Sunday, October 10, 2010

Defending the Gays

A friend (who serves in the Relief Society and was also present at my church disciplinary council) passed this note along to me via Facebook. My comments are in italics:

"You will probably be interested in [my husband's] account of something that happened in Priesthood meeting today. One of our "favorite" neighbors [this man in our ward who sometimes says inappropriate things and has been known to make homophobic statements] was praising and giving a very harsh spin on [Boyd K. Packer's] talk. [Our old bishop - a good friend I've written about many times in my blog] took him on in no uncertain terms, told him [the] talk had already been modified and that when comments were made like those just made, many people (even right there) were being hurt. And in so many words our "neighbor" was told to "shut up." All from one of the most Christlike guys we know. (I think this may shut down the comments from a few other notorious commenters--hope so.)"

My history with this particular neighbor hasn't always been a good one. I will say he has many good qualities such as the fact that he is very service-oriented and takes good care of his ailing wife, but he also is incredibly old fashioned in his attitudes towards women, gay people, and people of race. We are definitely not on the same wavelength politically. Sometimes I find him a bit of a busybody who is much more a "letter-of-the-law" kind of individual than I am. I find him somewhat narrow-minded.

My old bishop, on the other hand, is (as my friend says) "one of the most Christlike guys [I know]." He is very devoted to his religion and also truly loves everyone and is very nonjudgmental. I love him dearly. So often in church meetings people will sometimes say ignorant things or harsh things about gay people, and I'm glad my old bishop took a stand and basically told this other brother that what he was saying was harmful and inappropriate. I'm glad somebody followed the spirit and put this guy in his place.

Another friend (and former missionary companion) wrote me and said:

"I think Elder Packer's comments were poorly worded. Several things he said came across as ignorant opinions--although I sense he actually meant something different. Usually conference talks are a lot more carefully thought out, and I was annoyed that he made several statements in his talk that sounded like ignorance rather then spiritual advice. I sincerely hope that's not how he meant it, and I pray it wasn't discouraging to you."

I responded by saying,

"Thanks so much for your comments... Unlike some of my friends, I do think Elder Packer's words were well-intended even if they ended up having the opposite effect for many people. Some people accuse him of coming from a place of hate, but I do not feel that at all. I feel some of his remarks do comes from a place of ignorance. Regardless of his position in the church or his spiritual insight, the fact of the matter is that Elder Packer doesn't likely have any idea what it's like to be gay or how his words might come across to a gay person. Even if he's an inspired man, some of his remarks show that he doesn't truly understand things from a gay person's point-of-view. Again, I actually think his intentions are good. He's preaching what he truly believes out of a concern for the spiritual well-being of God's sons and daughters, but to one who is gay or has a gay loved one in their life, his remarks came across as ignorant, patronizing, and hard. I, myself, wasn't too surprised by his remarks, and I've already made my own peace with this issue. It's those young people out there that are struggling with homosexual feelings that I felt discouraged for. I think the talk gives people a false sense of hope that may cause a lot of grief for individuals in the church who are dealing with homosexual feelings. I also thought the talk was ill-timed, especially when there have been a rash of gay youth committing suicide. Anyway, I truly appreciate your thoughts and letting me know what you felt."

I truly believe that Boyd K. Packer is not a bad man, but regardless of the fact that he may be an Apostle and may be inspired, I think he comes from a place of ignorance as far as this subject is concerned. No matter how inspired he may or may not be, he is human and comes at life from his own experiences. If I were to give a talk claiming I understood what it's like to be black or to be a woman and claim that I fully understood the struggles or trials they have faced in their lifetimes, it would be disingenuous no matter how well-intentioned I was about it. I simply don't understand what it's like. I can't fully put myself in a black person's shoes or a woman's shoes because I've never experienced their lives. Likewise, no matter how much he is trying to "help" people who have homosexual feelings, his talk can come across negatively to those who are gay because he's coming from a place of ignorance as far as how we experience life.

That being said, accusations that Boyd K. Packer is coming from a place of hate just don't ring true to me. I sincerely believe, in his view, he is trying to help those struggling with same-sex attractions. Unfortunately, I think his talk (and talks like his) cause more damage than good to those who are dealing with homosexual feelings (or who have a loved one who is dealing with homosexual feelings), and that is what I take issue with.


kimberlycreates said...

I'm with you on this one. I was saddened by what he said, and equally saddened when a friend spoke about it at Fast & Testimony this weekend, but I don't believe either of them came from places of hatred, merely ignorance. I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to be young and struggling with sexual orientation issues in the church. I only know that we need to show more compassion, no matter what side of the issue we're on.

Quiet Song said...

Thank you for this post.