Friday, February 6, 2015

Dear Elder Christofferson

Dear Elder Christofferson, you recently stated:

We hope our members will be part of the conversation going forward and let their voices be heard in civil and respectful communications with legislators and others. With more and more people of good will involved, we believe the right balance can be struck.”

I hope I can achieve the right balance here in letting my voice be heard, even if I'm not directly addressing "legislators." By way of introduction, I could very likely be accurately described as a progressive member of the Church--a Liahona Mormon, if you will. But more importantly than that, I want to live so that I could accurately be described as a disciple of Christ. Whatever the forum, hopefully mine is a voice that will "be heard in civil and respectful communications," since regardless of how successful I am in actual implementation, it is my hearts sincere desire to be civil and respectful.

It's not always easy to strike "the right balance" when people have such different expectations of what the right balance is, especially as I find myself in the minority among church members who happen to share a desire for civil marriage equality in the United States. Of course it's no surprise there's a diversity and pluralism even within the church, and I'm going to take your word that you want to allow members of good will--both sides--to be civilly involved and free to voice their conscience. As you expressed in your recent Trib Talk interview
We have members in the Church with a variety of different opinions and beliefs and positions on these issues…but…in our view it doesn’t become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders, trying to get others to follow them, to draw others away, trying to pull people out of the church, or away from its teachings and doctrines. That’s very different for us, than someone who feels one way or another on a political stance or a particular action to support a group, Affirmation, or any others [such as Ordain Women or Mormons Building Bridges] that you named.
If I ever say something that sounds disrespectful, I will apologize and recommit to striking the right tone to maintain "the right balance." I don't want to be perceived as "attacking" someone just for disagreeing with them. I fear that some members of the church assume that it's inherently disrespectful of me to voice a disagreeing opinion, but my love is greater than my fear, so I proceed. I have no desire to be critical, though I wish to critique a few things I just read today. Even so, I desire to sustain and love you in all the ways I can, even if I cannot always agree on every issue.

President Hugh B. Brown once said:
I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression.
Hugh B. Brown is one of my heroes. I too admire those with "the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas" or of respectfully disagreeing with ideas that don't quite resonate with their informed moral compass. Likewise, I also have great admiration for you and your family, specifically your brother Tom and your parents, who quite soon after Tom came out determined "that nothing would be allowed to break the circle of love that binds all of us together as a family" and expressed that "while none of us is perfect as individuals, we can be perfect in our unconditional love for each other." In my mind the Christoffersons are an incandescent example of putting family first before dogma, their loving example every bit worthy of being included in the Family Acceptance Project.

In that spirit of love, I express my commitment and desire to give you the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of any mistakes, I grant you "extra leeway," as Professor Faulconer put it recently in his blog post "Living With Fallibility": "I give people I love and respect more room for mistakes than I do others. My children can do a lot more than can strangers before I lose faith in them. People whom I have had good experiences with previously also get extra leeway. And if I sincerely believe that a person has been called by God, I am willing to continue to trust them though I am aware of their failings."

I'm not sure how accurately the words I read today reflect your heart, but they did cause me some concern. If I must respectfully dissent than I do so with the confidence that ultimately the truth will prevail. As President Hal Eyring's father Henry once said: "In this Church you have only to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is." I take that responsibility as seriously as if I were a pioneer, for "where truth flies you follow If you are a pioneer."

Anytime I hear someone express with great certainty that they "know" something to be "true" (regardless of whether it can or can't be proven to be true), I take the liberty of reassuring myself that what they really mean is that they strongly believe it to be true. For even objective truth is always evaluated subjectively. Mormons have historically, of course, expressed with great certainty things they "know" to be "true". In recent years I've become much more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. I walk by faith, not certainty.

Many well-meaning Mormon leaders of the past have spoken with great certainty, even authoritatively, but had to recant their words once they received further light and knowledge. Forgiveness is a form of grace I willingly offer our fallible leaders. Yet along with my willingness to forgive, I cannot forget that my church leaders are not infallible. Because of my understanding of history and because of my faith, even anxious expectation for ongoing revelation and greater light and knowledge, I never want to put a period where perhaps God has intended a comma.  I still expect many great and important things to be revealed and/or clarified because our understanding of doctrinal teachings is constantly evolving. Of all religious people, Mormons should never say "never."

According to the Church News report you recently said that we should all be sensitive as "we humbly seek greater understanding," and I definitely agree with that. However, you then seemed to express certainty about an area I hope we can still humbly achieve greater understanding and in which I still see room for greater light and knowledge. I specifically have in mind how our LGBT brothers and sisters have in the past, currently, and in the future, aligned/align with the law of chastity.

As you acknowledged, there are voices saying that the current standards of chastity and morality as taught in the Church are wrong and should not apply in their lives. Mine has not been one of those voices, but I don't judge someone for thinking that, since historically the LDS Church has been wrong about some teachings (for example, Race and the Priesthood). Furthermore, some very important standards have changed as we went from accepting monogamy to reluctantly embracing polygamy, then to toting polygamy as a requirement for the celestial kingdom and even calling monogamy evil and a curse, then reluctantly going back to monogamy and eventually even excommunicating people for practicing polygamy, and now embracing monogamy as the Lord's true and unchanging standard.

Keeping our dizzying past in mind, these "voices" should be forgiven for expressing doubt about your quote: “Some even suppose that those standards will someday change. That is simply not true." Likewise, with the past in mind, there may be legitimate doubt with the Church trying to maintain the Lord’s standard. I have faith that the Lord's standard is the way “a fulness of happiness” can be found in this life and throughout eternity, as you said. But because so many standards have changed with the times, I think you can understand why I would express doubt that the Church's standards are always perfectly aligned with and representative of the Lord's standards.

I'm all for the Lord's standards. I don't think the Lord's standard changes. However, I think our collective understanding (and the Church's understanding) of His standards do change. Our collective understanding of and dealing with homosexuality and the gospel have already changed in recent decades, and most definitely for the better. I'm convinced we're closer today to understanding and acting how the Lord would have us think and act in regards to our LGBT brothers and sisters. My stake president agrees with this last point too. I emailed him a link to a genuinely impressive article published just two days ago in BYU's "Universe" and my stake president (who is a loving and wonderful friend and the kind of leader of whom you would be very proud), replied back: "That was a great article. We really are coming along and living closer to what The Savior wants us to be."

While I agree with my stake president that we're getting closer, I'm not convinced we've arrived quite to where the Lord would have us be. Moreover, I'm sensitive, as I'm sure you are, to all the times we Latter-day Saints have fallen short in our treatment of our LGBT members and neighbors. I feel genuinely sorry for any pain we have caused. I'm also aware of active LDS gay members reactions to the press conference you recently held with the media and respect their voice too.

I've recently been reading "This Is My Doctrine": The Development of Mormon Theology. Perhaps because of this I'm extra sensitive to hearing people say that "doctrine never changes" or "will never change", because in reality practically all of our doctrines (even the nature of God) have evolved and changed over time, even since the beginning of the Restoration. Because I assume you're also aware of this, I'll grant that you may be using a different definition of "doctrine," which is not uncommon in my experience. But I think we both agree that the Lord's standards don't change. The only thing that changes is our understanding of His will, His standards, His doctrine.

Of course those not of our faith--the majority of human beings both gay and straight (or those anywhere in-between on the Kinsey scale)--have no reason to trust the LDS Church to tell them what "the Lord's standard" is. I think most Americans are perfectly willing to allow religious freedom as long as that freedom is not used to infringe on the rights or freedom of other citizens, or used as a cloak for discrimination. Naturally we all have different opinions and positions, even among traditional and non-traditional Christians (Mormons included.) As I'm sure you are well aware, many LDS apostles have even held a variety of views and interpretations on matters of revelation and scripture, holding beliefs in opposition to fellow apostles. "In essentials let there be unity; in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things, charity." Granted, informed members of our faith can even sometimes disagree on what constitutes the essentials too. C'est la vie in a church absent infallibility.

Therefore, while I trust the Church of Jesus Christ to seek Christ and be a community of support to those of us in the church, I do not trust the Church to be a reservoir of infallible truth. Again, all truth, even objective truth, is evaluated subjectively. As Dr. Phil Barlow has put it, "the church is made up entirely of human beings" striving in faith to seek the divine. Because we're all fallible humans who make up the church, "faith is misconstrued when we think of the church as essentially divine marred only by a few freckles or difficulties, but rather is better conceived of as made up entirely of human beings (with everything that implies, and it implies a great deal)…from top to bottom and from Joseph Smith on, who are trying to respond to the divine with which they've been touched in faith."

I believe Saints who trust Salt Lake to give them all the right answers or God's direction for their individual lives are putting their trust in the wrong source. I certainly don't give those leading the church that much control or power over my life. As I've written before, "I now recognize that I am in the drivers seat of my own search for the divine--not the Church™. I can be myself and embrace all the truths I find in the world, right where I am--while Mormon. If the culture were to ever make me feel like I couldn't do this, or embrace what apostle and former member of the First Presidency Hugh B Brown called "An Eternal Quest--Freedom of the Mind", or tolerate me as a free thinker, than I would no longer find that culture worth belonging to."

As a free-thinking Mormon I may not always feel comfortable at church, but I never question whether I belong. Now some conservative conformists may question whether I belong in the church, but this is not their church any more than it is my church. And if ultimately it's the Savior's church, I'd prefer that He be the one to judge if I belong in the church rather than a fallible bishop or stake president who may or may not share my thoughts or feelings or understand where I'm coming from and who may very well use his position to coerce me or threaten my removal from the body of Christ.

This possibility has been on my mind lately, especially as "excommunication looms over Mormons grappling with some of [the] church's tenets." I understand you've expressed great confidence in bishops and stake presidents who attempt to judge worthiness and qualification to participate in the ordinances and sacraments of the Church. We do indeed have many great bishops and stake presidents. But I confess, for me it's hard to think them capable of judging matters of eternal importance when I believe only God is capable of being the perfect judge. Some mortal judges are much better equipped than others. Therefore, Elder Christofferson, I'm not sure I place the same degree of confidence in authorities as you seem to. I've witnessed too much ecclesiastical roulette to have unshaken confidence in ecclesiastical leaders. I regret to say that I don't even have an equal degree of confidence in your fellow quorum members. In fact, I worry the church community as a whole may be placing too much power and confidence in authority.

I only look to God's perfection to expect perfection. But even then, my understanding is perhaps best articulated by the late BYU historian, Richard Poll:
James Madison cautioned: "When the Almighty Himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, His meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated." Because I believe, with Madison, that everyone, including Paul and the other prophets, saw eternity, or sees eternity through a glass darkly, prophetic infallibility, scriptural inerrancy, and unquestioning obedience are not elements in my faith.
I don't personally ever expect to have to face church discipline, because my heart's in the right place, and to my knowledge I haven't said or done anything wrong. If I have, I'd be happy to be corrected. Yet the possibility, under the current system, exists. So even if I were the one conducting any formal or informal discipline, I would do so with great uneasiness and want to error on the side of charity and tolerance and inclusivity. Speaking of errors, the Church News reported that you added "if there are significant errors that may occur in the judgment process—and they will be rare—there is an opportunity for appeal to correct any such mistakes."

My question for you is how you can be so confident that these "errors" would be "rare?" My reading of Doctrine and Covenants 121:39 suggests to me that it would be more rare that errors not often occur, since, "we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion."

I fully believe most priesthood leaders read Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42 and sincerely desire to lead in their calling "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile." Yet, because it is "the nature and disposition" of almost all of them to be easily prone to "unrighteous dominion", I also have a healthy respect for the fact that "many are called, but few are chosen."

When friends for whom I feel love and respect are expunged from the body of Christ by well-intended but fallible ecclesiastical leaders, and the decisions of those ecclesiastical leaders are generally trusted, upheld, and appeals denied because church leaders want to express confidence and trust in local leadership, then essentially you're granting local leaders a degree of infallibility just without saying the word. Of course I can't speak with much confidence about the appeals process because it is so secretive, and also because I've never personally had anything to appeal, but nothing in the current system gives me much confidence that the institution of the Church wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice one to save the ninety and nine. 

But I digress. Back to the point of expressing with confidence that our doctrine, particularly our understanding of the law of chastity, will "never change," I only wish you might read and consider what conservative law professor and LDS blogger Nathan Oman wrote several years ago:
Ultimately, I think that gay marriage is a good idea. I think that recognizing gay marriage has the potential to create stronger gay families and a better environment to grow up in for the children of homosexuals. It also carries within itself the possibility for an ethic of gay chastity, which ultimately strikes me as superior to either gay celibacy or gay promiscuity. I understand that in its fullest religious sense, gay chastity for Latter-day Saints (as opposed to gay celibacy) requires revelation to those with greater religious authority than I, and I am comfortable sustaining that authority. Nevertheless, in my all-things-considered independent judgment, gay chastity is a good idea.
I too think an ethic of gay chastity is a good idea. It would be good for the church to draw a distinction between two good and committed Saints who, according to their sexual orientation--which they cannot change--desire to be legally and lawfully married, as compared to others who live promiscuously without any divinely led commitment of being faithful to their companion. "The Doctrine of Celibacy" is another matter. The "Doctrine of Chastity" would remain in place and indeed, the law of chastity would never go away, but I could foresee our understanding of it evolving and changing if we're open to receiving greater light and knowledge.

When I read President Dieter Uchtdorf's wise words I personally include our current understanding of human sexuality: 
Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?
I hope we Mormons never place an iron gate between us and our Heavenly Father. While His constant love for His children is certain not to change, historically speaking, the only constant thing about Mormonism is change, and that's one thing I personally love about Mormonism. May we embrace the lessons of history and have faith in the future, regardless of its uncertainty.

I appreciate that the Church today is calling for “fairness to all”, an end to discrimination where it exists, while at the same time, desiring to protect the liberty of people of conscience “to live fully loyal to their conscience,” as you put it. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Though I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me had I lived before the 1978 Church revelation on the priesthood, especially if my conscience had told me that the temple and priesthood restrictions based on race were wrong. How comfortable would I have been if I were expected to remain silent and passively wait for church leaders to receive revelation? Would it have been appropriate to civilly and respectfully voice my desires for change?

I imagine pre-1978 there were some Latter-day Saints whose conscience led them to feeling embarrassed by the church's dogmatic adherence to what was believed to be "doctrine" from God, constant and unchanging. Yet today the Church recognizes that its pre-1978 policies based on what was once considered doctrine were wrong and "disavows the theories advanced in the past." Forgotten in the collateral damage are good folks like Dr. Lowry Nelson. I'm pained as I read the correspondence between Dr. Nelson and Church Headquarters, especially in light of how history has completely vindicated Brother Nelson.

Today, in this new Civil Rights era for the LGBT community, I'm afraid that my conscience and the position of officials currently leading the church might also be at odds. So I'm in a bit of a precarious position. I wait patiently, though not passively, and encourage progress in areas that I can, while trying to be anxiously engaged in good causes and follow my conscience without causing harm to the church. Sometimes I wonder, though, how long I can continue in good faith and enough patience before feeling embarrassed about my church's current position, similarly to those who felt embarrassed by the church's pre-1978 position. Granted, these are two separate issues entirely, but there are also many similarities. Saying that something will "never change" is a theory that may or may not prove to be correct.

I fully understand that I'm in no position to make any change, but the more I see a need for change the more I want to have hope for it and desire it. Whether it's this issue or the issue of gender equality, I ask questions and hope I have the strength to patiently wait for desired changes. I'm inspired by God's loving and kind example as he waits patiently and lovingly for us to correct our perspectives and figure out His will for ourselves. But I'm also keenly aware of what President Kimball once wrote in a letter to his son Ed: "Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on a couch."

Whether that change comes sooner than expected or never comes at all, either way, I will be at peace knowing I was fully loyal to my conscience.


ji said...

The posting is well-written, and I appreciate your time and effort in it. But I am unable to discern your eventual desire. Do you want the Church to change its position that chastity means sexual faithfulness between a man and woman as husband and wife? Do you want the definition of chastity to be expanded to include sexual faithfulness between a man and a man as husband and husband? and/or other arrangements?

If you're only in favor of more kindness in our society, I'm with you. If you're in favor of expanding the definition of chastity to include sexual faithfulness between a man and a man as husband and husband, I can't reach that far. As a matter of civil law, I don't object to two men living together -- but I don't believe the Church should change its definition of chastity to accommodate the gay community. Sin is sin, even if it is legal in our society, and the church exists to warn people from sin and to call everyone who will listen to repentance.

Anonymous said...

Hi ji, call me B. "sin is sin" is an interesting assertion when we have examples showing what is sin today was ordained of God yesterday. I submit that God may have further light and knowledge to reveal regarding marriage. Consider also that He has revealed homosexuality is not a choice or a condition and that it is no longer recommended for these people to enter heterosexual marriages.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks JI,

Forgive me for being long-winded in response. I just want to make sure to cover all my bases.

Ultimately God is love. If we want to be like God we must love all like God. Love is the sine qua non of the gospel, the without which there is nothing.. Love is about so much more than just sex and procreation, Being gay is about so much more than having sex. Just like the marriage I have with my wife is about so much more than sex. I think the quality of the relationship matters far more than the type of sex occurring in a relationship. The the only sexual relationship that's any of my business is my own.

I'm inspired by Mother Teresa, who said: ‘If you judge people, you have no time to love them.’

The Savior has commanded us above all to love one another, and I don't think we fully do that when we judge one another. I prefer to practice radical acceptance and unconditional love.

I'm convinced Jesus taught that judgement of others (or condemning sin in others) was a sin in and of itself. The only time we should openly condemn sin is when we find it within ourselves. My only job is to love and I'm content to let he who was without sin be the ultimate judge.

Clean Cut said...

Whether we realize it or not, we pick and choose what we believe of the Bible. The Bible also says divorce is sinful, and the punishment should be stoning, but we don't go out of our way to condemn people who get divorced. The Bible says women shouldn't pray without their faces covered or speak in church, but remain silent. It says it's sinful to eat shellfish too. Whatever. I'm willing to suspend belief that everything men wrote in the Bible perfectly reflect God's truth without any personal or cultural influence or prejudice of the authors whose pen wrote the words. I'm content to wait for further light and knowledge if it becomes difficult to discern.

One thing I know the Bible *doesn't* teach is that homosexuality was "the sin of Sodom and Gamorah, despite prevalent traditional assumptions.

Ezekiel 16:49 clearly explains:

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."(New International Version)

"Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." (King James version)

Clean Cut said...

I personally feel strongly that we need to retire “love the sinner, hate the sin” in reference to homosexuals because we now know there is no sin in being gay. I'm aware of the church's current position--that just being gay is not a sin but acting on it is. But I also know there is so much more to a person, regardless of their sexual orientation, than their sexual relationships. As I said before, I'm far far more interested in the quality of a relationship than the type of sex occurring in a relationship.

Traditional religious teachings have made all kinds of erroneous assumptions, and our understanding of God's will as reflected in scriptures that clearly are not inerrant have evolved. Current traditional assumptions are being challenged quite articulately. For example, watch Matthew Vines' "The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality"

Clean Cut said...

I really don’t think Jesus is overly concerned with our sexual orientation, but I’m convinced he definitely cares about us as individuals. And I'm convinced the only marriage he truly needs me to be more concerned about is my own.

In the end others opinions, accusations, shaming, and judgment will not matter anyway. Ultimately it’s between Jesus and the individual. Jesus may not condone all of my actions or behavior, but I know he loves me and doesn't condemn me. Therefore I desire to reflect his grace, mercy, compassion, and love to everyone else.
The experience with the woman taken in adultery captures as well as anything the essence of Christ’s new covenant: we are supposed to be in the love business rather than the condemnation business. We can show love and compassion by being considerate of those who are hurting, mourning with those who mourn, rejoicing with those who rejoice, loving without conditions of worthiness, and being respectful of each individual—because above all they too are a child of God. We show compassion by communicating in a warm way, showing empathy, being kind, having genuine concern for the one, accepting people for who they are at their core, and doing no harm.

Clean Cut said...

Now, I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm not advocating for a life of sin followed by a get-out-of-jail-free card, but it's not up to me to decide what's sinful in another's circumstances that are different from mine anyway. Jesus seemed to emphasize the importance of striving to be our best selves and extending mercy to everyone else. Sometimes church leaders forget this and think it's their right to involve themselves with personal things.
There are some things on which I have no doubt. For example, I think we can all agree God condemns rape and sexual molestation. Those involve taking away someone's agency through compulsion and coercion and are morally wrong.

I'm not so sure I "know" Gods thoughts on human sexuality between fully informed and consenting adults in a loving and committed relationship striving to lead moral lives in every other way.

I think we can agree that abusive and toxic relationships are wrong in any relationship, and they're particularly harmful of children. Loving relationships help children. I also think children are harmed by the ignorance, discrimination, bigotry, and hate they have to put up with from "Christian" neighbors about their LGBT parents.

All families matter.

Some parents, whether single, gay, or straight, are better than others. Blessed are the children with committed and loving parents.

I think lust is sinful, regardless of whether the person is heterosexual or homosexual. However, love and kindness and decency are good regardless of whether a person is heterosexual or homosexual.

Clean Cut said...

I'm just not convinced religious people have it all figured out. People speak with great certainty, but I've come to feel quite comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity and questions more than answers.

There will always be a number of people who claim to speak for God. I also know history shows many cases where they've been wrong. Not even all scripture is equally inspired. Bottom line is I welcome further light and knowledge and continuing revelation.

Frankly I don't feel it is our place to say what is or isn’t sin for someone else. Jesus is mighty to save, but ultimately that’s his job. As far as I know, Jesus never said a single thing about homosexuality. It's like being left handed. Most people aren't, some people are, and no one really knows why. I don't think that being right or left handed is inherently right or wrong, it's just the way things are.
Many Christians today support marriage equality and feel they're standing with God and loving as he would love. It's not that we think God has changed his mind but that human beings speaking for God were mistaken in the first place and now we're receiving greater light and knowledge as we understand human sexuality better.

Going back to the "woman taken in adultery", if Jesus himself declined to condemn an actual sinner caught “in the very act”, then we certainly have no business making a point to express disapproval of anyone else’s life, homosexual or not. I’m pretty sure the only sin for which I will be held accountable is mine personally—whatever prevents me from being “at one” with God and my neighbor.

He was pretty adamant that our greatest responsibility is just to love—love God and “love thy neighbor as thyself’ (Matthew 22: 35-40; Mark 12: 28-34)

Clean Cut said...

In summary, yes, I am open to an expansion of our understanding of the law of chastity. I'm especially desirous that our understanding and compassion for LGBT Saints increase, and that the Lord's will for them be done. I don't assume that the status quo is an a perfectly accurate in every detail reflection of God's will.

Just voicing an opinion that is different than the status quo is a fine line to walk, so I must tread carefully. I look forward to new inspiration and hope to be open to it if it ever comes.

In the mean time I'll try to be about Jesus’s and his Father’s love business (and staying out of others business) cause that's a really beautiful business to be in. Condemnation and judgement, on the other hand, are ugly—and a sin.

In the end, regardless of what you or I believe about homosexuality, I think we can agree that family is important, and especially at risk here are LDS youth who are struggling to reconcile what they feel about their own sexual orientation and what they hear loud and clear from the Church. After all, if they are told that at their core that they are evil and will be fixed in the next life, then why wait?

The Family Acceptance Project has put together a best practices manual for LDS families with LGBT children. It's free and definitely worth downloading. I'd love to see the Church would adopt it as a manual:

Anonymous said...

Temple chastity covenant has changed multiple times in my lifetime. When I was endowed, it only forbade sexual intercourse between unmarried heterosexuals. Other forms of sexual expression - including relations between two men or two women - were not interdicted. Gay men, including Patriarch to the Church Joseph F. Smith II, could truthfully answer "Yes" to the "do you keep the law of chastity" recommend question.

markgrammer said...

This is one of the best things I've read in a long time. Thank you Spencer.

Kevin said...

Your post casts alot of doubt on the integrity and spiritual maturity of the current apostles and prophets. Conversely, you claim some degree of insight into the mind and will of God.

The choice, it seems, is to determine which party is more in tune with God. Viewed in the clear light of the gospel,that's an easy choice to make.

My observation is that you have increasingly forsaken light and truth and in the darkness have become increasingly blind.

You are certainly not the first to go down that road. I hope you find your way back to the light.

Clean Cut said...

"Your post casts alot of doubt on the integrity and spiritual maturity of the current apostles and prophets. Conversely, you claim some degree of insight into the mind and will of God."

Can you point to any specific examples of where I've done either of those? I'm not seeing it.

"My observation is that you have increasingly forsaken light and truth and in the darkness have become increasingly blind."

Where exactly have you observed this? Examples?

I'd be happy to have a discussion on where we agree or disagree but I don't think it's very helpful to resort to personal smearing.

Noah Vail said...

I'm so grateful for your courageous and insightful blog. I'm part of the pre-1978 generation that suffered through the same "crisis of conscience" regarding the abominable Negro "practice" as we're experiencing with what we'll call the "Gay" practice. It was terrible and soul-searing -- my test of Abraham. In some ways it was worse: can you imagine the angst we felt when our Church and South Africa were the two most prominent institutions advocating unvarnished racial discrimination? I have waited many years for the Church to apologize for the now-discredited practice, but Elder Oaks dashed those hopes with his ill-advised comment that the Church "never" makes apologies. So I decided as an individual to apologize to my Black brothers and sisters with a post on my blog You may find it enlightening; for me it was cathartic. In your post, you mused on what you might have done during the long night of the discriminatory practice. Well, my apology was based on the fact that I pretty much was a coward, sitting on the sidelines while really good people took heat for daring to question the practice. I vowed I would never do it again but, alas, here I am, 40 years later, quietly bowing my head and saying "Yes" to another misguided practice. However, I have found a way to speak out and have meaningful discussions with my priesthood leaders over social practices that my conscience deems unChrist-like:
Whenever I'm asked whether I support the Brethren regarding thus and such, I state: "yes, as long as my conscience tells me that the Lord's will is being translated correctly." Another frequent question during the pre-1978 period was: "Well, do you think Blacks should have the priesthood?" That's a trick question which must be handled delicately. I would answer: "If I say yes, that puts me in direct conflict with the Church authorities. Let me just say, I would consider it a great blessing if Blacks received the priesthood, and I'm praying for that." The response works equally well if my Bishop asks me, "Do you think women should have the priesthood?" or "Do you think gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry?" Yes, both would be great blessings for which I'm praying every day.
Thank you, again, for your wonderful post, which expresses my feelings exactly. I've forwarded it to my loved ones, many of whom are also struggling with matters of conscience.

Kevin said...

These statements question the integrity of Church leadership:

"I regret to say that I don't even have an equal degree of confidence in your fellow quorum members"

"nothing in the current system gives me much confidence that the institution of the Church wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice one to save the ninety and nine."

These statements indicate you believe you have insight as to the will of the Lord and that the Church has yet to "catch up":

"We really are coming along and living closer to what The Savior wants us to be."

"While I agree with my stake president that we're getting closer, I'm not convinced we've arrived quite to where the Lord would have us be."

This statement show how far you have wandered from the teachings of the apostles and prophets. It also show your inability to discern when the Spirit witnesses the truth of what they teach. That is evidence of a journey away from the light of the Spirit.

"As far as I know, Jesus never said a single thing about homosexuality."

To say somebody is wrong is not to smear that person. You wrote an entire piece on why you think the Church is wrong on LGBT matters, but I don't think you considered it a smear.

Kevin said...

How do you live like that? I really would like to understand.

I'm a fully committed member who believes our Church leaders (apostles and prophets), collectively, get all the things of eternal importance, right.

If I believed they were making huge mistakes with race and LGBT matters, I'd leave. If they are wrong it means they aren't in tune with God, which means that this church is just another religious organization like any other, or it means the God can't control his own Church leaders.

It must be hell for you to try to stay in the church and reconcile this in your mind and heart.

Clean Cut said...

Kevin, thanks for clarifying. I really do appreciate that. But we really do see things differently.

In the words of J. Golden Kimball, "I love all of the brethren, but I love some a hell of a lot more than I do others."

As for my statement that "we're coming along and living closer to what the Savior wants us to be"--what a horrible thing to say, right?

In all seriousness, I don't even know how accurate that is. A friend of mine put it this way, and I absolutely agree:

“Humans are on a journey of discovery. We have nothing to fear. Our views, witnesses, and opinions are all subject to change and adaptation, and our mortal lives are verbs, not nouns. Only the damned have ‘arrived.’ Everyone else is still a work in progress.”

Also, you seem to think it was scandalous of me to point out that "Jesus never said a single thing about homosexuality."

To me, this just a factual statement. Jesus himself is not on record as to teaching anything about homosexuality. Unless you're aware of some other gospels I haven't read yet.

Finally, I just cannot accept your characterization that I "wrote an entire piece on why you think the Church is wrong on LGBT matters"

I wrote an entire piece about my being true to my conscience and seeking truth. I don't make the assumption that church teachings always reflect Truth with a capital T. Unless you think the church is perfect, that shouldn't be controversial. As President Uchtdorf put it: "I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings...but He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes."

Clean Cut said...

"If I believed they were making huge mistakes with race and LGBT matters, I'd leave. If they are wrong it means they aren't in tune with God, which means that this church is just another religious organization like any other, or it means the God can't control his own Church leaders."

I think this just proves that you and I have different expectations for our prophet leaders. And also that God doesn't "control" us or coerce us, prophets included. He follows the same principles found in D&C 121.

Kevin said...

Thank you for your feedback and opinions. I want to test and validate my beliefs and convictions against the opinions and feedback of others.

It appears we are both comfortable in our view of truth.

As to who is right and who is wrong...that will have to wait until a future day.

ALM said...

Where to begin...? This is such a nice piece of sophistry. This is a reasonably well-constructed argument in many respects and there are may valid points, but there are as many, and some very important, blind spots. You wear the moniker of a "Liahona Mormon" but a reasonable analysis reveals that you use the label as a disguise for your alternate version of an "Iron Rod." While you try to soften it, there are several instances where you appear as dogmatically certain of your position as the poor, benighted "Iron Rod Mormon" that you judge so harshly--oh, excuse me, you don't judge. ;-)

No, I'm sorry, but you have not thought this through all the way. You ask for examples and there are actually too many to deal with them all. You argue that even our leaders are fallible and that we "see through a glass darkly," with which I happen to agree. Our "doctrine," if I can even use that word, is that we will continue learning. However, you use the notion of fallibility simply to dismiss out of hand views contrary to your own without rational counterargument, while out of the other side of your mouth you tacitly lay claim to seeing more clearly than others. Why are you not just as susceptible to the natural desire to "become a law unto yourself" when you do not like "the bounds the Lord has set?"

You accept at face value the proposition that one "cannot change" one's sexual orientation. Yet, fundamental to our doctrine is the notion that we are indeed trying to change our very nature from a carnal state to a celestial one. Even assuming that we "cannot change" our sexual orientation, all Latter-day Saints are asked to control their sexuality outside of, and even within, marriage.

Within your writings you have tacitly accepted the argument that life must be fair; that suffering is evil. Or that it is unfair for us to ask anyone to suffer. The essence of your argument is that it is a sin to call anything a sin. Therefore, let's remove the real sin by not calling it a sin. Or to put it more mildly--all sin will eventually be defined away as we become "more enlightened." Certainly, there are sufferings that are human-caused and arguable unnecessary. And yet Christ asks us to "deny ourselves of all ungodliness," and to "take up our cross."

I agree that "we should not be afraid to dissent." But don't forget the last part of the sentence--"if we are informed." My conclusion is that you are not fully informed and have not carefully considered several vital principles. I do not object to the discussion, it is simply that your reasoning is flawed and incomplete. This is not the time, nor is it my place to explicate all the reasons here, rather it is your obligation to pursue them on your own. Unfortunately, I fear too many will be swayed by the sophistry rather than seeing through it. Also, unfortunately, I am reasonably confident that you will wonder how I could possibly reach such a conclusion since you never used such language. I am also reasonably confident that if you following the reasoning all the way to its end (not the artificial limits you have placed upon it), this is essentially where the argument goes.

Clean Cut said...

"I do not object to the discussion, it is simply that your reasoning is flawed and incomplete."

I would be happy for you to point out where my reasoning is flawed and incomplete so I can make accurate corrections.

Clean Cut said...

"The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin. Let me say that again. It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way."