Jeffery Nielsen Courageously Takes Another Public Stand

Jeffrey Nielsen, professor at Westminster College and UVSC who fired from BYU after writing an editorial questioning the LDS Church’s support of the federal marriage amendment, has again been taking a very public stand as the issue resurfaces. He recently released “An Open Letter to California Mormons.”

I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual, and a supporter of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. I am asking you to pause and give sincere thought to the letter from our religious leaders you have heard read, or will soon hear read, over our church pulpits asking you to get involved and oppose marriage equality in California. Please think deeply about this, not only as a member of a particular church, but also as a citizen of a democracy.

To press for an amendment to a civil constitution that would legalize discrimination against an entire class of people is no small matter, but of the greatest significance. When the argument, no matter how well intentioned, is based solely upon a religious proclamation; then, I believe, it is a serious contradiction of the wisdom of our founding fathers. It also does tremendous damage to the great progress in civil rights we’ve made in our country respecting the equal dignity of each person and towards a more certain legal equality for all citizens.

You should also know, not all faithful Mormons agree with our religious leaders’ encroachment into political matters. In fact, a growing number of active Mormons, who have gay friends and family members, are coming to the conclusion that our current leaders are as mistaken in promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians as was the Mormon hierarchy in the 60’s when they opposed equal rights for people of color, and our Mormon leaders in the 70’s when they opposed full legal equality for women.

Of course, religious authorities of any denomination possess the right, and may claim the legitimacy, to set the theology and policy for their religious community. When they; however, attempt to interject religious doctrine into the public spaces of a diverse democracy without reasonable justification, then members, especially faithful members, of that religious organization have the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such dangerous and undemocratic behavior.

No one is asking that you condone a behavior that might violate your religious faith, but we need to allow everyone the freedom to live their life as they see fit, so long as it does not physically harm another person. After all, religious values must be something an individual freely chooses, not something forced upon him or her by the state. We should never allow our constitutions, whether state or federal, to become weapons in a crusade to impose a particular religious value system upon a pluralistic democracy. Today it might be a particular religious value that we affirm, but tomorrow it might be a religious system, which would seek to legislate against our own sincere beliefs. So now is the time to take a stand and keep separate civil and religious authority.

I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their skin color or gender. So to discriminate and deny them equal protection and equal opportunity under civil law because of these natural traits; especially in this case, sexual orientation, is grossly unfair and should be rejected outright in a compassionate and just democracy. If anyone could give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in our civil society, which doesn’t make fallacious appeals to tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single justifiable reason.

You should know that like you, family and marriage are very important to me. As I have become acquainted with gay and lesbian couples, I have been touched by their goodness, sincerity, and commitment. I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would, in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents. I can only hope that the citizens of California, and my fellow Mormons, will possess the wisdom and moral decency to reject the call to discriminate against our gay and lesbian coworkers, friends, neighbors, church members, and family.

Bravo.


Listen to his very thought-provoking interview on KCPW
.

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70 Responses to “Jeffery Nielsen Courageously Takes Another Public Stand”

  1. Matthew Piccolo Says:

    I’m afraid that I disagree with Prof. Nielsen, though I do respect his opinion. My main concern with his arguments is that he places too much emphasis on the individual and doesn’t recognize that creating a legal category for specific kinds of marriage actually limits freedom. Please consider this:

    “If a relationship requires the state to formally create it, then it is a creature of the state, and the antithesis of freedom … The natural family does not require the state to create it; it is prior to the state. State sanction in its case is only to confirm in public policy that society recognizes and encourages its ideal…

    The ‘Friends’ characters are not a family. ‘Murphy Brown’ and her daughter are not a family. Unfortunately, the ‘Bundys’ are a family. The ‘natural’ seems to be the key to understand all of this. The state interest is in the natural family. It is quite patient with all sorts of atrocities in ‘natural’ families, and has zero patience for even minor glitches in ‘created’ families, because only in the natural family can the ideal be realized for human progress and freedom. ‘Created’ families exist as contracts with the state. In their formation they are pretend families. They play house. Their human emotions are real, but their family structure is fabricated. The state can recognize and legitimize a family structure. It would be impossible for it to even try to recognize and legitimize every human emotion. To do so would also be the antithesis of freedom…

    I have some very wonderful friends, dear friends, I would die for them. I have cried with them, rejoiced with them, sacrificed for them, counseled their children as if they were my own — but we are not a family. All of my love for my friends is authentic; it is real. But all of this genuine sentiment and service does not make us a family … Nature created families; the state simply recognizes what nature created. If indeed you are truly insulted by my words, then take it up with nature (and ‘Nature’s God’)…”
    (Paul T. Mero, Gay Dialogue with Stephen C. Clark)

  2. Non-Arab Arab Says:

    He is free to have hi opinion and even campaign for it, but basically encouraging a rebellion against church leadership on a basis of claiming they have no good reason for the church’s stance (to disagree is one thing, to claim an opposing opinion is nothing but vapor is another), that is bad form indeed. Knowing the line between proper obedience and mindless lemming-walk is not easy in a church where we actually covenant to do the former but sometimes go too far into the latter, but this is clearly in my view breaking the covenant of the former. I sympathize, there are issues I care just as passionately about and have had to face an official church position that I struggled with just as much, but I always had to acknowledge that out and out rebellion destroyed my own soul. Suppose this leads to his excommunication (not saying it will, don’t have any personal insight), but will that have been worth it? Lose an eternity (or at least many mortal years) of progression because of an earthly issue? When I’ve faced these challenges the direction I’ve been forced by the Spirit to turn (often reluctantly, ultimately always to my benefit) was to say I may not have been called and authorized to receive revelation and decision-making power on the issue, but that susþaining my leaders did include fully informing them in as positive a spirit as I could muster of the things they weren’t seeing. Sometimes that led to tense confrontations, other times to defusing. It always led to a better outcome than otherwise woulf have been the case. If they chose to not reach my conclusion, I could rest knowing I’d done my duty in a discrete way that wasn’t rebellion, but a firm and complete way nonetheless, and I was always free to keep my perspective. I generally have discovered things were not as black and white as I thought despite all the evidence I had behind me at the time.

    There’s a right and a wrong way to disagree. This in my view crosses the line.

  3. Lyall Says:

    Your title suggests that Nielson acted couragesly. I would ask, “How so?” Merely saying something that is controversial and will get you coverage in the papers because you (Nielson) appear to still have an ax to grind doesn’t look courageous to me. Maybe I’m missing something.

  4. WP Lyon Says:

    I reject the notion someone has an ‘ax to grind’ because he speaks out on a subject with honesty and clarity. He is speaking with courage as his membership could be in question or at least under examination by those who hide behind the Mr. Mac suits in stake and ward offices.

    Fast forward a generation or two and this attempt to constitutionalize aspects of the Church’s ‘Proclamation on the Family’ in California and elsewhere will seem as out of place and contrary to the Gospel as denying Blacks the priesthood.

  5. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I agree with Non-Arab Arab. I am disappointed you are applauding this guy. I mentioned a few days ago that my own feelings for friends who are in gay relationships and what are usually libertarian views don’t jive with what we’ve been told. However, I don’t believe for a moment that President Monson is asking us to “oppose marriage equality” or “calling for discrimination against our gay friends and family”. Nor do I accept that they’re just doing this to be mean or to impress other Christian churches. I doubt you would make such an accusation either. But with the events of the past couple of weeks, the Church has made it abundantly clear that they consider this something that debases society. Just this week my hometeachers brought me a plate of cookies with a message about the Haun’s Mill Massacre. Joseph Smith sent a message to Jacob Haun to inform the people there to leave and come to Far West, and the message was never delivered. The rest is history. The Prophet recorded in his journal that “up to this day God has given me wisdom to save the people who took counsel. None had ever been killed who abode by my counsel”.

    I don’t want to preach to you. If you can contradict what our leaders are telling us with a clear conscience, that is your prerogative. But that is exactly what you’re doing, and you shouldn’t pretend otherwise. Picking and choosing what counsel to follow from people you sustain as prophets leaves you open and vulnerable, and it will be much easier to write the Brethren off as out of touch next time.

  6. Franz Says:

    Thank you for posting this open letter, I had not seen this response and I really enjoyed it. As a Californian Mormon I do have concerns about the church’s stance on this issue. I think that a constitutional amendment discriminating against any group is just plain wrong. Weren’t we also encouraged to fight against the Equal Rights Amendment? Who should we target next? How can I really support a law that denies certain rights to people? I am not challenging the leadership of the church by having a different opinion here…rebelling…no! Since when does our membership in the church require us to turn off our minds? Anyhow, thanks again.

  7. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thanks for the responses.

    Matthew, I do not believe Jeffery wants a new legal category for marriage. He wants government to get out of the business of creating legal categories for marriage-that is, to stop trying to legislate religion.

    The points your quoted from Paul’s discussion contain two prominent flaws. First of all, he paul tells us that the marriage relationship does not require the state to create it (with which I certainly agree), and even that making it a creature of the state is the “antithesis of freedom.” But then he implies that the state should sanction it (presumably only under conditions which his religious beliefs permit). He is trying to have it both ways. If marriage is not to be a creature of the state, then the state should have no place in defining or restricting marriage. That must be left to those entities to which it belonged before the existence of the state: religion. If our faith decides homosexual marriages are contrary to God’s will, fine; they can continue to refuse to marry homosexuals in the faith. Other religions have decided that homosexual marriages are agreeable to God, and the decisions of their faiths should be respected just as much by the law as our own.

    Secondly, Paul trivializes the relationships of homosexual couples, equating them with marriage. I have absolutely no question that the feelings between homosexual couples are no different than those between we heterosexual married couples. They have the same intensity, depth, and intimacy as I share with my wife. While I do indeed have some very deep friendships, they in no way compare to the relationship I have with my wife. We should not demean those committed homosexual relationships, some of which have lasted longer than I have been alive, by insisting they are merely a friendship.

    Franz, you bring up an interesting point with the Equal Rights Amendment. I was not alive in that era, but I believe the Church took very strong stands against that amendment, that the Church leaders were very resistant to the civil rights movement, and took positions very similar to Jesse Helms’ on the movement and its black leaders (I know WP has been around longer than I; can you confirm some of this?). While I believe that the prophet and GA’s were (and are) wonderful men, divinely inspired in Gospel matters, they were (and are) also humans, with their own flaws and prejudices, who were not guided in every action, but made errors of policy and action, and whom we were (and are) not expected to follow blindly, but with the guidance of the Spirit. For Jeffery to question the leaders publicly according to the dictates of his conscience and the Spirit, despite the overwhelming culture of conformity in our society, is something I find courageous.

  8. Aaron Orgill Says:

    If you feel you are following the Spirit, I have no argument with you. I find it a little insulting that you seem to be suggesting that those of us who are standing where we’ve been asked to by our leaders are simply conforming. Sometimes it takes more courage to stifle your own hesitation and follow something you don’t understand but have faith that your leaders are in touch with God. If you can really feel at peace with your decision to ignore them on this one, I suppose it’s none of my business. I just hope you’ll take it very seriously before deciding that you know better than the Prophet. Take care.

  9. alliegator Says:

    I don’t think that I “know better than the prophet”. I just can’t reconcile how I feel and what church leaders are saying. I’m really trying to, but so far, I haven’t found a way to do so.

    Life is full of uncertainty. Sometimes it takes more courage to live with some emotional discord.

  10. Inimitable Mormon Says:

    I want to first thank you for being so kind and thinking from your heart rather then your mind. I have come to learn over trials and my coming out process that when you do what your heart tells you, you are doing the right thing; and your heart will always tell you to love.

    I just want those who disapprove of gays and/or gay marriage, to remember Christ’s life. He always said ‘Come unto me,’ and do we not believe in the LDS faith that we MUST become like Christ? He always dealt with love. Through the power of love from my Bishop, I am still a member of this church and I know that each word you say against your spiritual brother or sister, indirectly or not, about their sexuality is as if it were a knife directly to the heart. We are all a family, and when negative words come out, we take it personally because of this belief.

    Don’t let your pride get to you. Always remember to love.

  11. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Inimitable, I am glad you had a loving bishop and that you are still a member of the Church. It is important for each of us to remember not to be so mean and harsh. Let’s expand on your words and say that each word we say about our brothers and sisters, whether about their sexuality, their bad tempers, or their tendency to gossip or cheat or swear, can be hurtful and “a knife to the heart”.

    Be careful when following your heart. Sometimes our hearts tell us to do things that we want to do but have tragic consequences. Perhaps you are using the term “heart” interchangeably with the Spirit. If so, great. But I have experienced someone very closely to me following their heart, and it led to a lot of suffering. As we are told in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord “will tell you in your heart and in your mind”. Good luck with dealing with what you have on your plate. I hope your life becomes everything you ever hoped for and more.

  12. Red Says:

    courageous for having an opinion eh…….sounds more like free speech than courage to me……….however the good prof. nielsen does have an interesting argument but it falls short when he states that “I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their skin color or gender.” I have an issue with that statement because we make our own choices and ARE personally responsible for them. WE choose who we lie down with at night, just as the Alcoholic chooses to have another beer………..if people want to be gay or drink they can be my guest because that is their decision but they are going against what the church teaches. The church has a right to stand on the principles it teaches and encourage members to up hold its teachings

  13. Inimitable Mormon Says:

    Red, I have always had a problem with people who compare being gay to an alcoholic or drug user. If you look at the life of an alcoholic, they have to drink usually for a substantial part of there life and they chose to begin drinking. Homosexuals never chose to begin to like the same sex, that came natural. I think you should really do your research before you say that being gay is against the churches teachings. Elder Holland states, “…same-gender attraction [being gay] is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is.”

    So, like you said, we choose who we lay in bed with but you are very inaccurate to state that we choose the beginnings of our sexuality. Again, please do more research and read Elder Holland’s full article which was in the October (I think) Ensign.

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=2784ba12dc825110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

  14. red Says:

    I read the article and you’re right same-gender attraction is not a sin if not acted upon. However my position is that when a man and a man or a woman and a woman enter into marriage and they act upon their feelings it is against the law of chastity just as a person who fornicates or commits adultery it is against the law of chastity and the church does not uphold those who break this law. I would like to think gay couples who enter into civil unions or marriage would not act upon their “feelings” as Elder Holland puts it but I think that is few and far between. Either way we will always have a choice of how we act on feelings we do have.

  15. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Red, dude, no one’s arguing with you. Everyone knows what the Church teaches. You don’t need to pound it in.

  16. Mary Danzig Says:

    As one who has experienced first hand what can happen when a person speaks their conscience in opposition to the LDS Church I express my deep admiration for Jeffrey Nielsen’s bravery. It is not something done lightly. It can be agonizing and heartbreaking. There are times when people who love the LDS Church deeply, after much prayer and soulsearching find themselves disagreeing in some way their conscience does not allow them to ignore. A new website has been created to give people in the LDS Community a place to express their feelings on this issue. The site is http://www.signingforsomething.org
    This site has been put together by a diverse group of people ranging from active LDS to resigned members of the church. If you care about this issue, please check out the site.

  17. shash lagai nahalin Says:

    Great are the words of Isaiah except when we differ with him.

    Both Jewish and Christian traditions state that the Prophet Isaiah was killed by being sawed in half * by people who were offended by his words of warning. Isaiah one of the most political of the prophets seemed to stick his nose into everything. He paid for his audacity.
    Now come Dr. Neilsen and others who want it two ways. They want prophets when they like what they say and don’t want them as prophets
    when they don’t like what they say. Thus they saw the prophet in two like Isaiah. Great are the words of Isaiah except when we differ with him.

    *Hebrews 11:37 (King James Version) They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

  18. ournotes Says:

    I’m a big fan of Jeffery Nielsen. His example has already inspired me to research and investigate homosexuality, and now I too support civil rights to homosexuals. It takes a courageous and strong person to speak out against their religious leaders, even when it means you would loose your job and possibly be put through the humiliation of religious discipline.

  19. Mary Child Says:

    I am thrilled to find a site such as this, because as an active LDS mother, I too find myself “disagreeing with things in a way my conscience does not allow me to ignore,” more often than I like to admit. I cope with my struggles and remain active, hoping that in the end, faith will be enough to overcome the things within the Church that seem ‘wrong’ to me deep down.

    One issue here that I would like to comment on, is that my opposition to the statement read two weeks ago over the pulpit stemmed more from my belief that the Church should not dictate political persuasions, more than whether or not acting on gay urges is immoral.

    We live in a country where all men are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Church teaches that our Agency is a divine gift, and I believe that just as Satan wasn’t allowed to take our agency away, none of us is at liberty to take the pursuit of happiness away from someone we disagree with based on moral

  20. Mary Child Says:

    How embarrassing. My lack of technological prowess just manifested itself. My apologies.

    My point was this.

    We should be more concerned about upholding the Constitution of this country, a place that allows a religion such as Mormonism to flourish, than imposing our moral values onto other people. We are a Church that, though no longer practices polygamy, still believes that plural marriage is a celestial, divinely sanctioned union. Those outside the Church often find this doctrine to be offensive and immoral. Who is to determine morality?

    Which is why politics and religion can and should be separate.

    My moral belief is that engaging in homosexual acts is sinful.

    My political belief is that every citizen of this country should be treated equally. Each of us has our individual agency, and likewise should be given the freedom to follow whichever path we believe will lead to fulfillment and happiness in this life.

    I wholly believe that being homosexual is not a choice; it is a natural inclination. I deeply sympathize with homosexual members, who basically have two choices: remain active, suppress your feelings, and try to become someone else, or leave the Church, be branded as an apostate, and feel the sting of rejection from the spirtual community you once belonged to. Neither is appealing. I have no idea how I would proceed in such a predicament, and those who deal with this have my sincere compassion.

    Furthermore, I do not agree that a committed, loving, homosexual couple threatens the sanctity of family.

    Ask me to support a measure that prevents ghetto-trash from pro-creating, and I’m there! This, well, I still don’t know how my conscience will allow me to vote yet.

    I do admire and respect President Monson very much. This is, indeed, a pickle…

  21. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Mary, religion and politics are never truly separate. My argument with the religious right is that they let politics dominate their religion, and allow their disapproval of different lifestyles override the central theme of Christianity, which is to love everyone. The counterculture revolution of the 60’s and Roe v. Wade had the unfortunate effect of distracting people from charity for the poor and other aspects of the big picture. Until then, it seems there was a much higher number of Democrats in not only the LDS, but other Christian faiths.

    I totally get you on the hesitation you have on this issue. I have been able to reconcile it in my own mind for the following reasons. A) I do not believe that President Monson or any of the Brethren are vindictive and mean and take some kind of perverse pride in hurting homosexuals. B) I believe in those men as prophets and that when they actually come out and ask us to do something, we should fall in line even if we don’t completely understand it, something that would be simple conformity if it were to anybody else but God’s prophet. C) The Church seems to see this as something that will be truly damaging to society. While we don’t legislate morality, the Church has had a distinct pattern of opposing things that are a detriment to society but could be seen as an impediment to freedom. President Heber J. Grant asked the Church to vote to continue Prohibition, something that sounds even more outlandish today, but his people ignored him and Utah essentially repealed it. So the Church’s stance seems to be that if something isn’t right, why invite it into your lives and into society just to appear open-minded? Alcohol consumption causes a lot of ills in society and has no real redeeming features, and apparently our leaders feel the same way about gay marriage, and that’s something we should give strong consideration to before ignoring them.

    I would add that opposition to gay marriage is in no way imposing our morals on others. There is a very important distinction to be made here. Whoever gets more votes will be, in effect, imposing their values and their will on the whole of society. It happens all the time in a democracy, and it renders all the “we don’t want to impose our beliefs on others” moot. We need to ask ourselves, is gay marriage good for society, and could there be some unintended consequences. My feeling is that it is not good, and there could be, and my resolve is strengthened by the Brethren’s counsel. I also believe that gays should have certain rights, and that there are different ways to address them aside from caving in and mocking the institution of marriage more than already is being done.

  22. Mary Child Says:

    Wow Aaron, I completely agree with you on A,B, and C. You are totally right. I know that The First Presidency/Apostles are not vindictive or mean, I know they are spiritually connected and more in tune than I ever have a prayer of being, and I am willing to be obedient because of that.

    I understand the Church’s teachings that the family is the sacred, fundamental unit of society. It’s not that I question their judgement; the Proclamation on the Family makes the distinct point that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that this is the most conducive environment to promoting spiritual well-being and growth. I accept that for the wisdom that it is. I live that in my own family and my own life.

    I just want our country to be a place where everyone is free to accept or reject what they will. If someone, deep in their heart, feels that they are homosexual, and that denying who they are is too much to ask of their conscience, I believe that as citizens of this country, they should be free to follow their own path, without being discriminated against.

    And same-sex unions STILL do not extend the same legal protections and rights that marriage does.

    The issue with which I disagree with you is that gay marriage does not, on a civic level, “mock the institution of marriage.” To be offended by gay people committing to one another the way heterosexuals do, in marriage, is to observe it from a moral perspective.

    I absolutely do not believe that laws should be legislated based on moral perspectives, as moral perspectives are always subjective.

    For me, full equality under the law, is more important than the perceived, possible negative side-effects of gay marriage.

    I am in complete agreement with what Derek said above: “I have absolutely no question that the feelings between homosexual couples are no different than those between we heterosexual married couples. They have the same intensity, depth, and intimacy as I share with my wife. While I do indeed have some very deep friendships, they in no way compare to the relationship I have with my wife. We should not demean those committed homosexual relationships, some of which have lasted longer than I have been alive, by insisting they are merely a friendship.”

    Gay people feel as deeply and intensely as you do. They want to be validated as human beings, and to feel protected as citizens. I cannot argue with that, based on my personal opinion that gay relationships are sinful before God.

    I DO think that acting upon gay urges is wrong. I DO think the Church is understandably objecting to something that could threaten the definition of family, which we know is divinely instituted, and indeed sacred.

    I’m just saying that my duty as a citizen of a free country is to defend that freedom. Mormons champion the Constitution when it serves their own interests, but clamor behind “duty” and “obedience” when it doesn’t.

    I’m sure that as a duty-bound (or more specifically, covenant-bound) member myself, I will vote as President Monson has requested, because as you said, President Monson is not vindictive or mean, and I believe that he is a Prophet, and knows better than I what God intends for this people at this time.

    It’s just gonna be hard. Because deep down, I truly, firmly believe, that just as I am free to be a crazy Mormon, homosexuals should be free to be as true to themselves, and be able to find personal fulfillment and validation without being treated as second class citizens… they want the respect and recognition and protection that “Marriage” bestows, and I don’t fault them in the least for feeling deprived of that.

  23. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Mary, I totally get you. I’ve had every one of those same thoughts. I don’t fault them in the least for feeling deprived either, and I have a number of gay friends who I care about. It bothers me that insurance and end-of-life legal rights aren’t the same. I share your desire to live in a country where people can “accept or reject what they will”. We do live in that country. Right now people are rejecting gay marriage, although the margins are ever decreasing. I think the important distinction to make here is that people WANT to do certain things all the time, and based on certain criteria, we allow it or we don’t. I think it’s completely logical to say if we allow this, it will be harder and harder for a kid who’s growing up to know what’s right. How often and deeply I’ve considered this I can’t begin to tell you. Even 11 years ago when I graduated from high school, the attitude toward homosexuals was much different. In some ways it’s better. I’m glad people are not so harsh and condemning. But in others, I would hate to be a kid, especially one with homosexual inclinations, being told on all sides that it’s okay and completely acceptable. That kid is not going to stand much of a chance, and legitimizing gay marriage does a great deal of damage in that way.

    I don’t know that I buy the idea that disallowing gay marriage prevents them from being true to themselves, any more than being a Mormon prevents you from being true to yourself. There are certain disadvantages in both cases that we have to deal with, and ultimately, my firm belief is that there is no “essential” Aaron Orgill or Mary Child, except for our common godly ancestry. There is nothing that we can’t transform, even if it takes a Herculean amount of effort. What I think of as “me” is no more than the choices I’ve made and the personality I’ve developed. But that’s a topic for another day.

    You remind me a lot of myself. I clicked on the link to your blog, and you have a beautiful family. I hope we cross paths sometime, and that your life and your family are a joy to you.

  24. Mary Child Says:

    Okay Aaron. Very well argued! I think you are a bit more of an optimist than I, and hopefully, you are right!

    I have really appreciated your perspective, and you have given me some points to ponder.

    Thank you for the compliments; most days, my life & family are a joy to me! I extend the same wish for you…

  25. Matthew Piccolo Says:

    Great discussion. I’ve really enjoyed reading these comments. The only thing I have to add is to the discussion on whether or not government should legislate morality. I think Aaron mentioned it, but here are a couple of strong statements by Elder Oaks:

    Dallin H. Oaks: I believe that questions of right and wrong, whether based on religious principles or any other source of values, are legitimate in any debate over laws or public policy. Is there anything more important to debate than what is right or wrong? And those arguments should be open across the entire political spectrum. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Religious Values and Public Policy,” Ensign, Oct. 1992)

    Dallin H. Oaks: “Don’t legislate morality.” I suppose persons who mouth that familiar slogan think they are saying something profound. In fact, if that is an argument at all, it is so superficial that an educated person should be ashamed to use it. As should be evident to every thinking person, a high proportion of all legislation has a moral base. That is true of all of the criminal law, most of the laws regulating family relations, businesses, and commercial transactions, many of the laws governing property, and a host of others.

    So what does it mean when a person says, “Don’t try to legislate morality?” There is ample room for debate on the wisdom of most legislation, whether it has a moral base or not. Some legislation is unwise or undesirable because it is an excessive interference with liberty or because it will be impossible or expensive to enforce. But the mere statement that we should not legislate morality contributes nothing to reasoned public discourse. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Gambling — Morally Wrong and Politically Unwise,” Ensign, June 1987, 69 )

    So let’s continue to discuss whether or not banning same-sex marriage “is unwise or undesirable because it is an excessive interference with liberty or because it will be impossible or expensive to enforce,” but whether or not the Church should be involved in public debate about laws with a “moral” basis is not the question. Given that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (including Elder Oaks) have repeatedly supported a ban on same-sex marriage, I think we know what they think about whether or not such a law is unwise, undesirable, or hard to enforce. Now, we must decide, whether we understand their position intellectually or not, on who’s side we are going to stand. As Aaron said, I’ve also had all these questions being discussed here concern me, but I’m starting to figure things out in my mind now as I act in faith by following the prophet.

  26. Mary Child Says:

    With all due respect to Elder Oaks, and I do respect him a great deal, I consider myself an educated person, and would be happy to explain the statement, “don’t legislate morality”.

    I think that statement is neither profound, nor superficial. It’s pretty simple, and I think, rather straightforward.

    From my perspective, all religions differ in varying degrees on what their particular creed considers to be moral. In some, the death penalty is acceptable, while it’s prohibited in others. Some religions endorse plural marriage, while most shun it. Certain sects allow the consumption of alcohol, while others forbid it. To decide whether something is “moral” from your own religious perspective, is to attach subjective value to it.

    I still maintain that politics and religion should be separate.

    I vote politically, based on the merits of whether I believe the specific issue is for the good of the country as a whole, regardless of whether I agree with it morally.

    I strongly believe that “full equality under the law” is a supreme value (politically and morally!), and had President Monson not asked me to vote against it, I would have voted to support gay marriage. It is a civil rights issue in my mind. It is a matter of whether America continues to be a place in which all men make their own choices, find their own way, and face their own consequences. That’s what freedom means to me. To be at liberty to pursue your own ideas toward happiness and personal fulfillment.

    And something like sexual orientation, which I believe to be a natural inclination, should not be something for which a person is discriminated against.

    I am not hell-bent on terminology. You don’t want to give up “marriage”, fine. I’ll go for same-sex unions, domestic partnerships, whatever you want to call it. But give these couples the legitimacy they deserve, simply for no other reason than the fact that they are human beings who love and commit to one another, and then make sure that every legal protection is extended to them.

    The majority of religions find the mormon doctrine of celestial plural marriage to be not just immoral, but crazy. And yet, we thrive in this great country. A place where men are free to choose their own path. I don’t expect ANY of the apostles to agree with me, because they are approaching this issue with their own knowledge about Gospel teachings.
    They know that spiritual freedom is not possible when one is mired down in sin. I’m saying that it’s not our place to determine sin for anyone but ourselves. I don’t condemn someone for reaching a different conclusion in life than I have reached; I wish them well.

    This really is my last comment on the subject! I don’t have time to be on the computer this much. The laundry is piling up and the kids are raising themselves, and I really never intended to become a gay rights advocate… I have to get to the gym and figure out what’s for dinner!

    Thanks for all the dialogue everyone, and I know full well that Elder Oaks is a tiny bit wiser than I am, so Matthew, no need to drill that in any further!

  27. shash lagai nahalin Says:

    As matthew points out above, the Church has taken on moral issues like gambling and liquor laws over the years. This is not unprecedented by any means

    Same Sex Marriage is a moral issue of importance to me and my religion and people in our democracy must make moral judgments on most legislation. Under the US Constitution the right to join public dialog cannot denied or abridged based on religious grounds or a religious test.

    Moreover, the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) specifically recognizes that churches have a right “to attempt to influence legislation” providing it’s “efforts do not constitute a substantial part of its overall activities.”

  28. Aaron Orgill Says:

    People may think of plural marriage as crazy, but it’s very much Biblically based, so Christians who use that past against us really have no leg to stand on, and Asia and Africa have an even stronger history of it, so any time someone pulls that one out, I think it’s a weak argument.

  29. Don Says:

    Mary,

    You are absolutely correct; this is a civil rights issue. I would challenge all LDS people who would vote to ban gay marriage to try a little empathic exercise. Suppose the proposed amendmen was to ban LDS Temple marriage, simply because the mainstream Christian majority felt that it was sinful and somehow, although unexplainably, harmful to “traditional” Christian marriage. How would you want those unlike yourselves to vote then? I’m not a member (never have been) but I know how I would vote.

    Regarding “legislating morality,” I think Elder Oaks has missed the point, quite possibly deliberately creating a straw man so that he could easily dismiss it. The point isn’t that we shouldn’t legislate morality, but rather that we shouldn’t legislate specifically any particular religious morality. Morality and religion are not inextricably intertwined. Both can, and do, exist without the other. In fact, morality, in the sense that what is moral is that which allows happiness and love to flourish in others, could well be better served when it is disencumbered of religious irrationality altogether. If any are interested, a good book on the subject is The End of Faith by Sam Harris.

    Mary, I think your faith would be well served to listen more to those who think as you do. With all due respect to your Elders, I find you much wiser than they. Don’t let the power of your voice be silenced. Vote your conscience. Vote for the supreme value of “full equality under the law.” Summon the courage to go ahead and vote in a manner consistent with what you already say (which I recognize takes courage in its own right.) I believe that any just and loving “God” would support you in doing so.

  30. Don Says:

    “Same Sex Marriage is a moral issue of importance to me and my religion …”

    Why should your religion’s moral issues be imposed upon those who are not of your faith? Isn’t that akin to Muslims asking that we impose Sharia law because it is “important” to their religion?

    There are moral reasons, beyond those tied to religious tenets, to restrict access to gambling and liquor. I’d like to hear what those reasons are for restricting same-sex marriage. What societal good is achieved by restricting from gay people the same rights and freedoms that you yourself enjoy?

  31. Matthew Piccolo Says:

    Don,

    I’m afraid that your LDS temple analogy doesn’t work. LDS temple ceremonies are religious and have absolutely nothing to do with the state. The people could certainly ban LDS people from having civil marriages like is now done for same-sex couples, but LDS people could still be married in temples or elsewhere just as same-sex couples can be married in their own private ceremonies. I guess the people could make it illegal for LDS people to have temple ceremonies too, but that’s not even close to part of the discussion for same-sex couples or anyone else.

    On legislating religious morality, our law legislates morality whether it come from a religion, family tradition, science, or whatever. Whatever the majority decides should be legislated is legislated. Everyone has the right to contribute their perspective whatever the source.

  32. Don Says:

    Matt,
    I believe it works just fine. In my proposed scenario LDS Temple marriages would not be recognized as civil marriages (i.e. they would be legally banned.) It would therefore be illegal for those who are married in an LDS Temple to gain the benefits of a civil marriage. Right now, that is basically the restriction that gay people are under in most of the country. Yes, they can “marry” in a non-legal ceremony, but only straight people can be legally married as well.

    So, if there were a proposal put forth that LDS marriages were no longer considered “legal” and those who were married in the LDS faith could not be legally married, how would you vote? I’d vote against it in a heartbeat because I believe in freedom, personal liberty and equality under the law for everyone.

  33. Don Says:

    “Whatever the majority decides should be legislated is legislated.”

    But if said legislation is found to unnecessarily restrict, deny or otherwise impinge upon the rights, freedoms and equality of others than our courts are charged with declaring such legislation unconstitutional, thereby preventing a situation where we have a tyranny of the majority.

    That’s exactly what happened in California.

  34. Mary Child Says:

    Don, I wish I could say that I disagree with you, because it would make being a good member of the Mormon Church a whole lot easier for me, but I think you are right on.

    The temple marriage analogy IS relevant, and a perfect example of why I am so torn in my heart over this issue.

    I DO agree with everything Jeffery Nielsen said. I don’t think it is just or right for a certain religious group to impose their values onto all of society. This is what freedom means: to be at liberty to choose your own destiny.

    I find the banning of same-sex marriage to be discriminatory and unconstitutional.

    I am in a really tough predicament, and I don’t have the time or the space to explain why… I’ll just say that I have a deep desire to be a humble and obedient enough person to follow the words of a man I believe to be my prophet, i.e. vote to oppose gay marriage. And yet, I have an equally deep desire to defend freedom and liberty for all people, and vote to uphold the constitution of this country; a constitution that I believe was divinely inspired, so that a religion such as mine could flourish.

    I deeply feel that EVERYONE should be allowed to flourish here.

    I think Professor Nielsen said it best, when he wrote, “I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would, in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents.” I couldn’t agree more.

    I don’t forsee ANY negative effects in this country if same-sex marriage were legitimized.

    But, I also have a lifetime of experience within this Church, to have reached a point where I can tell you from personal experience, that living the principles within it leads to happiness and fulfillment for me. One of those principles is supporting our leaders, especially our Prophet. Following his counsel this time, will be, an exercise of completely blind faith. I absolutely do not agree with President Monson, but I believe that he is a prophet of God, and because of that, I am compelled to do as he asks.

    But Don, I completely understand and agree with your perspective. You are right on a philosophical level, on a civic level, maybe even on a spiritual level. For the life of me, I cannot understand why a loving God would afflict some of his children with homosexual tendencies, only to declare that acting out on those tendencies is sinful. It just doesn’t make sense to me. It puts an insurmountable hurdle at their feet.

    Homosexuality is SO UNIQUE when compared with other “temptations” that humans face. To deny your sexuality is to live a lie. How can people be expected to do that, feeling over a lifetime, that they are keeping a secret, living without integrity, and feeling unfulfilled?

    I can’t, in good conscience, ask that of anyone. And mercifully, we live in a country where all men are free to make their deepest, most profound life-decisions, according to their own free will.

    I do indeed hope that marriage equality for all Americans is something I will see in my lifetime.

  35. Don Says:

    Mary,
    It was probably apparent from my comments, but I’m not LDS and never have been. I cannot even begin to claim to understand the type of struggle you are dealing with; it just doesn’t make sense to me. But that’s not important. I truly appreciate your point of view and the candor with which you speak. In the end, if you find that you cannot vote for legalizing same-sex marriage, maybe it would be enough to simply not vote against it. The letter from the First Presidency urges members to “… do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment.” (emphasis added) If all that you personally can do is resign yourself to not voting one way or the other, isn’t that meeting the request of your elders?

  36. Don Says:

    hmmm, funny, I just reread my comment from the other day and I already mentioned that I’m not a member of the LDS Church . . . I must be getting old. 🙂

  37. Mary Child Says:

    Actually Don, YES, THANK YOU for the solution. That is a perfect course of action for me! I will refrain from voting this time on this particular issue- I don’t know why that never occurred to me!

    I too appreciate your perspective. Often times I am embarrassed by the narrow-mindedness that so many LDS people seem to be afflicted with, but I think that organized religion in general can sometimes be a breeding ground for that; it’s not confined to this particular faith.

    As an adult, that has been my biggest struggle as a Mormon. For some reason, I can’t just conform to certain expectations, this issue being a perfect case in point. It’s difficult to find myself disagreeing with things on a moral level, and still remain “faithful” within my religion, but I guess that is my cross to bear in this life.

    Thanks for all your input. I wish you well, and if this particular issue is something that affects you personally, I send even deeper wishes your way for happiness, fulfillment, and validation. Isn’t that something that every human being deserves?

  38. Sidney Says:

    Many people say that this issue does not harm anyone, and would have no negative effects.
    Does legalizing same sex unions make it easier for same sex couples to adopt and raise children? That is where I always get stuck. While I do not approve of the lifestyle, if others want to practice it, I am fine with their choice and would not want to take away that freedom. But I do not like the idea of children who have no choice being raised by same sex couples.

  39. Don Says:

    “But I do not like the idea of children who have no choice being raised by same sex couples.”

    Why? Can you point to any inherent harm caused to children raised by gay couples compared to heterosexual couples?

    Do you prefer the idea of children living out their entire childhoods in foster care or orphanages?

    Do you advocate removing biological children from gay people living in same sex relationships?

    Do the children of gay couples not deserve the same legal rights and protections as those of heterosexual couples?

  40. katz Says:

    Well played. It’s nice to see someone posting some sense on the internet. I was going to blog about this issue at some point, but maybe I’ll just post Nielson’s letter.

  41. deputymommy Says:

    I know I’m getting in here late, but I just wanted to leave my 2 cents. Why couldn’t the legal terminology be changed from “marriage” to “legal unions” thus “divorcing” the religious term from the legal issue? Marriage would be left to the religious institutions and allow the religious leadership to decide who is worthy of marriage. The law would allow anyone of legal age to enter into a “legal union”. Marriage would not confer any legal rights upon anyone without the civil legal union. This is how many European countries do it. I have thought a lot about the issue and this seems to be the most logical and equitable solution.

  42. moralrelativismdoesnotequaleternaltruth Says:

    What is it about the scriptures that many of you don’t understand? Am I the only one who read about Sodom and Gomorrah? The church declaration “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is considered modern scripture as well: “…marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God…” and “…the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife…” I whole-heartedly applaud Elder Holland’s talk on “same-gender attraction” not being a sin but acting on it being a sin. However, from personal experience–being one who has been healed from same-gender attraction through the power of the Atonement and the help of LDS Social Services–the church social services actively pursues a rehabilitation approach to homosexuality. The fact that the church chooses a rehabilitation route tells me they view same-gender attraction to be a problem akin to alchoholism, or pornography addiction and the like.

    The church has not, does not, and never will approve of gay marriage. By very virtue of the Plan of Salvation, it is incumbent upon the brethren to come out in open, (often-viewed political), and active opposition to homosexual marriage. I don’t see how they can not. Our very “plumbing”–our sexual organs–were distinct to us as spirits in the premortal realm. This plumbing, from what I can tell–and from what is TRULY natural–dictates a perfect fit between a man and woman not between a man and a man nor a woman and a woman.

    As I struggled with same-gender attraction, I knew instinctively to my core those feelings were wrong and in direct opposition to the laws of God and the principles of eternity. I’m SO grateful for a loving Bishop who also helped me AND a loving Savior who healed me. As the Apostle Paul–who once was Saul, the greatest of antagonizers to the early church of Christ–was “born again” and became a clean, courageous, out-spoken, and zealous vessel of the Lord, so have I too become “born again” and will always speak out openly and actively against homosexuality and moral relativism on this topic.

    I hope to God the Savior comes again soon, because all of this moral wrangling over this issue coming from my fellow brothers and sisters in the Mormon faith makes me–dare I say it, it’s not politically correct? Okay, I’ll say it: it makes me nauseated to say the least.

    Love the sinner NOT the sin! In my view, many of you are saying you cannot love the sinner and NOT love the sin. By supporting gay marriage you are loving the sin.

    Also, there has been absolutely NO scientific proof that a person is born with gay tendencies. There is no gene in our DNA that is a marker for same-sex attraction. Scientists haven’t found one now and, I am confident that they will never find one because God did not make any of us that way.

  43. D. Sirmize Says:

    “What is it about the scriptures that many of you don’t understand? Am I the only one who read about Sodom and Gomorrah? The church declaration “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is considered modern scripture as well..”

    Come, come, moral. Why are you such a hater? Why must you see everything in straight black and white? We here are progressives. We’ve been refined to see nuance. Sure, the scriptures are holy writ, but let’s face it, the Bible was written like, forever ago. Only a conservative homophobe would give the Sodom and Gomorrah story a literalist interpretation.

    And the proclamation? Look, we respect President Hinckley all day long, but what do a few old, rich, white guys really know about human physiology? They are welcome to their hateful opinions, but what right do they have to shove them down my throat?

    Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, not discriminate against them or deny them their constitutional rights based upon “plumbing.” Jeffery Nielsen is a brave warrior of truth.

    You just take your “I used to be gay blah blah blah” elsewhere because we don’t tolerate such uninformed drivel here. Conservative hatemongers like you are why I’m voting for Change in November (well, that and electing a black man will do wonders for my white guilt).

  44. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Deputy, I agree that this solution would be a fine one. I’ve supported it ever since I learned about the German way of dealing with the issue. Sadly, I don’t believe that conservatives would ever agree to such a solution, because they want to have their cake and eat it too; they want the legal benefits of marriage, and to have marriage supported by government, but only under their rules.

    MoralRel, What makes you think that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has anything to do with homosexuality? As I pointed out in “Social Justice I: The Need to Help the Poor,” the fall of those cities was not about homosexuality. It is you who are perhaps struggling to understand the scriptures. You (and D) need to read the scriptures rather than blindly accepting the assumptions so commonly passed around about them.

    It is funny you would say that “The church has not, does not, and never will approve of gay marriage.” Neither Nielson nor this blog have ever suggest that the Church should approve of homosexual marriage. Our positions are that the government does not have a legitimate role in propogating religious doctrine, and therefore has no role whatsoever in defining marriage. But your statement reminds me of all the many LDSaints, both average people and highly placed leaders, who claimed that the Church would never in this dispensation give the priesthood to the “children of Cain.” Perhaps we should be careful about making such definitive statements about what the Church will or will not do.

    D, given the fact that you’ve never been banned nor your comments moderated by this blog, I’m confused why you would suggest uninformed drivel is not tolerated.

  45. D. Sirmize Says:

    Derek, I love your little attempts at humor.

    By the way, kudos for not banning or moderating me. You may be closed to my ideas, but at least you hold your nose and let me post them here. I appreciate it, and I’m happy to be your opposition in all things.

    Your “children of Cain” analogy falls short. It would be one thing if the church had at any point allowed or approved of homosexuality or gay marriage, then banned it.

  46. moralrelativismdoesnotequaleternaltruth Says:

    D, I’m confused by YOUR high-mindedness and conceit. Do you really think you are that much more educated then myself or anyone else for that matter who has made a conscientious choice to believe in the scriptures and the revelations of prophets as written? That is why, even though I can sympathize with people who also want to have their cake and eat it too–like individuals similar to yourself who want to say the “scriptures are old, yada, yadah, yadi” in order to feel justified in their ammoral, relativist philosophies and practices (oh yeah, and “anyone who doesn’t agree with me is uneducated and only capable of ‘uninformed drivel'”) –I could never, in good conscience go against what modern prophets and scriptures and the Plan of Salvation, and mother nature have dictated.

    My husband is a medical doctor and I’ve had plenty of opportunity to discuss this issue with him. There are only two combination of chromosomes: XX and XY. I can’t understand why or where you could find any “nuances” in the science. My husband and I are both highly educated with plenty of life experience. You accusing me of hate is a knife that cuts both ways…Your own words condemn you with the same approach you accuse me of.

    And even if you want to cheapen my past trials by making fun of me (“I used to be gay blah blah blah…”) it does not take away from the fact that I have been healed and I will be forever grateful to my Savior for a complete and full Atonement. “My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.” Mosiah 27:29

    Derek, thanks for not monitoring my ‘uninformed drivel’…I prefer to call your ‘misguided drivel’ the “philosophies of men mingled with scripture”.

  47. D. Sirmize Says:

    Moralrel, hey, take it easy. I was totally kidding. Please re-read. Click on my name, go to my blog, you’ll see.

    I guess my silly attempt at sarcasm was more convincing than I intended it to be. I was caricaturing the typical liberal equivocation on this issue.

    Believe me, I’m with you. And believe me, I don’t cheapen your past. I may be your only ally on this blog.

  48. moralrelativismdoesnotequaleternaltruth Says:

    Oh wow! What a relief. I’ve never posted on a site like this before…I’ve come across liberal blogs here and there but none dealing from a Mormonism viewpoint. I guess I had my guard WAY WAY up, eh? Whew! I feel better! Okay, now I can laugh: hahahahaahahaha, heeeheheehee, hohohohohoho…k

    So, I guess for a conservative I obviously broke the mold of your observation that (paraphrasing here) “liberals take themselves too seriously while conservatives can laugh at ourselves”, eh? Well, sorry to make a liar out of ya! (J/K)

    It’s just the whole thing where after I posted I honestly felt–no offense intended towards anyone here–that I had had a lapse in judgment and had “cast my pearls before swine”. As you can see, my experiences are very dear–even sacred–to me, hence my bristling response.

    Just for the record, I have a cousin who is out and out gay and I love him. I do have a hard time some times figuring out the line/balance between loving him but not “sustaining” him in his actions. It’s an awkward feeling as he is the same old “Brad” to me…Anyone else besides me struggle with this? Maybe this isn’t the audience to ask, but I had to ask anyway. I know you are all children of God…I know he loves all of us–gay or not…But I follow my leaders and Holy writ, as I know the Spirit whispers to me they are inspired of God.

    Okay, there I go again taking myself too seriously…This issue is obviously too close to me.

  49. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Whoa Derek, you are saying the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah had NOTHING to do with homosexuality? I’ve been on this blog for some time, and the link to the first Social Justice critique was one of the first I participated on. I really can’t see how you can seriously make that claim. They were corrupt all the way around, as you claimed, and a part of that was homosexuality, which you really don’t seem comfortable with and now seem to want removed completely. Why?

  50. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Aaron, I’m saying that there is no scriptural evidence that homosexuality was a significant factor in the fall. Conservatives reflexively use S&G to buttress their position on homosexual activity, but they are relying on conjecture and assumption rather than on what the scriptures actually say.

    Homosexual behavior may indeed be a sin. You can make that case based on the modern prophets. But when you try to make that case based on inaccurate assumptions about ancient scripture, the argument has no credibility.

    And I question that homosexuality is evidence of corruption: would you really have me believe that the fact that my uncle had desires for other men all his life is evidence that he was corrupt?

  51. moralrelativismdoesnotequaleternaltruth Says:

    Derek,

    So if you make the argument about homosexuality NOT being a sign of corruption–as you are insinuating albeit without coming out saying so directly (I love how liberals argue)–then you are saying that sin is NOT corruption and, (following your argument ), hence, homosexuality is NOT a sin. Although you did say in the paragraph previously that “Homosexual behavior may indeed be a sin.”. SO, like all liberals you are contradicting yourself while you are asserting a point in order to back up your argument. Geez, how confusing! All of this moral relativism can give one at the very least a head ache–however, if one did it long enough it seems it could lead to schizophrenia. 🙂

    But, it is important to go back to Elder Holland’s talk: if you don’t act on the tendencies it is NOT a sin (thus not corrupt) but, if you do, it is a sin. So, did your uncle, Derek, act out on his tendencies? If not, then he was not sinful nor corrupt and I applaud him for his restraint and self-discipline and I’m confident the Lord will reward him handsomely. However, if he did act out, actively, without repentance, then according to the brethren he was an unrepentant sinner (i.e. corrupt).

    And, of note, here is what the LDS bible dictionary says of Sodom and Gomorrah:
    “The early history of Gomorrah is found in Gen. 10: 19; Gen. 13: 10; Gen. 14: 2-11; Gen. 18: 20; its destruction is noted in Gen. 19. See also Deut. 29: 23; Isa. 13: 19; Jer. 50: 40; Amos 4: 11; Matt. 10: 15; Rom. 9: 29; 2 Pet. 2: 6; Jude 1: 7. The fate of the city was regarded as a warning against SENSUAL [emp added] wickedness. The five “cities of the plain,” of which Gomorrah was one, probably stood at the northern end of the Dead Sea.”

    So, homosexuality was part of that–as the Bible’s account aptly records–along with other variations of sensual and/or sexual sin. Here is part of the account–where the men of the city desire to “know” two angels that were staying with Lot–from the horses mouth: (Gen. 19:1-8)
    ” 1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
    2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.
    3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
    4 ¶ But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:
    5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
    6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,
    7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
    8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.”

    Along with modern prophets, what other kind of evidence do you need, Derek, that unrepentant, homosexuality was not a factor in Sodom and Gomorrah and is currently a factor in the degradation of our society today? “The scriptures are laid before thee…” (Alma 30:44)

  52. Aaron Orgill Says:

    For goodness’ sake, Derek, grow up. Yes, that’s what I’m saying. What sin is not corruption? I’m not saying your uncle would rob banks or take bribes, but yes, in some way he is corrupt, as we all are in our own ways. I have no axe to grind with homosexuals, but I do have an axe to grind with your inability to call a spade a spade. Why do you have to soften what the prophets have been saying for ages when it suits you (i.e. it “may” be a sin, “you can make that case”)? You accept the whole thing or none of it. I find it admirable to the extent that you remind people not to obsess so much over issues they should not be judging their fellow men on, but you can’t even come out and unequivocally say it is wrong, which nature itself is a testimony of. As to your belief that Christianity is misinterpreting the scriptures and you have it right, people read between the lines all the time. Some of the best lessons I’ve had in my own personal study have come from things that aren’t spelled out in perfect detail, but that seem to make sense. I might not be right on with all of my interpretations, but if it feels right and does not contradict our modern leaders, I’m willing to bet on it the majority of the time. You have completely ignored Moral Rel’s triumph over temptations which she herself felt were a danger to her soul. But apparently we have reached a point where your brand of politics trumps your faith. We can’t praise, or even acknowledge that someone else has overcome homosexuality, can we? That would be an unforgivable sin to your liberalism.

  53. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Yes, Moral Rel, the Bible Dictionary does make that point. But the Bible itself doesn’t really support the Bible Dictionary conclusion if you interpret “sensual” to mean “homosexual.”

    I addressed that traditional–and inaccurate–interpretation of the story of the two messengers to Lot in my post on Social Justice.

    Aaron, you seem to struggle to make the distinction between homosexuality (attraction to people of the same gender) and homosexual activity. The attraction is not a sin. I believe you are wrong in your belief that his homosexuality is evidence of corruption. Yes, his (my uncle) giving in to his desires is, according to the prophets, sin. Etymologically, sin means “falling short of the mark.” We all fall short of the mark. His sin is no more evidence of corruption than our own sins.

    You say “You accept the whole thing or none of it.” Does this then mean that you believe those active Church members who refused to believe that blacks were the spawn of Cain, premortal “fence-sitters,” and would never receive the priesthood in this dispensation, but who faithfully followed the essential doctrines of the Gospel, accepted “none of it?”

    If we are to simply blindly accept anything the prophets say, then why do the prophets of this dispensation repeatedly and frequently tell us (read again your Priesthood manuals from the past few years) that we should seek confirmation of their words? Is there some caveat I missed where it suggested we ignore any confirmation or other spiritual guidance if it contradicts the prophet? I’m supposed to ignore the dictates of my conscience, where it has lead me after my own prayerful study, and follow yours solely because yours is conveniently exactly what the hierarchy has said? How is that any different from blind obedience?

    I’ve stated before in my post regarding the Marriage Amendment where I stand on homosexuality as a sin. I don’t care whether or not my statements meet your litmus test for orthodoxy. Whether or not homosexual behavior is a sin really isn’t relevant to how we treat homosexuals under the law.

    I have little patience with arguments that are based on ignorance, such as the argument that S&G is evidence of God’s hatred of homosexuality, or that “nature is a testimony that homosexuality is wrong” (you might be surprised at how frequently homosexual behavior is observed in the animal world; and if you want to use “nature” as a guide for our behavior, then you’d better start advocating polyamory). Whether or not I believe in the position itself is immaterial. For example, while I am a strong believer in the WofW, and believe alcohol is potentially very dangerous, I have no respect for any argument which uses the stultifying claim that the wine which Christ and his disciples drank was merely grape juice (the ancient Roman world didn’t have the technology to prevent fermentation if they wanted to). And just in case you were interested, I wouldn’t consider the WofW any more relevant to a discussion on the legal status of alcohol any more than I do the Church’s position on homosexual behavior in the discussion of the legal status of homosexual behavior.

    I see no reason to pat Moral Rel on the back for her claim to have been cured. It is again irrelevant to how we should treat homosexuals in civil, secular society. I was willing to respect her claim on face value. But since you seem to feel I have to make a statement, I’ll admit to being skeptical. I’ve read of many people who claim to be “cured,” only to find themselves falling victim to those desires years later. Most studies show that programs to “cure” homosexuality have abysmal long-term success rates. If homosexuality is curable, why then have so many homosexuals raised as Mormons or mainstream Christians, who spend years pleading, and praying, and faithfully serving, not been cured? Why are they left to feel like God has abandoned them, or hates them, falling to despair and suicide? If Moral Rel feels she has been cured, then more power to her. But I’m not going to take it as some statement on the big picture, because the evidence makes me very dubious.

    If you want to continue to make judgments about my faith based on your beliefs, be my guest. It isn’t worth my time to clarify or argue the point any further.

  54. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I don’t give two hoots about providing a litmus test for your orthodoxy, and never have. I just said that you are really stretching it to say that there was no link between the fall of S&G and homosexuality. You’re misrepresenting what I said by making the obvious distinction between homosexuality and homosexual activity that I thought was already implied in the conversation, so I really don’t appreciate you pinning that on me. Nowhere did I say that the inclination or thought itself was corrupt, since we’re using that word.

    Secondly, you stop this minute setting up straw men about what you assume I would say about homosexuals in the animal world, the children of Cain, and the consumption of alcohol in Biblical times. And for that matter, on this topic itself you aren’t being very fair to me. I’ve stated at least twice that I have really had to wrestle with this topic. You have been insulting, rude, and self-righteous by suggesting that everyone besides you is just blindly conforming. What a HORRIBLE thing to be on the same page as the Brethren. How do you know this hasn’t been a matter of fasting, deep meditation, and temple attendance for me? For that matter, how do you know I haven’t had discussions with the powers that be? That would be a yes in both cases, and I’ve come out much better for it.

    I regret that you have seen my arguments as a judgment of your worthiness. There are a thousand people within the Church I’ve met just like you on this issue. I’m not at all intimidated by what anybody believes. I have been intense and passionate in this thread, and I am sorry if you feel like I believe myself above you. That’s not really the case; I just see danger in caving to what is politically correct. I would hate to be a kid growing up with homosexual tendencies in the coming generation, because it’s obvious that they are already going to be told on all sides that there is nothing wrong with them and that anybody who says differently is a hateful bigot. We have a real risk of exacerbating the problem in the name of tolerance. Just consider that and do with it what you will.

  55. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I will add that your question of why God would “heal” someone is one of the most basic theological/philosophical questions, that I am fully unqualified to answer. I’m sure you heard that question dozens of times as a missionary. You should know better than to ask that, or to write off someone like Moral Rel’s claim just because others do not get the relief they seek. I don’t know why one child is spared and another from an equally faithful family is taken; why one refugee from Sierra Leone gets his life and family back while another’s suffers cruel torture and murder, and I can’t answer this one either. But it sounds like with your skepticism, you are suggesting that it is unlikely that God would choose to heal ANYONE from this particular temptation. What makes homosexuality so special that someone’s heart cannot be changed in this life? I don’t know Moral Rel, and would love to hear her perspective on it, but I am more than happy to take her comments at face value rather than cynically refute any possibility of it happening. We should rejoice that she got what she wanted and what we ourselves believe to be the ideal outcome, not question its authenticity.

  56. moralrelativismdoesnotequaleternaltruth Says:

    Aaron, I appreciate your stand for truth. I, too, feel that Derek’s attitude is condescending towards me and mocks the Savior and His sacrifice. I know that the Savior can heal anyone. I know He heard and healed me. I wrestled with this issue since four years of age–when I didn’t want to wear a swimming suit like the other little girls but swim trunks like my brother. My parents wrote it off as a phase but it was just the beginning of a life full of temptation and self doubt. Because of what I’ve learned in hind-sight, with our own children we provide the distinctions for them since they are still too young to do it for themselves. We also provide the dinstinctions for them because the media and our culture is going to show them something completely opposite and/or in direct opposition to what the plan of salvation has laid out for us, God’s children. For example:

    1. Girls ONLY dance with boys and boys ONLY dance with girls
    2. Girls ONLY marry boys and boys ONLY marry girls
    3. Girls do not hold girls hands and boys do not hold boys hands
    4. Girls only kiss boys (outside the family) and boys only kiss girls
    5. We were girls and boys when we were with Heavenly Father before we were born
    6. God loves ALL his children, even those who make sad choices, but we know the difference between right and wrong and we do our best to make happy choices.
    7. If we do not make “happy” choices and/or struggle God will forgive us and change our hearts–if we let Him.

    Aaron and Derek, I truly feel for my brothers and sisters in this world who struggle under the weight of this temptation and weakness. Never once, in my healing process under the tender guidance of a Bishop and LDS Social Services worker, did I feel judged or demeaned during it. I felt loved. And that love gave me hope. And that hope gave me faith. And that faith gave me the ability to turn my burdens to the Lord–to sacrifice them on His alter. It was all very private and very sacred. Besides the Lord and my counselor, only my parents knew my struggle. It was truly a miraculous healing and long, hard-fought battle. I’m not saying the random temptation does not bounce into my mind here and there…But my heart is different…Truly different. I desire to “do good continually” and to show my loyalty and zealousness for truth to my Savior where ever I go. I do so by standing in holy places–I don’t affiliate with friends, acquaintances, and the like who may struggle with what I struggled with. I’m only as strong, in that regard, as the people I surround myself with. However, because I’ve been so careful to not tread the line but to move as far away from it as I can–in every aspect of my life–the Lord has filled my life with wonderful family and friends who all believe as I do and do their best. None of us are perfect, but we can strive to be as the Savior has asked: perfect even as He is. And, I know the only way I will be perfect is because of the Savior’s grace–nothing of my own doing will make me “worthy” to be with Him some day…But His LOVE I believe and His LOVE will carry me home some day–as long as I stay on the right path during this short and yes, some times painful, life–back to my Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and heavenly home.

    I plead and plead and plead with the Lord and He heard me. If He hadn’t heard me I would still be pleading, even still. I never fully doubted my worth to Him, even when I faltered on my path to healing. Perhaps that is the difference between those who are healed and those who aren’t? I don’t know, I can’t judge, but I do know knowing who you really are is a good place to start for anyone struggling with any type of temptation.

  57. Craig (aka moralrelatavismequalseternaltruth) Says:

    I love this man (Jeffrey Nielsen).

    Now, I didn’t read all the comments above, but I having skimmed them, I have a few things to say.

    First of all, it makes me sad when people think homosexuality is something that can be “cured”. While there may be a lessening or strengthening of attraction to one gender or another over time, (sexual fluidity is a strongly supported occurrence ), that by no means should be taken to mean that someone who is gay can become straight, or vice-versa.

    Moral Rel, you said

    Also, there has been absolutely NO scientific proof that a person is born with gay tendencies. There is no gene in our DNA that is a marker for same-sex attraction. Scientists haven’t found one now and, I am confident that they will never find one because God did not make any of us that way.

    In point of fact, pretty much every scientifically credible study out there has concluded that there are most definitely biological/genetic factors in homosexuality. Now, it is not proven, nor it is being argued, that there is some gene that 100% makes someone gay, which is what you seem to be implying people are arguing. While the causes of homosexuality aren’t well understood, it is clear that there is a strong biological component. Also as has been pointed out, homosexuality is very common in the animal kingdom among mammals, birds and even reptiles, and there are cases of long-term/life-long homosexual pairings. I would argue that whatever factors are present in determining a person’s sexual orientation, for animals it is likely very highly biological and not very much a social thing, though not out of the question. Whereas there may well be other factors, it is also clear that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is entirely unchosen, regardless of the causes, and that it is irreversible. As I said above, sexual fluidity does exist, but does NOT mean someone is any less gay/bi/straight.

    The fact is, there are precious little facts to back up the claims of the LdS church or of many other groups on homosexuality. The “God says so” is fine for those who belong to the church, but holds no weight outside of that narrow, limited community. And as we all know, there are many in the LdS church who don’t believe what the church teaches, because it 1) oftentimes contradicts science and 2) is scripturally unsupportable and 3) totally illogical.

    Aaron, few scriptorians will argue that the sins of Sodom & Gomorrah had anything to do with homosexuality at all. (one of many sources: http://www.libchrist.com/other/homosexual/sodom.html) If you read the passage carefully, and read related passages, it makes it clear that the sins of those two cities consisted of inhospitality and gang rape. What made it wrong was not that some men wanted to have sex with (presumably male) angels, but that they wanted to rape them as well as the daughters of Lot (which he offered to them). There is actually nothing in the Old Testament at all that can be convincingly or logically argued to teach against loving, homosexual relationships, but rather against rape, promiscuity, and prostitution. In fact, the topic is hardly ever mentioned, whereas heterosexual sexual sins are far far more frequently mentioned.
    You said to Derek:

    But it sounds like with your skepticism, you are suggesting that it is unlikely that God would choose to heal ANYONE from this particular temptation. What makes homosexuality so special that someone’s heart cannot be changed in this life?

    You are presupposing that 1) it is a temptation (and not just a difference in someone’s genetic make-up), and 2) that God even wants to change/heal homosexuality at all.

    The church has changed it’s stance on this issue so many times and so drastically, it is hard to take anything it says credibly. For me, that leaves me with logic, science and perhaps even a cursory appeal to the scriptures. All three of these would point towards homosexuality as much as an aberration as black skin (or white, biologically speaking).

    Moral Rel: I contend that the atonement has nought to do with homosexuality because Jesus doesn’t care if someone is straight or gay. Notice he never, ever, EVER said a single thing about it. No where in Mormon scripture (besides the Bible, and arguing that the Bible teaches against loving homosexual relationships is extremely dubious at best) is it ever mentioned. If this were really one of the greatest evils, and the church claims, wouldn’t it get more attention?

    Now, I am very happy you feel at peace with yourself and your choices, but it is entirely unfair to project your own experience onto others, or argue that what works for you should and ought to work for all. That sort of thing is just not supportable when you actually look at human society.

    No, I say that the great evils of the world are rather hatred, lack of natural affection, jealousy, murder, lack of respect for others, lying, greed, poverty, homelessness, apathy for fellow humans, sickness, covetousness, etc. These are the things Jesus taught against, and what the church used to teach against.

    For some reason, the LdS church has picked this one issue to focus on, and in so doing will not only loose much if not all of its credibility, but it is harming many people and families in the process. It is pouring resources to prohibit two men or two women who loves each other from marrying, when they could be devoting their considerable resources to addressing any of the much more important “evils” I mentioned above.

    I also find it fascinating that the church is apparently now ok with civil-unions and domestic partnerships but just not “marriage”. In rather recent past, this was not the case at all.

    I have a lot more I could say, but the point is live the way you want, but don’t force it on anyone else. “Loving the sinner and hating the sin” doesn’t really work, believe me. All it fosters is a feeling of superiority on the part of the “non-sinner” and a feeling of inadequacy and/or offence on the part of the “sinner”. Blindly following the leaders of the LdS church is dangerous at best. There is all too much precedence for them being totally wrong in the past to believe that they are somehow now better in tune with God’s will than they used to be. While I don’t follow any religion I respect those who believe in the LdS religion/Mormonism or any other one for that matter, as long as you don’t infringe on my rights. The LdS church (along with other groups) is trying to violate my rights and I would be an idiot to let them get away with it. There is no credibility to the church’s secular argument against gay marriage, and for that reason alone, it ought to be ignored. As it has no logical or credible non-religious foundation to base it’s discriminatory policies and doctrines on, it ought not have any say in the way laws are formed.

  58. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Craig, I appreciate you speaking out on behalf of all scriptorians everywhere. It’s amazing how often I hear people try to invalidate other beliefs by doing that. I looked into your blog and it sure looks to me like as a gay ex-Mormon, you are projecting your experience onto others WAY more than Moral Rel. But good luck to you. I hope you find happiness. Take care.

  59. Craig (aka moralrelatavismequalseternaltruth) Says:

    Craig, I appreciate you speaking out on behalf of all scriptorians everywhere.

    You’re welcome.

    I’m simply stating that those who are examining the texts from a more neutral point of view (not trying to prove one creed or another), tend to agree with what I stated.

    I’ll admit that I am, to a degree, projecting my experience onto others. To a certain degree, everyone does, and it is impossible not to because of the supremely subjective nature of life and of the human experience. However, there is a difference in the way I do it, and the way a devout Mormon does it.

    We all love to claim objectivity, but true objectivity is much, much harder to reach than we’d like. I do, however, try my best to be as objective as possible. I’ve experienced several different sides of many different issues, and have had views on both (or more) sides of these issues. I do examine them in a way that is decidedly more humanist and secular, logical and provable and I don’t see how else to talk about such topics.

    I fully respect others’ beliefs and belief systems, but at the same time I don’t think any one religion is accurate. I think that religion tends to skew our perceptions more than not adhering to a religion does. Not that I think that anyone who belongs to or practises a religion is out of touch with reality (though many are), but I think that those who are absolutist in their beliefs absolutely are. Absolutism simply doesn’t fit, doesn’t reflect the way human society works or is. There maybe a few absolutes, but I’m not even going to try to identify what they might be.

    A much better way to live and to view life is from a situational perspective. To a large degree, everything “just depends”. What you should say in a certain situation, what you should do, always depends on the circumstances surrounding that situation. I don’t think there is or ever should be one right answer, regardless of the circumstances. That sort of mindset is in fact the cause of so much evil, pain and suffering. This is why I reject as dangerous and harmful, basing your life on a belief system that is absolutely arbitrary and arbitrarily absolute. It is much better to live, to base your decisions on reason, logic, tempered with feeling and emotion, which do have an important place, but which are dangerous when relied upon alone, which I argue is the crux of religion – relying on feeling and emotion and dismissing inconvenient facts, whist cherry-picking those which support the belief you’ve already decided to have, regardless of the facts.

    I believe that to simply appeal to religion/God and say that’s just the way it is, is totally useless. Religious or philosophical ideals and claims much have at least some sort of bearing on, and representation in, reality to be of any use whatsoever. Therefore, I feel that using logic, and discarding things that are obviously way too subjective like feelings or “promptings of the Spirit” is absolutely necessary in getting to the real truth of life.

    The problem with giving primary credence to what you feel, what the “Spirit” or “Lord” puts into your heart is that there is far, far too much evidence that says that multiple, contradicting viewpoints can be, and have been all confirmed to different individuals by “the Spirit” and they have the same degree of conviction that they are right and all others are wrong. There are clear physiological and psychological reasons for why humans experience such things, but it is silly to wholly base your life, your world-view, and your concept of reality on a feeling.

    Without impartial facts, that just doesn’t work, from a larger, global, inclusive perspective. Perhaps if we were still isolated societies and didn’t have as much contact with each other, then it would work better, but the very fact that we are exposed to so much diversity in religious thought alone, suggests to me that none of them are “true” in the way so many think of a particular religion as being true. It is just so incredibly implausible, and there are so many better explanations for the way things work in this world. It is absolutely foolhardy and narrow to ignore them simply based on a belief system that is not provable, and is just one of hundreds or thousands of radically different yet exactly identical other creeds that contradict, and in that contradiction are precisely the same.

  60. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Craig, that’s very well argued. But this particular blog is already presupposing the truth of the LDS Church, so I don’t think I or anyone on here have to apologize given the context in which everything is written. I would rather just see the government get out of the marriage business and see everything as a union. My only argument is that the Church absolutely does have every right to influence legislation when they see fit, and my only argument with you is that you have no right to tell Moral Rel that her case is invalid. She is far from the only person claiming to have been healed, but the Left gives no respect to anyone who was formerly gay because they somehow feel that it would destroy what they’re working for, and that homosexuality is somehow special and impossible to change. I personally believe there is no part of anyone that is the “essential” Aaron or Derek or Craig; everything is malleable, even if some changes come hard.

    Now on to your second challenge, as I said, this blog presupposes that homosexuality is a temptation and that God would want to change it. If you don’t believe that, fine, but I make no apology. The way I see it, all commandments are for our long-term happiness, and the very plumbing of our bodies, and the various results of sexual intercourse are a testament to the intentions of our Creator. I make no judgment about your life’s choices and wish you well.

  61. Craig (aka moralrelatavismequalseternaltruth) Says:

    Aaron,

    I appreciate the respectful way in which you respond. Thank you.

    I don’t believe I was telling anyone their case or their experiences for that matter were invalid.

    I honestly did not get that this blog “presupposes that homosexuality is a temptation” that God wants to change. If I am in error, then I apologise, but I truly did not believe that to be the case (Derek, if I am in error, then please correct me). While I did once believe that, my experiences have taught me that to be untrue.

    Now, I highly disagree that the church (or any church/religion) has the right to influence legislation. Especially when they desire to operate as apolitical, tax-free entities. As I already stated, all of the church’s stated secular arguments are totally invalid for rather obvious, logical reasons, so in reality their whole basis of argument is because of religion, despite their protestations to the contrary. That in and of itself should invalidate what they are trying to accomplish – because it elevates one religion’s ideals over that of another’s, and over those who don’t believe in any religion at all. It is supremely undemocratic, and incredibly dangerous.

    In my previous reply I was explaining why religious motivation or arguments are invalid when being applied to secular situations, or any situation outside of the individual church/religion.

    Aaron, while I agree that much of what we are is malleable, certain things simply are not. I really cannot make myself taller, change the colour of my hair, or make myself to be of a different race. Sure, I can wear heels, dye my hair or skin, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals of who I am. I can change the outer perception, that I will still be 6’0″, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and gay. While sexual orientation may well not be (and probably isn’t) 100% biologically determined, it is still useful to compare it to other innate, and mostly unchangeable characteristics. What scientific evidence we do have supports that strongly. There is a very, very high rate of recidivism by those who have been “cured” of their undesirable sexuality or gender identity, and while I do not claim that it to be wholly impossible for someone to experience a change in their attractions (to argue that would be silly), the majority of evidence points to sexual orientation (not necessarily sexual preference) being permanent. Sexual preference can change over time, based on a number of factors, but is generally tied very close to the orientation of the individual, and to force oneself to an opposite extreme is unhealthy and detrimental in the long run.

    I am of course speaking entirely secularly. The main argument that the church gives to “refute” this is that “well when you die, you’ll be straight”. It is be folly of the most extreme kind for a nation to make policies and laws which are based not in reality, but rather on a unprovable and untestable religious (or philosophical) ideal, doctrine, teaching or belief. Countries that do this are among the worst countries to live in, because of their lack of freedom, and treatment of anyone who disagrees with the official state doctrine.

    You may think I am being overly dramatic here, but the difference between such a law being passed in the US and the kinds of laws existent in the USSR, China, Nazi Germany, or Iran is not a difference of kind, but simply of degree.

    And that scares the hell out of me.

  62. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I can’t speak for Derek, but the blog itself is written from a point of view very faithful to the LDS Church. I do think that most of the participants here will refrain from judging you too harshly, which might be different on other “Mormon” blogs.

    I still disagree that the Church has no right to stand up for something they think is important. 99 percent of the time, they stay neutral politically. I don’t believe we are anywhere near some kind of theocracy. You have to admit, the prospect of gay marriage is new, (or at least as a mainstream political discussion it is relatively new). The Church’s request to have CA members vote against allowing it goes against my own inclinations, but I don’t try to claim they have no part in the conversation, and I can see some side effects that would probably be a big part of why they do oppose it. The USSR, China, and Nazi Germany did not even involve their people in the debate, so I really think it is beyond a stretch to compare us to them.

    I have no idea if you become magically straight when you die. I just know that I believe God is good, and ultimately that is the only thing that matters. From my experience that it has been a good thing when I have followed the people I sustain as prophets. But I do think we need to get back to basics like loving our neighbors and helping the poor, too. I’d love to hear back from you again when you have the time.

  63. Craig (aka moralrelatavismequalseternaltruth) Says:

    I do think that most of the participants here will refrain from judging you too harshly, which might be different on other “Mormon” blogs.

    Oh, I fully agree, and am grateful for that.

    I don’t think that the church hasn’t the right to stand up for what it believes is important, but simply that it must act within the constraints of where religious influence is allowed, and where it is not. I believe in a rather strict interpretation of the phrase “separation of church and state”. I do believe that in this case, the church is overstepping its bounds. I truly have no problem with the church speaking out against gay marriage, but I do have a problem with the way they are going about opposing it. They are exploiting loopholes in order to attempt to force their view of morality/religion on others. While what they are doing may (or perhaps not) be technically legal, I don’t believe it is moral, right, or what God would want.

    I do respect your beliefs and your faith/trust/reverence in/for the church leaders. I simply believe they are in error on this matter – as they, or their predecessors, have been in the past on other issues (and this is a provable, if controversial, fact).

    I do believe that my comparison was useful. I did state that there was a difference in degree – a huge difference in this case, but that it is not entirely different.

    My view is this: banning gay marriage in the US may seem like a small thing, but the fact that one large, powerful group is being allowed to override the rights and freedoms of a minority group is gravely troubling and dangerous. It is not immpossible or unrealistic that this could be a step towards a incrementally, and perhaps imperceptible less free society. In fact, under the Bush Admin., laws have become more restrictive and we are, as a society, just a little less free than we were. Whether it is in the name of “National Security” or “Tradition”, any limitation of the freedoms and rights of law-abiding, moral citizens is wrong, even evil.

    I don’t pretend to know exactly why the LdS church has decided this issue is more important and deserves so much time and resources (MONEY), and EVEN if the Church is right, and gay marraige will somehow (inexplicably, magically) erode “traditional” marriage (which historically speaking is actually a very new invention – but why let logic and facts cloud the issue), the church STILL does not have the right, or authority to force its values on others.

    Here is the problem: secular science/sociology does NOT support any of the church’s claims. In other things, (murder, thievery, etc.) it does, and as a society we have decided to attach penalties to these things. Why? Because they infringe on others’ rights. And this is exactly my point. Infringing on others’ rights is the base upon which our laws are built – they are there, the gov’t is there to PROTECT our inherent rights and freedoms, NOT to limit them, or take them away. The church wants to take rights away, to limit freedom, and has absolutely no good, believable reason to do so – not to those outside the church/conservative Christianity (and a few other groups).

    So, I really don’t have a problem with the church being “part of the conversation”, but they are going far beyond conversing. They are giving of their money, utilising their rather considerable influence, to institutionalise discrimination against an entire group of people who have committed no crime, have done nothing wrong. No matter how they sugar-coat the issue, they really do wish to have gays treated as less than, as inferior to straight people. It makes me sick that we haven’t learnt how incredibly evil and destructive that is. I can’t for a second believe that God would EVER want anything of the sort to happen. It would truly be absolutely NO DIFFERENT if the Jehovah’s Witnesses got blood transfusions made illegal. To them, that is a moral issue, and they’d rather die than accept a transfusion. They believe God wants that. To a Mormon, and indeed to most people, it seems utterly ridiculous that God would want that, and yet they believe it just the same.

    This is exactly the same. Exactly.

    The fact that other religions and even non-religious people want to ban gay marriage doesn’t change the fact that this is based on prejudice, and not on science. There is no evidence that our society will benefit from such a ban, and indeed we have lots of evidence that says our society is best served by extending the right to marry to all.

    There is just so much overwhelming evidence that says gay marriage is best for all involved: gay people, children, and society as a whole. Freedom of religion will NOT be infringed upon if (when) gay marriage is universally legal. (As far as I know, only STATE churches in Europe are being forced to perform gay marriages, as they get lots of funding from the secular government, and so are subject to its statutes and laws. Independent religions – as all are in the US – are not at all at risk to having their theology changed by the gov’t.)

    I look forward to your thoughts.

  64. Aaron Orgill Says:

    This is exactly like the Jehovah’s Witnesses criminalizing blood transfusions, except that throughout history marriage has been exclusively between men and women, and except for the fact that doing that is downright batshit loony, and causes people to die. You can say what you will about the history of marriage, and the mixed results for society, but gays have never had the “right” to marry in Western culture until 2001, (when Holland became the first), so you can’t take away a right you never had in the first place. Even the idea of civil unions is new. According to my research, Denmark was the first country to have a legally recognized union, in 1989.

    I don’t really believe the Church is trying to make gays inferior. I suspect that what they’re really worried about is more widespread acceptance of homosexuality, which laws like this would almost certainly lead to. I think if you put people’s minds to rest that it’s not going to get talked about in the classroom, you would make some headway. But undoubtedly, there would be more demands to come. In sex education, it won’t be long before there is a lawsuit over the omission of gay sex being described in graphic detail. And I have to say, I don’t really want to go down that wormhole, because if nothing else, it will make our society that much more easily offended and fragmented than it already is.

    I would really like to see the government get out of the marriage business altogether and make all unions of assets the same, and not even ask what kind of relationship it is, except for maybe statistical purposes. Would that be agreeable to you? I think the word “marriage” is what some people can’t get past, and indeed you can make a good case that it shouldn’t be redefined after thousands of years. But if you have the right to the same health and tax benefits, hospital rights, and so forth, in reality there’s nothing left to fight about but semantics, right?

  65. Craig (aka moralrelatavismequalseternaltruth) Says:

    except that throughout history marriage has been exclusively between men and women

    Oh, no it hasn’t. Not at all. Historically, the kind of marriage the LdS church teaches is ideal is a very new invention – mostly born out of the literature of the troubadours and chivalrous tradition of the middle ages. Marriage for the sake of love between a man and one woman is, historically speaking, very new. Polygamy, polyandry, and polyamoury are very, very common forms of sexual relationships. Even with monogamous marriage, until rather recently, was seen mostly as a business contract, and had little to nothing to do with love or child-bearing/rearing – often the woman was bought by the husband, and she was his property, as much as his herds and land.

    No, the concept of “traditional” marriage as bandied about by conservatives is simply a lie. It never existed as they like to pretend it did. Simply look at human history, and you will see this is true.

    And blacks never had the right to be treated as equals until recently either. I see civil and human rights as something we inherently have, and even if a group of people (gays, blacks, women) are/were denied them, I see that as those rights having been taken away, regardless of whether those rights were ever able to be practised. The fact that gays have been discriminated against for a very long time doesn’t mean that we don’t have inherent rights that are being denied to us, and in effect have been taken from us.

    I don’t really believe the Church is trying to make gays inferior.

    Well I disagree. They believe that any relationship I have is inherently inferior, and evil. That belief alone

    I suspect that what they’re really worried about is more widespread acceptance of homosexuality

    Yes, they are, just as they were worried about more widespread acceptance of women’s rights or racial equality. As uncomfortable as it is, the church said exactly the same things about the dangers of racial equality as it is now saying about homosexuality.

    (see this talk by Mark Petersen: http://www.mormonismi.net/mep1954/mep1954.txt)

    However, I do agree with you that perhaps the best solution in this country is to do what Germany has done. Civil unions for all, and churches can do whatever the hell the want and call it whatever they want, but if you want to have legal relationship rights, you have to get a government civil union, even if you’re religiously married. Religious marriage means nothing to the gov’t, and that is fine by me.

    The point is that either all people get marriage, or all people get civil unions. Semantics is important when you say that one group gets the preferred term, but another doesn’t. We can’t have any “separate but equal” in this country again.

    Personally I would prefer having marriage for everyone, because psychologically, it would advance gay rights more than universal civil unions would, but I would be willing to settle for that.

  66. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Well, I have kept going with this thread for longer than I intended, but I’m glad I got to talk to you.

    I never said what you’re claiming I did. I said between men and women, notice the plural. And let me rephrase “exclusively” to say “almost exclusively in modern history”. And I already acknowledged that “traditional” marriage as we know it has often been less than ideal, and even barbaric. But that is no reason to lower the standard.

    I am entirely aware that some of the LDS leaders have been influenced by the culture of their times. And the doctrine has often been uncomfortably intertwined with the culture. But as I see it, eternal families are what the Church is built on, so they can’t suddenly say acting on gay instincts is no problem. Let me just give it to you from their perspective, and maybe you can at least see what they are thinking. To do that, we have to assume for the moment that the old guys running the Church are actually divinely inspired, and homosexuality is actually not what God wants. If you have a young person who is facing that temptation, and he’s coming up in a world that’s telling him it’s fine, and anyone who disagrees is a bigot, that’s going to make it harder for them to even seek help, much less achieve a life of happiness. I am sure you are revolting at every part of that, but there is tolerance and then there is allowing something that you feel is going to be harmful just because people are making demands.

    Anyway, that’s the way I see it. I do feel it’s unfortunate that there are so many who go well beyond disapproval into hatefulness and a lack of compassion. I haven’t walked in your shoes, but believe there is a God who will judge you and me and all the haters justly, and that is all I really need to know except for what I’m to do, which doesn’t include prematurely guessing that you are headed for hell.

  67. Craig Says:

    What “standard”? And what is considered “lowering” that standard according to you?

    I’ve not once said that I expect the church to say that “acting on gay instincts is no problem”. This is not at all what I’ve been arguing at all.

    Harmful is subjective. In this case, there is just no evidence that gay marriage is harmful. None. ZERO!

    You seem to be ignoring this. The Mormons can believe whatever the hell they want, I really don’t care. They just haven’t the right, for it is immoral, wrong, and clearly unconstitutional, to force their religious beliefs on anyone else. This is what I’ve been arguing this whole time, not that the church needs to accept homosexuality, or change its doctrine in any way (though that would be nice).

    The church even seems to have come around and is now (tentatively) in support of civil-unions/domestic partnerships for gays (according to the most recent press release). So, their only argument is with the word “marriage”. That argument is so full of holes so as to be absolutely laughable. Their appeal is not to logic, facts or reality, but rather to irrational fears and prejudice. I am offended and disappointed that they have resorted to such unscrupulous tactics to get what they want, after seeing that the science just doesn’t support their position at all. I care not that the Mormons believe in eternal heterosexual relationships. That is not at ALL the issue here. They simply can’t be forcing the rest of society to follow that belief. It contradicts what the church has claimed in the past about political neutrality, and what is stated in the D&C about religion not getting involved in secular government. It contradicts the 11th Article of Faith, and as I already stated, is in violation of the separation of church and state, and is simply an attempt to institutionalise DISCRIMINATION against an entire class of people. THIS is why what the church is doing is wrong, not because I think their doctrines/policies are totally out of whack and out of touch with reality.

    Oh, I don’t even believe in hell, (and according to the doctrine, neither do Mormons, strictly speaking), so I don’t care what you conjecture my post-mortal experience will be like (assuming there is such a thing of course).

  68. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Craig, calm right the hell down. We’ve had a very pleasant and polite conversation thus far. Stop taking offense at my words. What I mean by not needing to lower our standards is just holding to our ideals, despite the myriad of marriages that have been unsuccessful and even miserable. I’m not referring to homosexuality specifically.

    I dispute that the 11th Article of Faith is being contradicted at all. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience,” not “consciences”. This seems to suggest some kind of collective conscience, which is clearly how things work anyway. If my religion dictates that I sacrifice infants to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the collective conscience overrides that. Don’t try to infer that I’m comparing homosexuality to sacrificing babies. But Americans are being given a choice in this, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the separation of church and state. NOTHING. Sometimes we choose to have stupid laws. That is a risk of living in a republic. But I’d rather be given a choice than have the judicial branch try to sidestep the process and say we aren’t discerning enough to choose, which California judges have basically tried to do.

    President Hinckley spoke just a few years ago about Utah having killed Prohibition and the grief it caused for President Heber J. Grant. It was interesting, because most modern Mormons are tolerant of responsible drinking, but I take from that the idea that the Church would really rather just rather avoid introducing one more thing into society that will lead to problems in the name of tolerance. It raises some strong philosophical questions for sure. Certainly they had to have been aware of bootlegging and the violent repercussions from Al Capone types, just as I’m sure they’re aware that homosexuality will not cease to exist if gays aren’t allowed to marry. But years later, it’s hard to say that the consumption of alcohol has had a positive effect on society. I know that a cold beer tastes good on a hot day, and many an Irishman, or Australian, or German have bonded deeply over a nice cold one, but do those simple pleasures take away the abuse, addiction, and other ugly and destructive elements that come along with allowing it? Since its legalization, the Church has pretty much just dropped it except to tell its own people not to partake of it, which I think is worthy of respect.

    Again, I’m not saying this is a perfect analogy, but the Church doesn’t claim complete political neutrality. It claims the right to become involved in issues they consider moral. I don’t know what would result from gay marriage. As you say, it’s never been tried and there is no cold hard proof that it would do much of anything. But they certainly have the right to say, this is how we feel and we would like to ask our members to vote this way because we feel that redefining marriage in this way would be one more slap in the face to something we hold to the highest standard. They aren’t going to scour the records in order to excommunicate dissenting LDS votes. But they do have the right to use their influence to change public policy. Absolutely, they do.

    What you and I believe about hell doesn’t matter. I don’t know why you felt a need to respond like that except to go out of your way to say you don’t give a rat’s about my beliefs. Fine. By the same token, your disbelief in something doesn’t stop what’s actually so. All I meant was that I don’t hate you and I make no judgment on your soul because it’s not my place. My comfort comes in believing that above all, God is good. So take that as you will, or ignore it completely, but you don’t need to shove it back in my face because we disagree.

  69. Mary Child Says:

    You guys have both made some really good points; I go back and forth with this issue almost daily. I agree with Craig that you can’t govern all of society with laws derived from specific religious creeds. I also see Aaron’s point that the Church does have the right to influence public policy if the “moral” issue is deemed potentially detrimental to the whole of society. (Aaron, the alcohol WAS a good example! I personally have NO issue with responsible drinkers, but cannot overlook the many tragedies that directly stem from alcohol abuse either).

    Gosh, it’s all so upsetting it makes my head and heart hurt! How can you ask someone to live a lie? How can you demand that someone live their entire life, in direct contradiction with their deepest sense of identity and emotion, based on an unprovable, illogical belief? I can’t! Gay people have my sincere compassion, and I wish them whatever brings a sense of peace and wholeness in their life.

    And then at the same time, I do, deep down somewhere, think that because gay people are unable to naturally bear children, that lifestyle WOULD mean losing out on the joys, blessings, and trials of parenthood, and that perhaps a gay lifestyle IS detrimental to emotional progression. Obviously with technology the way it is today, gay people are able to parent, but historically it would have been impossible. And there ARE studies that confirm children need to bond with both gendered parents during development. Is it fair to raise children, intentionally, without a mother, or without a father?

    There’s no easy answer for me. I am so torn about this issue, even after much thought and deep contemplation. I believe deeply in the necessity of the separation of Church and State, and also feel very strongly that gay people should be able to be true to their heart and to themselves the way straight people are allowed to be. I don’t find the convictions of a “Mormon” to be any more real, valid, or important than the convictions of a gay person.

    And yet, at the end of the day, I still somewhere, somehow, think that maybe a homosexual lifestyle is ultimately detrimental. I don’t know! I honestly, seriously don’t know what to think!

  70. Jeannie Rosa Hamblin Says:

    To imply that those of us who support a constitutional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman have not thought deeply about such a position is folly. I take council of church leaders seriously…that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought deeply about such council. The challenge with this particular amendment is that we all must think beyond today and take a long view of the ramifications for our society. I cannot support ideas that seem fine for a single generation but have significant challenges for our posterity. Bottom line, it is their freedoms I have thought most deeply about.

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