One of my Facebook acquaintances started the following discussion today:
A: "I can see why the homosexual community is shocked over Elder Packers talk, I mean its only been the LDS stance for a couple hundred years."
B: I'm wondering if they really think that the Church will change on this issue. Policy WON"T change, no matter how many people protest!!!
C: I heard one guy on the news say, "we expected for the church to back off after prop 8". I mean cuz being gay is like being born black and not having a choice to be white. its totally the same thing. right?
C: I love how people say that "you can't legislate morality!" huh??? what???
A: I just think that it's funny that anyone thinks this a shocking issue or talk for an apostle to give. It's like homosexual ex-mormons held this little hope that something might change. I can't seem top remember the last time the church decided to omit certain sins from its list of sins.
D: Why can't it change? I mean, the Church used to be against its priests molesting little kids too, but that changed. Oh wait...that's the Catholics.
A: "Dear Brothers and Sisters, after further examination of our doctrine and after much social pressure, we have decided we must have misunderstood God about the whole gay thing, sorry our bad."
E: The world we live in is very wicked, it's so disturbing how people try to rationalize there sins. The ways of the world are not now, never were, and never will be God's ways. I don't believe in standing in judgment of others, it's not our place, but when an Apostle of God speaks we better listen.
F: Further, they are taking his remarks out of context. The meaning they took was not the meaning intended. His statement of "Why would Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" was in reference to our ability to overcome our weaknesses (regardles...s of genetic predisposition or other tendencies) and not a reference to homosexuality being inborn. Re-reading the talk makes that very clear. The church does not take a stance regarding genetic predisposition to homosexuality. We don't disagree with science that there may be something genetic. Just like violent tendencies, and alcoholic tendencies, homosexual tendencies can be overcome. The problem lies with the homosexual community not-so-subtly insinuating that it's not sinful, and that there isn't power to overcome it.
Yet, men overcome anger, alcoholism, pornography, and promiscuity every single day. What is the difference? The difference is that Satan has made the line very gray regarding homosexuality, masturbation, pornography, and other sins that don't "hurt" anybody. Violence and alcoholism are obvious, but sex is not. He is attempting to bind even the faithful members of the church by turning their sympathy and empathy into regret that the church takes a stance against homosexuality. And thus they are led safely down to hell. I'm tired of the gay community claiming our stance makes us unkind, vicious, judgmental, etc.
Sorry for the novel. I get fired up about this topic.
G: I totally agree [F]. Satan has done wonders and been wildly successful with the whole homosexuality thing, especially as it relates to church membership.
E: Very well stated [F].
H: [F], have they asked you to speak in conference yet? Very well said.
I debated about whether to add my voice to the discussion (still am), but haven't contributed yet. First off, [A] and I are not really friends. We worked on a film together, and I've never even met him face-to-face. Secondly, it is very clear to me (not just from this discussion, either) that [A] and I are on very opposite ends of the political spectrum and on very different sides of this particular issue, and I doubt anything I say would change his thinking or position or that of his friends, nor do I feel they would change mine, so what's the point? But I do want to vent about it, and what better place to do it than my own blog?
First off, speaking only for myself, I am neither surprised nor shocked by Elder Packer's talk nor do I expect the LDS Church to do an "about face" regarding the subject of homosexuality. That is not my issue. My issue is that the same rhetoric that was used in this talk and which has been used for years in the Church doesn't seem very useful or uplifting to those who must deal with this issue. Again, I'm only speaking from my own experience. I know the LDS Church is against homosexual relationships and against gay marriage and doesn't plan on changing its position. Okay, fine. But I feel that Elder Packer is making the same promises that always felt so empty to me when I was struggling with my homosexual feelings. He's essentially asking the very question I asked myself thousands of times: "Why would God do this to me if it's wrong?" but coming up with the opposite answer that I and so many like me have come up with.
All right, let's assume the LDS Church is true and that Boyd K. Packer is correct that gay people can change. I know that I, and many like myself, feel that is impossible, and instead of feeling hopeful and valiant in our fight, it just makes us feel like we must be faithless and unworthy. Something must be wrong with us because we seem to be unable to achieve what we have been promised, and that leaves us feeling depressed, miserable, and often suicidal. If Boyd K. Packer is right, and people like me are wrong (which I won't dismiss), then why does it seem like such an impossible and hopeless battle? Why, if it is so wicked and wrong, do I, and many others like me, seem so much happier and joyful now that we've come out? Are we being deceived by Satan? Are we fooling ourselves? I know others feel that we are, but I don't feel that way in my heart. I do not feel that this is the message that God has given me personally, and I know many gay people who grew up in the LDS Church that feel the same way.
An apostle's revelation supposedly overrides my personal revelation and the positive spirit I feel in my heart, but what does that mean for people like me? Do we continue to live hollow, empty lives facing a future that seems hopeless and unfulfilling, or do we make a different choice? After years and years and years of knocking myself against the door, trying to get it open, but just finding myself a bloody, bruised, practically unrecognizable mess, I decided I couldn't do it anymore. Instead I fearfully opened a different door and found that I liked very much what I found there. It has brought my true joy. Yes, joy, I say! The joy I was always promised by my church leaders if I just obeyed the commandments but which always seemed to be beyond my grasp.
I do not dispute that the LDS Church is God's true church on earth. I dispute the fact that I was asked by that church (and by association, the Lord) to do something that felt impossible, and to me that seems very unfair. Yet when I chose to come out and pursue the relationship with my partner; when I chose to accept my feelings; when I made the choice to have a commitment ceremony and engage in a sexual relationship with the man I love (choices which caused me to be excommunicated from a church I loved (and still love) and gave my heart and every loyalty to for so many years), instead of feeling sorrowful and guilty, I discovered a light and joy in my life that was lacking for so many of the years before I made those decisions. Instead of constantly wishing that I were dead and instead of facing a life that seemed like it would always be hopeless and lonely, I discovered the greatest and most fulfilling relationship I've ever had with a man who I'm devoted to and who is devoted to me. Instead of constantly living the facade of a life that I never really felt was who I was, I discovered the ability to actually be myself without shame or guilt. If the fruits of the Spirit are things like love, joy, and peace, why do I feel those things more now than I did before I made these choices? Satan cannot mimic these things, and I know I feel them! I know it!
Yes, I've chosen to act on my homosexual feelings (feelings that have been with me long before I knew my church taught that they were wrong), but I did not choose the feelings themselves. Unlike taking a drink of alcohol or smoking a cigarette or taking drugs, these feelings have been a part of my very nature for as long as I can remember, and when I fought so valiantly against them; against what feels like my true nature, it only brought me misery, confusion, depression, and sorrow.
The promise of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 that says, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" is something I relied on for much of my life and which ultimately seemed untrue to me if, indeed, homosexuality is a sin because it was a trial that I felt unable to overcome, and I decided that this either meant one of four things: 1) God gave me an impossible trial to overcome, which seems like a pretty jerky thing for a loving Father to do to his child if he wants him to succeed; 2) God gave me a trial that was possible to overcome, but I was just too weak and faithless to actually do so, which makes me wonder why a loving Father would not help me cultivate the strength and faith necessary to do when I prayed and worked so hard for so long to do just that; 3) I was too weak and faithless to actually overcome my trial in this life, but Heavenly Father knows I gave my all, and Christ's atonement will somehow make up the difference that I lacked; 4) It's okay that I'm this way, and it's not a sin at all. No matter what the answer is (and I know which one I believe), I could not overcome my homosexuality, and I have hundreds of friends who feel the same way. Those who disagree with homosexuality and consider it sinful can believe that all they want, but our reality and life experience tells us something different, and until you've actually walked in our shoes, you just don't know what it is like. Fortunately, I know that God knows my heart (and the hearts of my friends) perfectly, and I trust he will judge us accordingly, and that's all that really matters to me.
I have no personal disdain for Boyd K. Packer nor do I feel his talk is motivated out of hate. In fact, if anything, I think it is motivated by a love of God's children and a concern for their spiritual well-being. I'm just saying that as someone who grew up gay and Mormon, I'm truly concerned that his words and style will cause more harm to those dealing with homosexual issues, either in their own lives or in the lives of their loved ones. I don't think Elder Packer intends to cause harm, but I think his words will, and this is what I find troubling about his talk.
Especially during this period when relations between gays and the LDS Church seemed to be getting a little better after the Prop. 8 divisions, and especially at a time when there has been a rash of suicides from young gay people (both Mormons and not), it just seemed like Brother Packer's hard-line stance was a bit ill-timed and ill-conceived. At least, that's how it felt to me.
As for the somewhat snarky Facebook conversation above, while I don't expect the LDS Church to change their policy towards gays or necessarily think they will, I'm sure there was a time when members didn't think they would change their policies regarding polygamy or towards black people. Even in my lifetime, the LDS Church I grew up with and the one I see now are not exactly the same, and it certainly has changed in some respects from when Joseph Smith was prophet. I don't know what will happen in the future. It will be interesting to see.
Being gay does not feel like a choice to me. I feel I'm as gay as I am white or male. Just saying.
As for the constancy of sin, it's interesting to note that some of the things that were considered sinful in the Old Testament, for example, are not considered sins now. I guess that's because it was the Mosaic law, but it begs the question, does what is considered sinful change with the times or with the instituted law? In the early days of the restored church, polygamy was a commandment. Now if you were to practice it, it would be grounds for excommunication, would it not?
If I am sinning, maybe I am rationalizing it, but it does not feel that way on my end. We're told to listen to the Prophet and the Apostles, but we're also told to take what they give us and pray for ourselves to know if something's true. All I can say is Boyd K. Packer has never walked in my shoes. I admit I've never walked in his, either.
I'm doing the best I can, people, with what I was given. If that's not enough, I don't know how I can do more. I can do without the sarcastic Facebook comments from people who don't understand what it is to be me. But then maybe I can do better at seeing things from their points-of-view.
In closing, I thought this pledge from a friend of a friend of mine (also found on Facebook) was very good and describes many of my feelings well:
I’m Mike. I’m a Mormon. I’m straight, and I LOVE my Gay friends.
I want to help bridge the divide between my church and the gay community.
I promise to stand up for those bullied because of their sexual orientation, their religious convictions, or for any other reason bullying may occur.
I promise not to proclaim homosexuality a “choice,” and request I not be branded “brain-washed” by those who disagree with my faith.
I feel for those who have felt betrayed, insulted, shocked, or outraged by the LDS position on homosexuality, and although that position may never change, I promise to be a source of compassion and friendship to those who seek it.
I recognize that I can never understand the heart-ache and struggle that a person or family must go through when dealing with homosexuality particularly within a religious paradigm. I promise not to make that struggle more difficult for anyone.
I cannot classify Boyd K Packers talk as “Hate Speech,” but I promise to strike down hate speech against Gays and against Mormons wherever I may find it.
I promise to continue to seek the good and virtuous from the gay community, and plea that they will seek the good and virtuous from the Mormons.
There is common ground. I know we can find it. There are passionate opinions and emotions from all parties, but there is no need to be enemies.
I can only speak for myself. I know I cannot fix this alone or even at all, but I want to try. I seek those from all sides of this issue who desire a peaceful coexistence from this cultural nightmare.