t define us). I think that second point is valid–our sexual orientation, as with our race and class and education and gender doesn’t “define” us (though it needs to walked carefully, as Robert implies in his comment above). But as I said in an earlier comment, this point is hard to swallow when our vision of heaven and celestial life is so implicated by that orientation.

  94. And FWIW, Wesley Hill talks about other ways ministries have been helpful to him as a gay Christian: among other things, they “take the risk of speaking up about same-sex attraction,” they “try to imagine the difficulty of being gay and the costliness of staying single”, they engage “Scripture and Christian theology in a deep, rigorous way”, “try to imagine and implement creative avenues to spiritual kinship and friendship”. As a church, we could do better on EVERY SINGLE ONE of these counts. Going back to the OP, it’s precisely the fact that we DON’T do these that makes the “appeal to authority” so hard: our authorities don’t make the effort to show they’re listening!

  95. So much good stuff in this thread, but thanks, especially to CTR. Your post this morning was amazing.

  96. Christian Cardall, it would be interesting to hear how your “from the beginning it was not so” test applies to slavery and birth control. That is to say, what are we to do about old things that are obviously wrong but very much biblical (in both the Old and New Testaments), and new things that are not in the Bible but are key elements of modern society and family life? And when you address the practice of birth control–in the context of sexual relations in a marriage between a man and a woman, of course–will you be defending the position of apostles and prophets from the 1920s through the 1960s, or the position of Church leaders today? You want to draw a hard distinction between racial and sexual issues by appealing to scripture, historical precedent, liturgy, social conventions, and theological assumptions. Those sources do not seem as definitive to me as they apparently do to you. I am open to further light and knowledge on such essential topics.

    P.S. Are you in favor of treating remarriage after divorce in the church today the same as adultery, except in cases where infidelity broke up a marriage? It’s hard to tell from your argument.

  97. CTR, I’m really enjoying your back-and-forth with Christian. I’ve struggled with this same principle: racial equality in the church seems clearly forecast “from the beginning,” but “marriage equality” (is that the right word?) not so much. What does that mean?

    Thinking out loud for a moment: there’s a related principle explained by NT scholar Richard Hays in his 1996 article on homosexuality and the Church: near the end, he talks about people who say “well, in Acts, the early church received revelation undoing the previous exclusion of gentiles. Perhaps the same thing is set to happen here, given gay Christian’s experience?” His response—it’s a big long, but worth quoting in full—he says this:

    … it is crucial to remember that experience must be treated as a hermeneutical lens for reading the New Testament rather than as an independent, counterbalancing authority. This is the point at which the analogy to the early church’s acceptance of Gentiles fails decisively. The church did not simply observe the experience of Cornelius and his household and decide that Scripture must be wrong after all. On the contrary, the experience of uncircumcised Gentiles responding in faith to the gospel message led the church back to a new reading of Scripture. This new reading discovered in the texts a clear message of God’s intent, from the covenant with Abraham forward, to bless all nations and to bring Gentiles (qua Gentiles) to worship Israel’s God. That is, for example, what Paul seeks to establish in the complex exegetical arguments conducted in Galatians and Romans. We see the rudiments of such a reflective process in Acts 10: 34– 35, where Peter begins his speech to Cornelius by alluding to Deuteronomy 10: 17– 18 and Psalm 15:1– 2 in order to confess that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Only because the new experience of Gentile converts proved hermeneutically illuminating of Scripture was the church, over time, able to accept the decision to embrace Gentiles within the fellowship of God’s people. This is precisely the step that has not— or at least not yet— been taken by the advocates of homosexuality in the church. Is it possible for them to reread the New Testament and show how this development can be understood as a fulfillment of God’s design for human sexuality as previously revealed in Scripture? In view of the content of the biblical texts summarized [in the book chapter], it is difficult to imagine how such an argument could be made.

    It’s a great question, though I’m not sure it applies to us exactly: Hays is a protestant Christian, where “sola scriptura” is the primary locus of authority; for us, it’s different. But it seems like a salient point nonetheless: is there something in scripture that indicates same-sex marriage would be a fulfillment of God’s design for human sexuality? Much as I’d like to find something, I can’t find anything in scripture to indicate that marriage outside a man and a woman is designed by the Lord; while racial equality and slavery at least has some early foreshadowing (i.e. Genesis 1.26-28 establishing we’re all made in God’s image, and Genesis 10 showing that we’re all descended from those original “images”). Of course, I don’t want to talk past you: it doesn’t seem like you think this point holds. Your question “What are we to do about old things that are obviously wrong but very much biblical (in both the Old and New Testaments), and new things that are not in the Bible but are key elements of modern society and family life?” is a good one. (And birth control does seem like a salient illustration, in that it severs the procreative purpose from marriage.) But I wonder then what the criteria for determining whether a change like this SHOULD be made is?

    I don’t think it can be just a “golden rule” mentality, as you mentioned earlier. As Richard Hays says, “it is impossible to argue simply from an IS to an OUGHT.” But I do like Hays’ approach that “claims about divinely inspired experience that contradicts the witness of Scripture should be admitted to normative status in the church only after sustained and agonizing scrutiny by a consensus of the faithful.” (For us, it would have to be altered to include ” and revelation from prophets and apostles.”)

  98. I’d like to offer a comment on the discussion going on between Dino and Bryan right now. I intend to match the respectful tone of that discussion. Dino, in the first comment where you mentioned men who are attracted to men but are happily married to women, I was glad to see that you followed up in a subsequent comment with an acknowledgement of bisexuality. Bisexuality doesn’t even have to be a 50/50 split where a person is attracted to men and women in equal measure. A bisexual man may have 80% attraction to men and 20% to women, and he can be happily married to a woman as long as his wife is in that 20%. Among the queer community, at least the at least the portion of the queer community that I’m in, there is no insistence on black and white labels. There’s definitely a spectrum of sexuality. There are people who are 100% hetero, there are people who are 100% gay, and then there’s bi, pan, fluid, demi, gray and a whole bunch of other words that mean you’re not one hundred percent of either.

    Another point I think it would be useful to consider is that sex drive differs by person also. I have a 100% gay friend who can go two or three years between sexual experiences and he’s fine with that. His sex drive is not very high but when it’s there it’s directed solely towards men. Sex drive is unconnected to sexuality. Meaning that a straight person can have either a high or low or medium sex drive, the same way a queer person can have a high low or medium sex drive.

    A lot of the fight for gay rights has been led by the most visible members of the queer Community. You’re not going to see me marching on Washington for gay rights, but I sure appreciate the people in the gay community who are willing to do that. So when you’re engaging with the loudest activists and their arguments, keep in mind that there are a lot more gay people who perhaps do have changing labels, lower sex drives, or a disinclination to prioritize the fight for gay rights just because we don’t have the personality to handle activist work.

  99. History has proven prophets to be wrong.
    History has proven scriptures to be wrong.
    Prophets and scriptures are not reliable sources of truth or morality.
    Prophets and scriptures are crutches and scapegoats for people to justify their own beliefs.

  100. Kristine says:

    Christian

    “I think George (and those at PS who agree with him) would say that this also is an exercise in “expressive individualism,” and therefore philosophically and morally incorrect, even if in the case of heterosexual desire it sometimes and partially aligns with God’s purposes. I think their point of view is that the sex and gender components of someone’s identity should be defined instead by the objective functionality of their sex organs rather than their inner experience, feelings, desires, etc.”

    This sounds right to me, as far as what George believes, but it’s also Catholic and strikingly not Mormon–compared to Pratt and early leaders, and also to church leaders from at least McKay onward, where the kind of sentimentality that attaches to heterosexual desire and family life is sacralized as an index to Deity. It seems to me that there’s a lot of this theology that works consistently in Catholic thought, where there is a notion of consecrated celibacy, but Mormonism does not have (at least not yet?) that kind of doctrine. Mormon cryptocatholicism is really puzzling to me in this regard.

  101. Bryan, I appreciate your bringing Richard Hays into the conversation. I have long admired him as an interpreter of scripture, a moral thinker, and a Christian. Your question about “something in scripture that indicates same-sex marriage would be a fulfillment of God’s design for human sexuality” is a good one. Admittedly, there is not much to work with since legally sanctioned, companionate same-sex marriages are quite new in world history. Still, I often think back to God’s observation in Genesis 1 that “it is not good that the man should be alone.” If that’s good advice for an 81 year old apostle, it’s also good advice for my gay LDS brother-in-law. In our Latter-day Saint liturgical tradition, we have the example of Adam (following Eve’s lead) deciding that it would be preferable to go against what seemed to be God’s immutable law so as not to be left a lone man in the garden of Eden. The opportunity to form a lifelong companionship with a person whom one loves and is attracted to (in all sorts of ways) is worth a high cost.

    You’re exactly right that Latter-day Saints need more than a reinterpretation of scripture to make major changes in policy or doctrine. It takes revelation to prophets and apostles. But it also takes Church leaders who are listening to people on the ground, who ask hard questions of themselves and of the Lord, and who are open to revelation that charts a new path. I believe that will come someday, in the form of a a third Official Declaration, because I believe that God loves all his children equally and that LGBT members deserve the same opportunities for marital happiness and fulfillment that I have enjoyed. I think that almost anything can change in the direction of more fairness and love. But it’s not my call, and I could be wrong. In that case, I have had enough positive experiences within the Church that I will stay committed for the rest of my life. Others, however, will weigh things differently, especially the rising generation, those directly affected by the Church’s current policies, and those with family members who have been deeply hurt or even damaged by prevailing LDS attitudes. It would be a sad thing for the Church to die on this particular hill.

  102. Bryan, I’ve been giving more thought to your question and it occurs to me that there may be another scriptural precedent with regard to Jesus’s strict prohibition of divorce (a topic that Christian Cardall inadvertently brought up). If the modern Church can disregard an direct, explicit teaching of Jesus on marriage–because life is messy, because we have to allow people their best shot at happiness in this life, and because there are a lot of things we’re content to let God sort out in the next life–then perhaps there is more flexibility than most people have assumed on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, two topics that Jesus never mentioned.

  103. BHodges says:

    Christian:
    The key to distinguishing LGBT issues from race issues is to apply the principle Jesus taught in connection with divorce policy: “From the beginning it was not so.” When applied to race, “From the beginning it was not so” clearly points to availability of the gospel without regard to race (the Abrahamic covenant, 2 Ne. 26.33, the gospel to be preached to “every creature,” early ordinations of black men, etc.). When applied to LGBT issues, “From the beginning it was not so” points clearly to the restriction of sexual relations to marriage between a man and a woman (creation narratives as scriptural foundation, D&C 132 as scriptural capstone, and the liturgical union of these in temple ordinances).

    The Restoration as envisioned by Joseph Smith rejects your application of the principle of “from the beginning it was not so.” In D&C 128 he blew the doors off such restrictions like this:

    “It is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that younger generations are leading the way.

    To some of your other points, we also know more about sexual reproduction today, making use of technologies that don’t require physical penetrative sex between male and female in order to produce offspring. It’s been possible and actual for years.

    As I said in the OP, I think belief in viviparous spirit birth and literal sexual procreation in the eternities is the central piece of theology that undergirds the church’s current heteronormativity. But even if I granted that we should believe in those things, it doesn’t follow that everyone should aim for that goal or would want to aim for that goal. “In my father’s house there are many mansions.” We are given a vision of various degrees of glory and different eternal stations and possibilities. “Many great and important things” are yet to be revealed pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

  104. BHodges says:

    Dino you said: “Prophets and apostles routinely say things to the effect of, “Look, if this was OUR decision, we’d update A or B. But it is the Lord Jesus Christ who stipulates this doctrine – don’t shoot the messengers.”

    I’ve never seen an apostle or member of the First Presidency say they would ordain women to the priesthood or change the church’s stance on LGBTQ issues if it was up to them but they have to do God’s will instead. I’ve seen them say they can’t change it because it’s God’s will, but I’ve never seen anyone say they would love to change those things if it was up to them. I kinda think you’re making that up, so do you have any examples?

  105. Cell phone formatting don’t fail me now!

    Dino: For myself, the proverbial “fly in the ointment” when considering non-heteronormative sexual desires from a Church perspective is the many married couples where one of the spouses (usually, but not exclusively, the man) experiences same-sex attraction but reports being happily married to their other-gender spouse. What are we to make of men who profess same-sex attraction while also living truly to their female wife and abiding by Church teachings? Are they fake gays? Are you claiming they are somehow deluded? If only they would “listen and learn”, then they, too, would share your opinion and perspective?

    I know some people who’ve found satisfaction in their mixed-orientation marriage. Some of them actively ask people not to use them as paradigmatic exemplars for others. I also know many more couples whose attempts became a complete train wreck. Enough so that the church has pivoted away from recommending MOM as a preferred option for gay people, though admonitions linger. I wouldn’t try to pressure a gay person to only marry another gay person. I would feel like their odds are not great, but I’d wish them well in it. You also overlook bisexuality and asexuality and pansexuality and more. The claim that queer folks acknowledge a spectrum of gender but insist on a binary of sexuality is so incredibly inaccurate, and that’s an understatement. (And now I see Janey has made the point more concisely and eloquently!)

    Christian: one problem with George’s “expressive individualism” criticism is that he ends up sneaking expressive individualism in through the back door by making the individual a decision maker in the process of proper identity formation, as you do by suggesting people consecrate their sexuality by confining it to sexual reproduction (which makes infertility and menopause interesting things to reconsider). Sexual reproduction can happen even if gay people live gay lives. Nobody is preventing us straights from getting things done all these years. You’re convinced that more is better, but quality doesn’t have to correlate with quantity.

    Bryan: this is a good exchange! Thanks for the respect as well. Hope we haven’t strayed too far from the OP. (Looks nervously for Blair.)

    The off-topic stuff pertained to evaluating and questioning people’s worthiness/membership/Mormonness. Your exchange fits right in with what I hoped to see here.

    As for your Wesley Hill stuff which I find interesting, here’s one question I have for practicing gay Christians who believe God objects to gay sex etc.: Suppose we erased prohibitions about queer stuff from Christian theology. Suppose the Bible didn’t include its rare and even obscure pronouncements against what has inaccurately come to be called sodomy? What overall damage would those changes do to Christianity as a whole? Would the system of Christianity itself collapse with its absence? What biblical imperatives would demand us to decide, even though the Bible doesn’t say so, to prohibit queer relationships?

    CTR I don’t know you but I want to! Email me lol. Well said with the reference to “it is not good for man to be alone.” I wish I shared your optimism that OD3 could happen. I can’t get my hopes up because there’s virtually none left in me on this issue.

    Tim: I understand why you’d conclude that prophetic fallibility equates to prophetic futility. I’m not there in part because I probably define prophets and prophecy differently than you.

    Kristine: amen to the Mormon cryptocatholicism as being worthy of calling out.

    CTR plz email me.

  106. Geoff - Aus says:

    The definition of chastity in the temple endowment used to be no sex outside marriage. When gay marriage became legal in America I expected that the church would just include gay marriages.

    The next time the film was changed the definition of chastity had been changed to exclude gay people.

    The long term definitions of marriage did not exclude gay marriages, but often were changed to exclude gay people when gay marriage became an option.

    Gay marriage is no longer political here. It is only because the Republican party is so extreme that it is there. They do not even believe in democracy any more.

    Like you CTR I continue to hope for revelation.

  107. @Bryan – really cool insight on “remythologizing” sex. I think our modern culture in general has overemphasized that to our collective detriment. But you’re right that our theology emphasizes the romantic attraction element. I married later than most of my peers, so I really do get the difficulty of being single in our religious culture. Where our agreement deviates is that someone who experiences same-sex attraction will automatically have to choose between faithful adherence or romantic experience.

    @Kristine, @BHodges – At this juncture, my comment wraps in contributions from you two, so I’ll speak more broadly. I must be communicating ineffectively because I don’t believe the two of you are intentionally ignoring my repeated question.

    BHodges: “You also overlook bisexuality and asexuality and pansexuality and more. The claim that queer folks acknowledge a spectrum of gender but insist on a binary of sexuality is so incredibly inaccurate, and that’s an understatement.”

    I think you mistakenly misread my initial comments. My point is precisely what you wrote: sexual desire is crazy complex and does not fit neatly into “gay” and “straight.” I did not claim that queer people insist on a binary of sexual desire; I claimed that defenders in this comment section of same-gender marriages were insisting erroneously on a binary split.

    For example: Kristine, you requested that I swap out heterosexual for homosexual in something I wrote, but I don’t believe a binary separation of sexuality is accurate or helpful in fostering understanding. Janey helpfully articulated what I apparently had trouble doing: just because a man or woman has an erotic physiological response to someone of the same gender does not make them automatically, 100% gay. As Tuna mentioned earlier, human sexual attraction is all over the place. I believe it reasonable – especially since children come through sexual union – that God would put some boundaries and restrictions on sexual expression, as not all expressions are acceptable in His sight.

    Imagine you wake up every morning and have to put on a pair of glasses before you see the world around you. Now imagine that one pair of glasses might have lenses of faith. Another pair might have lenses of cynicism. Another pair might have lenses of gratitude. Another pair might be sexual attraction. Robert rightly warned to be wary of how much we counsel others to change. My concern is that some people in the church who have experienced same-sex attraction are deciding to wear that pair of glasses every single day, interpreting the world first-and-foremost through those lenses. (This metaphor is similar to the LGBT+ identitarianism mentioned earlier, albeit phrased rather imperfectly.) Yes, sexual desire is a major part of our mortal experience – can we not choose to let other elements of our identities take higher precedence? Can we not live and strive to wear the lenses of the Spirit, to see things as they really are and really will be?

  108. (keeping in mind we’re already over 100 comments and going slightly tangential)
    It frustrates me that we treat so many things as if they were only spiritual, with nothing that can be added via scientific and experiential data. Much of it may be knowledge gained in the last 100 years or so, some very recently, but we know what happens when gender and sexuality are denied validity. We know the joy (repeat, JOY) that can happen when gender and sexuality can be expressed freely, even with the limits of unmarried celibacy.
    It’s frustrating that we have gained so much knowledge and decide it’s not valid because it didn’t come through a prophet. That we think the restoration is in the past and that whatever we have now is “how it was from the beginning”. It seems like “pray with the intent to change to what you learn” only applies when you’re not in power.
    But I could certainly be wrong, about a number of things. I know my answers are for me alone; I am not a leader in this Church. Thankfully, sustaining does not mean constant agreement. That tension between personal and hierarchical revelation is a treasured part of our religion.
    Anyway, revelation, at any level, is limited when we exclude some sources of knowledge.

  109. Dino – Yes, there is an element of choice in being LGBTQ+, but there are costs. I don’t believe that God would give people problems that are suicidally painful where the only option is to go away from Him. And we know, despite assurances that things can be suppressed with enough faith, that it is not always enough.
    And please don’t assume that those who do not believe in the current Church positions on LGBTQ+ mean they are LGBTQ+ first rather than children of God.

  110. Dino: For myself, the proverbial “fly in the ointment” when considering non-heteronormative sexual desires from a Church perspective is the many married couples where one of the spouses (usually, but not exclusively, the man) experiences same-sex attraction but reports being happily married to their other-gender spouse. What are we to make of men who profess same-sex attraction while also living truly to their female wife and abiding by Church teachings? Are they fake gays? Are you claiming they are somehow deluded? If only they would “listen and learn”, then they, too, would share your opinion and perspective?

    I know some people who’ve found satisfaction in their mixed-orientation marriage. Some of them actively ask people not to use them as paradigmatic exemplars for others. I also know many more couples whose attempts became a complete train wreck. Enough so that the church has pivoted away from recommending MOM as a preferred option for gay people, though admonitions linger. I wouldn’t try to pressure a gay person to only marry another gay person. I would feel like their odds are not great, but I’d wish them well in it. You also overlook bisexuality and asexuality and pansexuality and more. The claim that queer folks acknowledge a spectrum of gender but insist on a binary of sexuality is so incredibly inaccurate, and that’s an understatement. (And now I see Janey has made the point more concisely and eloquently!)

    Christian: one problem with George’s “expressive individualism” criticism is that he ends up sneaking expressive individualism in through the back door by making the individual a decision maker in the process of proper identity formation, as you do by suggesting people consecrate their sexuality by confining it to sexual reproduction (which makes infertility and menopause interesting things to reconsider). Sexual reproduction can happen even if gay people live gay lives. Nobody is preventing us straights from getting things done all these years. You’re convinced that more is better, but quality doesn’t have to correlate with quantity.

    Bryan: this is a good exchange! Thanks for the respect as well. Hope we haven’t strayed too far from the OP. (Looks nervously for Blair.)

    The off-topic stuff pertained to evaluating and questioning people’s worthiness/membership/Mormonness. Your exchange fits right in with what I hoped to see here.

    As for your Wesley Hill stuff which I find interesting, here’s one question I have for practicing gay Christians who believe God objects to gay sex etc.: Suppose we erased prohibitions about queer stuff from Christian theology. Suppose the Bible didn’t include its rare and even obscure pronouncements against what has inaccurately come to be called sodomy? What overall damage would those changes do to Christianity as a whole? Would the system of Christianity itself collapse with its absence? What biblical imperatives would demand us to decide, even though the Bible doesn’t say so, to prohibit queer relationships?

    CTR I don’t know you but I want to! Email me lol. Well said with the reference to “it is not good for man to be alone.” I wish I shared your optimism that OD3 could happen. I can’t get my hopes up because there’s virtually none left in me on this issue.

    Tim: I understand why you’d conclude that prophetic fallibility equates to prophetic futility. I’m not there in part because I probably define prophets and prophecy differently than you.

    Kristine: amen to the Mormon cryptocatholicism as being worthy of calling out.

    Dino, thanks for clarifying. By using gay (or to use the outdated term “homosexual” in her example I didn’t read Kristine as insisting on a binary, but using one example of non-heterosexuality to illustrate a problem with your framing.

    I believe it reasonable – especially since children come through sexual union – that God would put some boundaries and restrictions on sexual expression, as not all expressions are acceptable in His sight.

    Same! Restrictions like honoring bodily autonomy, respecting consent, avoiding unrighteous sexual dominion, etc. etc. Nobody here is advocating for anything goes.

    Sexual attraction and gender identity aren’t glasses you can take off at will. I reject the metaphor on its face.
    Should we take the glasses of heterosexuality off?

  111. Dino, thanks for clarifying. By using gay (or to use the outdated term “homosexual” in her example I didn’t read Kristine as insisting on a binary, but using one example of non-heterosexuality to illustrate a problem with your framing.

    I believe it reasonable – especially since children come through sexual union – that God would put some boundaries and restrictions on sexual expression, as not all expressions are acceptable in His sight.

    Same! Restrictions like honoring bodily autonomy, respecting consent, avoiding unrighteous sexual dominion, etc. etc. Nobody here is advocating for anything goes.

    Sexual attraction and gender identity aren’t glasses you can take off at will. I reject the metaphor on its face.

  112. A fault line in myself that I’m recognizing: I feel the weight of scripture and tradition very strongly. (It’s part of why I’m seeking precedent in scripture so firmly.) But something this conversation is making me see is: I might feel it too strongly? I may have a too-Christian sensibility in that reverence for previous revelation—”We believe the Bible to be the word of God”—when I need a Restoration sensibility —”as far as it is translated correctly” (not to mention “we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”, including “those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent”).

    CTR: thanks for those scriptural illustrations. Pointing to “it is not good for man to be alone,” Adam’s choice to stay with Eve, and Jesus talking to divorce really helps the part of me that needs to find some grounding in scripture for discussing whether SSM could be accepted.

    And Blair, to your question about what changes it would make or collapse it would cause to Christianity if we accepted same-sex marriages: I don’t know. That’s a terrific question and I’ll admit, the fact that I can’t answer that question clearly is making me question a lot of things.

    Thank you both (and others) for your empathetic and “loyal opposition” approach to this issue. As mentioned, my possibly too-conservative theological imagination has been really stretched here. Time for some more prayer and reflection and study.

  113. Dino, I want to take a stab at answering this question:

    //Yes, sexual desire is a major part of our mortal experience – can we not choose to let other elements of our identities take higher precedence? Can we not live and strive to wear the lenses of the Spirit, to see things as they really are and really will be?//

    I’m going to speak from my own experience, rather than appealing to scripture and doctrine. [Insert the typical description of how faithful I was for the first 30 years of my life and etc.] I married in the temple and found out that I intensely dislike procreative sex. I was willing to endure the ‘sacred procreative process’ because I wanted children, but I enjoyed it about as much as I think a cow enjoys being inseminated by a farmer. I got divorced. Several years after the divorce, I discovered the word “asexual” and went into a painful identity crisis.

    There are two reasons I have a hard time with the suggestion that I should stop wearing the lenses of sexual orientation. I understand what you’re saying, and back when I thought I just hadn’t met the right person, I agreed with you – who you want to have sex with shouldn’t define your entire life. But that’s back when I thought that I fit in. I don’t fit in. (In fact, there are [some] gays who pity asexuals and also think we’re just confused or broken.) When I finally accepted that I wasn’t straight, it just about killed me. Literally. I spent hours journaling my serious concerns if my children would be better off if I killed myself so they could be raised by their straight father, or adopted into a normal family. I concluded that having a mother who committed suicide might be marginally more harmful to them than being raised by a mother who wasn’t heterosexual.

    If the Church wanted people to let their sexual orientation be just an aspect of their personality, rather than something to hyperventilate and freak out about, they sure blew it by their rhetoric. Being heterosexual is EVERYTHING in the Church. After my lifetime of faithful obedience, I lost out on the Celestial Kingdom because I do not enjoy having a penis stuck in my vagina. Sorry for my crass language – but the saying ‘love is love’ doesn’t just mean that you want to marry someone you’re attracted to. It’s also that lesbians shouldn’t have to have straight sex because that’s God’s plan. The lesbian’s straight husband shouldn’t have to deal with a wife who cringes and avoids him. And vice versa about gay men (not the bisexual men you were talking about). Having sex you don’t want is a truly horrible experience and if you’re being pressured into having unwanted sex, the fear of it takes over all your thought processes and your entire life. I’ve never been sexually harassed at work, but I imagine it’s a similar thing – you’re so afraid and tense that you can’t confine the negative reactions to only the moments in which the bad stuff is actually happening.

    The second reason I have a hard time with the advice to let the other parts of my identity take precedence is I have to fight about this party of my identity in ways that [I assume] you don’t have to. Your metaphors have done a good job of explaining your thought processes, so I’m going to use your poncho metaphor. I’m wearing an asexual poncho. I’m also wearing a mother poncho, a lawyer poncho and an artist poncho. Those ponchos are well-accepted and I’m not defensive about any of them. But the asexual poncho really gets a reaction from some people. “You’re just faking it!” “You’re broken and God can fix you.” “Everyone likes sex; what’s wrong with you?” I have to fight to hang onto that poncho in a way that I don’t have to fight about any other poncho. You have the luxury of not needing to fight to keep your heterosexual poncho. People keep trying to take my poncho away from me; I have to invest energy into holding onto it. If people just shrugged and accepted asexuality the same way they accept that I’m a mom, I wouldn’t have to think much about that aspect of my personality.

    The church and society have made sexual orientation a huge deal. They try to channel people into an ideal life. I don’t want to live the ideal Mormon life. I also don’t want to be pitied. I have to fight for acceptance and respect in ways you don’t have to. That’s why the sexual orientation lens is one I have to look through frequently.

  114. Janey – Amen is bloody well not strong enough.

  115. Christian Cardall says:

    CTR: Indeed, the “from the beginning it was not so” idea is nothing like an automatic algorithm, just a useful principle to keep in mind and deploy thoughtfully. Among its ambiguities is, “What is the beginning?” In coming to a position on race, I used the early years of the Restoration as “the beginning.” In discussing divorce, Jesus used the Garden of Eden as “the beginning.”

    There’s another important idea to keep in mind here, which is the distinction between God’s “ultimate will” on the one hand, and his “permissive” or “pragmatic will” on the other. God’s ultimate will is that the olive tree of Jacob 5 bear only good fruit. God’s pragmatic will is manifest in the fact that he doesn’t have His servants hew down and cast into the fire all the bad branches and fruit all at once, lest they kill the tree (cf. also the wheat and the tares). The Lord works with us in our weakness and aims to cultivate us to the degree we can bear, individually and as a people, towards His ideals.

    Like “from the beginning it was not so,” the notion of God’s “pragmatic will” is manifest in Jesus’ discussion of divorce. Moses gave you this law, not because it’s according to God’s ultimate will, but regretfully as a temporary expedience because of your present weakness. (With regard to divorce I guess we’re partly in the same place, and I sustain Church policies. My personal guess about God’s ultimate will is that a man never be allowed to abandon a wife and family, but that a woman be given significant deference as to her choice of husband.)

    So, just because something is “ancient” and “biblical”—like divorce—doesn’t automatically make it right. In the case of divorce, and also slavery, we can look to beginnings earlier than Moses and see that they’re not God’s ultimate will. Thankfully the bad fruit of slavery has largely been cast into the fire. It seems we’re not quite there yet when it comes to the kinds of things that continue to make allowance for divorce a necessary expedient that God in His pragmatic will allows in His Church.

    As for birth control, the family proclamation articulates the Church’s ongoing commitment to the “from the beginning” principle: “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” Pragmatically though it’s not a good idea for tens of thousands of bishops worldwide to be probing the intimate decisions of husband and wife with regard to having children. Procreative capacity is a gift over which husband and wife have been given individual stewardship. Revulsion at the possibility of widespread adoption of intentionally childless lifestyles may have driven earlier rhetoric. With time and experience we see that birth control may be part of the wise stewardship of that gift, with the ideal and goal of having children remaining in view. I support the current stance of “teaching them correct principles and letting them govern themselves” in this area.

    A partly similar dynamic can be seen in another example: the law of consecration. From the early years of the Restoration we are aware of God’s ultimate will “from the beginning” about God’s people being formally organized in a system of economic equality. In pragmatic terms at present, we embrace the ideal by covenant, and are given some specifics in terms of tithing and fast offerings, but beyond that are presently left to our own responsibility as to the stewardship of our resources.

  116. Christian, you’re invited to read my comments about the restoration doing new or unexpected things.

    You said “Pragmatically though it’s not a good idea for tens of thousands of bishops worldwide to be probing the intimate decisions of husband and wife with regard to having children.”

    Pragmatically no, but it would be ideal if they could? Why pragmatically?

  117. Christian, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful response. I found your distinction between God’s “ultimate will” and “pragmatic will” particularly useful. Just as you are willing to allow for divorce, private decisions concerning birth control, and the suspension of the law of consecration for pragmatic reasons (following the lead of cuurent general authorities), I would love to see the full-inclusion of same-sex couples and their children in the Church. I’m not sure about God’s ultimate will for such families, but for pragmatic reasons, in the here and now of 21st-century law and society, I think it would be the right thing to do. I hope that if (or when) such a policy change is announced by Church leaders, you would join me in welcoming same-sex families into full fellowship.

    By the way, your hypothesis that opposition to birth control came from a “revulsion at the possibility of widespread adoption of intentionally childless lifestyles” is completely at odds with what I remember from the 1960s and 70s (and the earlier teachings that Church leaders in those decades relied upon). Women were expected to undergo as many pregnancies as occurred naturally over the course of a marriage. Any attempt to limit the number of children was human defiance of the sacred, God-given powers of procreation and was inspired not just by selfishness but by Satan. Birth control was a dire threat to God’s plan of salvation for his spirit children. That is to say, the rhetoric about the centrality of procreation, what is or is not natural, and selfish individualism is similar to what we now hear in the Church concerning LGBT sexuality; it’s just that the target has been changed from the majority of members to a much smaller minority.

  118. I was married in the early 1980s as an undergraduate at BYU. At that time the slogan–repeated regularly by bishops and religion professors, in ward meetings and firesides–was “If you’re ready to get married, you’re ready to have children.” But the adverse effects of that policy were becoming clearer, in terms of financial, psychological, and marital stress, particularly for women (who often dropped out of school). Five years later, when we were in grad school, we were surprised to meet young married couples coming right out of BYU who told us they had never heard that the Church had a problem with birth control. So I believe that change on fundamental family issues is possible, and it can come fairly quickly, if pragmatic considerations lead Church authorities to ask God for additional revelation and guidance.

  119. @cardall, if you really think that when Jesus said “by their fruits ye shall know them” he was talking about sexual reproduction, or that when Galatians talks about the fruits of the spirit the author is referring to sexual reproduction, or that Alma 32 is about sexual reproduction, then I really don’t have much to say because that’s so far off. And yet another example about how focused on sex and sexuality our Church is (while at the same time accusing queer folks of focusing too much on it).

  120. I’ve appreciated much of the discussion here. Thank you to those who have taken the time to respectfully outline their thought processes. And for those (on both sides of the discussion!) who didn’t outline them respectfully….well, you can’t have it all. :-)

    A quick wrap-up, then, for me:

    @BHodges:
    1) I think I was being a little too glib in my earlier assertion that the Church leaders would change-it-if-we-could-but-not-our-call. I have heard personally the following: “Please believe that we understand the challenges you face when the Lord’s revealed doctrine does not align with societal beliefs, attitudes or practices.” Not quite the same, though – good catch.

    2) Yes, as I was reflecting on my glasses metaphor, I think it works really well for some circumstances and quite poorly for sexual desire. I’ll have to think about a different metaphor that captures my discomfort with using sexual desire as the foundational lens through which all personal reality is interpreted (ie, “I am gay” vs. “I have same-sex attraction”). I liked the reference to Wesley Hill’s experience that Bryan brought up: don’t ignore my same-sex attraction, but don’t define me by it either. Certainly a very thin tightrope to walk successfully.

    @AFP – I agree that modern science has given us lots of new knowledge that hopefully informs many of our opinions. Coupled with that foundational statement comes a caveat: not all science is of equal worth. Unfortunately, many realms of scientific inquiry (gender and non-heterosexuality in particular) have become very politicized over the last 20-30 years, and methodological rigor has, at times, suffered.

    In fact, this is why the idea of a “sexual desire spectrum” really appeals to me and serves as an important justification, I think, for the law of chastity. Not just from personal experience, but from the messy road that sex is for just about everybody. Heterosexually inclined or not, everyone has to “deny themselves” of something when it comes to erotic proclivity. (I suppose whether or not the denial bears healthy fruit partly depends on why we’re denying ourselves in the first place.) Guiding, channeling, and restraining sexual desire is a lifelong challenge for everyone – although I readily admit it’s harder for particular situations, as we’ve read about here.

    @Janey – I really do appreciate and value the personal perspective you’ve been willing to share. While for the sake of brevity (and probably shyness) I won’t share my own story now, I can assure you it’s atypical. I’m very happy you found help and peace to turn from the suicidal path. It’s a dark place I wouldn’t wish on anyone else. If this thread is any indication, your voice and experience are important. The world needs you!

  121. Kristine: thanks for expressing your puzzlement at “Mormon cryptocatholicism.” It’s everywhere in discussions of sex and gender, and it makes so little sense theologically.

  122. When Christ physically rules upon this earth in the near future and two men approach him to be married under His authority, what would the Savior of the world say? I’m probably talking about the very end of the millennium when satan is released to temp all men.

  123. Steven, how about, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”

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