Jun 25, 2008

My Sexual Creed

This is going to be long, but I have to get it off my chest, so please bear with me.

Some of you have perhaps been following the heated discussion going on at MormonMatters regarding the Church's letter to California members encouraging them to donate of their "means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman." You can read the letter here:

http://mormonstories.org/other/08028_00.pdf

Or you can follow the discussion here: http://mormonmatters.org/2008/06/21/news-flash-lds-church-will-be-actively-opposing-gay-marriage-in-california-this-november/

In this posting, I intend to state my personal opinion about this issue. Forgive me if I repeat some of my comments from MormonMatters, but I feel that I summed up my feelings pretty well there.

I realize that I'm going to be part of a minority here and that some conservative members are going to find my beliefs to be radical, perhaps even bordering on heretical. Nevertheless, I have given this issue a lot of thought, have swayed in both directions many times, and have even come to perhaps peace of mind in the matter. At least somewhat, for the issue at hand is so complex and emotional that I think it's impossible to claim that I or anyone else has come to any ultimate conclusions. We simply don't know enough.

The Church has the prerogative to fight against gay marriage if it sees fit to do so and which it has. I don't think that any of us have been naive enough to think that the Church had any other official stance than it has expressed thus far and I defend its right to campaign on behalf of causes it supports. Personally, I'm not thrilled by the fact that marriage is on its way to being redefined. I appreciate the fact that the Church wants to see marriage stay as it is in most places today. However, the release of this letter gives me a bad feeling for a few reasons:

a) Gay marriage is arguably a moral issue, but it certainly walks a fine line with political and the Church is officially neutral.

b) I see huge irony in the fact that Mormons are trying to convince the government that the definition of marriage should stay as it is when our predecessors tried to convince the government of the exact opposite (i.e. polygamy), which makes us look like big hypocrites in the eyes of many.

c) Gay marriage is coming to a place near you whether you like it or you don't. I think this battle is already lost and I would personally rather see members give of their "means and time" to more urgent and needy causes such as the homeless, AIDS orphans in Africa, or political prisoners (hopefully that would include the people who are executed on a regular basis for being gay in places like Iran).

d) This letter is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people, particularly those fellow members who are gay and trying to deal with something they can't change. It's also a big setback for the upcoming meeting between Church leaders and the group Affirmation, which was long overdue. I no longer have much hope for a better relationship between the two sides, which is so unfortunate for members like myself who feel strongly pulled in both directions to some degree.

e) I wonder whether we tend to exaggerate what's really at stake here. Are those of us in heterosexual marriages really going to suffer if gay marriage is legalized? I'm not a fortuneteller so I'm not sure whether we will or won't. Why do we feel so threatened? Personally, I feel more threatened by things like divorce, infidelity, promiscuity, porn, just to name a few. If anything, gays will just be allowed to join in the misery that many of us already know as marriage. (Not a description of my own marriage! :) My guess is that we'll get over the shock of it and go back to doing what we were doing before.

f) The admonition that is contained in the letter doesn't sit with me well because of the Danzig incident. Danzig accused the Church of telling him to violate his conscience by doing what its now telling California members to do, which the Church denied. So whether you think Danzig was right or wrong in how he handled the situation, his original accusation does now at least gain some credibility.

Whether homosexuality is a sin or not, whether the Church is right in fighting same-sex marriage or not, whether the status of marriage is really in trouble or not, all this is sort of irrelevant to me. We can all draw our own conclusions and have our opinions. However, what bothers me is that it’s so easy for some of us to trivilalize being homosexual. Sure, even if someone is born 100% gay, they don’t “have” to live the gay lifestyle. OK, but have you all really, I mean REALLY thought about what that entails? We heterosexual members are so quick to dismiss it as “sin” or simply a matter of “choice” or even just plain willpower. Even if it’s both, just think of what the life of a celibate homosexual entails. It’s not quite fair to compare it to heterosexual singles, who also are to remain chaste, because they can at least date, kiss, hold hands, have a non-sexual relationship. What can homosexuals do? Would it be acceptable for a gay couple having a non-sexual relationship to hold hands on BYU campus? Of course not. I mean think about it. They can’t do all the non-sexual acts of affection and of course they can’t masturbate because that’s wrong too, so what do they do? Basically they live the life of a priest or a nun, complete celibacy, which is certainly by no means impossible, but the Church is always quick to point out that we don’t believe in that celibate lifestyle anyways. We are a Church about love and marriage. I’m not saying that the Church should just come out and allow gay marriage. I honestly don’t know what my opinion is on this anymore. But each of us can only listen to our own consciences and what the Spirit is telling each of us. And this is where I have my personal dilemma. I really and truly feel for those who are gay, especially gay and Mormon, and find themselves in the middle of this war. It must be disheartening to see members trivilialize their struggles and throw the blame back at them constantly. Some of our fellow brothers and sisters have committed suicide over this and I think we owe them at least the thought of why that is so.

I think back to the days I was single and lonely. It sucked. I mean REALLY sucked! And yet I still had the hope for marriage, or at the very least a companion to do all the things I mentioned above (minus the masturbation). I would encourage all of you to really think back to those times in your life when you were looking for love and companionship and what it would have been like to be told that you were going to be celibate — completely 100% celibate — for the rest of your life. Not a kiss, not a caress, nothing. Maybe only then can you have a glimpse — just a glimpse — at what it must be like.

So before you’re ready to cast a stone at the homosexual lifestyle, you better be able to back that up by commitment to the celibate lifestyle of a priest or nun. Personally, I know I’m no Mother Teresa, which I stated pretty clearly in an earlier posting.

It was suggested by someone taking part in the MormonMatters discussion that, "(I)f someone doesn’t believe the church’s teachings on this, I don’t understand why they even bother staying in the church." I disagree with this and I'll tell you why.

If I left the Church, I would maybe find myself regretting it years down the road when changes occur, as they always seem to do. I can’t say I know that they will happen, but I see a pattern when it comes to the Church and moral/political controversies. Just to name a few:

Birth control: Went from being regarded as something downright evil by the Church, to something generally accepted and left up to the individual. In previous times, couples who limited the number of children they had were sinning by denying spirit children entrance into mortality. Now it’s a personal choice.

Women: It used to be that women were pretty much told to stay at home and made to feel selfish for working outside the home. Now almost all LDS women that I know work outside the home and Church leaders have greatly softened their stance. It’s now accepted that most are dependent on a double income.

Blacks and the Priesthood: I know that many like to say it’s not the same thing as the homosexuality issue because you have no choice in being born black, but if we go by what certain Church leaders said in earlier times, blacks did indeed choose being born into the “cursed” race because of something they did (or didn’t do) in the pre-existence. On top of that, someone like George Romney in 1964 could have left the Church feeling guilty, since the apostles who opposed the Civil Rights movement were supposedly speaking on behalf of the Lord and backing up their stance with teachings from previous prophets. Today, people who took Romney’s stance appear to have been right. So either the Church leadership later saw that they were wrong, or maybe God actually does regard blacks as second-class citizens. Who would now argue with George Romney’s 1964 stance, despite the fact that the GA’s were vehemently opposed to it then? It’s just too early to know what the future holds. We may be all surprised one way or the other.

So why would I leave the Church over this issue? I’m not saying that I’m right because I know I could be totally wrong. The feeling in my heart may be failing me in this one, but it’s hard not to see a pattern when we look at Church history. I see no reason why the Church doesn't have room for a person like me when I'm not proclaiming my views as Gospel truth, but rather my personal opinion. I'm sure it's not the first time you've heard the opinion of a member that sounded really "off-the-wall."

I believe that those in a homosexual relationship, whether it be marriage or not, have as much chance as being happy to their dying day as a heterosexual couple. As far as the Afterlife is concerned, I honestly don’t know. Maybe things will indeed be “worse” for homosexuals, but who am I to say it will? Homosexuals have to struggle with something that the vast majority of people would find insurmountable. So for the many who aren’t strong enough to live a completely celibate, and often lonely, mortal life, I hope in my heart that the Lord will cut them some slack. I don’t know that He will, I just hope that he will and I feel that he will only require as much penitence from them as they really and truly deserve. I have a hard time believing He will make things harder on all of them based on the struggle that He saw fit to give them in this life. I’m sure that many Mormons will disagree with me on this and I have nothing to back it up but my personal feelings about God and how he feels about His children.

So call this my sexual manifesto, creed if you will. For me, it's the only way to make peace with my faith and my conscience. I may be right or I may be wrong. Lucky for me, the only thing at stake is my pride.

15 comments:

ShelbSpeaks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bored in Vernal said...

I agree with 100% of what you have written here. I especially salute you for what you have written about not leaving the Church over this issue. I hope all the LDS who disagree with the Church's political involvement in this issue will stay and let their influence be felt inside the Church as mainstream Mormons.

Brother Zelph said...

This is such a hot button issue I have stayed out of most of the conversations, but when I was a TBM, I was militantly against gay marriage, now I see it as a political and civil issue and believe that it should be decided by the voters. I personally will vote no on the amendment as I live in CA.

It is my understanding that church leaders are not the ones meeting Affirmation, LDS family services is. You can correct me if I am wrong, but that is what I believe is the case.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks, BiV. I'm happy to know that I'm not the only "flaming radical." :)

Zelph, I think you're right about Affirmation meeting with LDS Services. I believe I read that somewhere a couple days ago and it surprised me because when the meeting was first announced, I was under the impression that President Monson had appointed Church leadership officials (i.e. GA's) to meet with them. I don't know what good LDS Services will be able to do in such a meeting. Just reconfirm the fact that they're not allowed to adopt? To me, it would have been more appropriate to meet with the actual Church leadership.

Anonymous said...

I had to take a breather from the ongoing discussion of same sex marriage for a bit.

I agree with what you've written completely and I think what you said, you said with tact, courage and compassion.

I am grateful to be able to speak openly in the bloggernacle. And I think the church is greatly in need -- far more than it accepts -- of flaming radicals. Good decisions (as opposed to genuine revelations) are not made in echo chambers. And homogeneity is not real. It is never more than appearance. I think being real is preferable by far and will eventually have to happen.

To me, genuine and sincerely motivated contention will get you much closer to the truth than appearance and capitulation.

anonymous alice

The Faithful Dissident said...

There's a brother in my ward that always likes to point out the "fact" that there is no discord over doctrine in the LDS Church, while comparing to other Christian denominations which argue over things like homosexuality, or end up splintering off into new churches. But I don't think that's really true. I guess the biggest difference is that the LDS Church is not a church for activists. I'm generally have a very strong activist spirit, whether it be animal right, human rights, the environment, whatever. I'm generally one of those people who hates apathy and thinks that action is the key to getting things done and changing people's minds. However, when it comes to the Church, it's a whole different matter. The Church does not have room for activists in the traditional sense. I realize that it would be ridiculous to start telling everyone in my ward that I sympathize somewhat with the homosexual cause and they should too. Doing so would probably get me into trouble. I do, however, believe that the Church has room for people who quietly listen to their own hearts and consciences, patiently awaiting change that may or may not come.

So while many outside of the Church would see my non-activist approach as a cop-out, I agree that maybe it is. Still, I'm not the one leading the Church and I feel powerless to change doctrine or policy. So I'm not about to try. I think I'll stick to things that I can perhaps make a difference in, such as animal and human rights.

So how do you all feel? Do you agree that LDS activism is futile, maybe even inappropriate? Would you voice your opinions openly to fellow members or even your bishop? Do you think you would face consequences if you did?

The Faithful Dissident said...

A couple of quotes from 2 different people with 2 different viewpoints in the MormonMatters discussion. I think that both have a strong argument about what a "real Mormon" is supposed to do. Read and ponder each, then tell me what you think.

Quote #1: "Real Mormons can disapprove of homosexual relations, and even disapprove of marriage equality, while recognizing that attempts to legislatively eliminate the rights of homosexuals is an abusive act of religious persecution. You see, real Mormons know what it’s like to have others engage in political persecution against them, based on religious differences. Real Mormons know there’s nothing godly about such behavior, no matter how much the actors shout about deity. As such, real Mormons have immense respect for the rights of their fellow beings. Real Mormons would never attempt to restrict the legal rights of others, simply because those others do not obey LDS doctrine. Real Mormons have the integrity and common sense to understand that the moment they step forward to limit the rights of others, they endanger their own rights."

vs.

Quote #2: "You definitely have an argument there with the ‘real mormons’ and I see what you’re on about, but isn’t following the brethren what ‘real mormons’ should do first? After all its the apostles who are promoting ‘legislatively eliminate the rights of homosexuals [in] an abusive act of religious persecution’ as you put it. I think they call it protecting the family and standing up for God’s revealed morality, after all when has God ever changed his views on homosexuality -which we would find out about through the prophet. But Monson doesn’t seem to be going in your direction but, as his letter shows, he’s going in the opposite direction to you. And you’re really calling Monson a ‘not real mormon’ since he authored the letter."

djinn said...

Since you mentioned, God did not condemn David and Johathan; how is one to interpret:

2 Samuel 1:26
"I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."

Kalola said...

While mourning that individuals with SSA are being required to live a life of celibacy, please remember this: There are many, many physically and developmentally disabled individuals who have no choice but to live a life of celibacy.

My 28 year old DS is developmentally disabled. He will never have a sexual partner. He will never marry. He seems to be content, yet I know he has an eye for pretty women and mentions he has a girlfriend (the names of said girlfriends change frequently). In the next life, I know my DS will find the love and companionship he has been denied in this life.

I realize I veered from the intent of your post, but I wanted to speak for my DS.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Kalola, you bring up a good point and I have thought about this before. I don't mean to say that people who are developmentally disabled (and certainly not physically disabled) don't long for an emotional and sexual relationship like "normal" people. I'm sure that many of them do, as you point out in the example of your DS. So in no way do I wish to minimize their feelings. That being said, most who find themselves attracted to the same sex are both developmentally and physically normal/healthy and live their lives in every other way just as "normal" people do. So they would have just as strong urges as the rest of us, which would be an immense struggle to live with. I think that there are certain mentally disabled people who maintain a childlike innocence and maybe don't long for romantic/sexual companionship as normal people do, so in that case I think it's a different matter. Still, you bring up an excellent point. I remember seeing an interview with Christopher Reeve after he was paralyzed and he talked about his relationship with his wife. Of course one doesn't necessarily lose the desire even when one is unable physically, or in some cases even mentally, to have a romantic relationship.

Peter Danzig said...

Faithful Dissident,

This is an incredibly thoughtful and meaningful discussion on this issue. Thanks for posting it. I think there is significantly more room in the LDS church for this discussion now than there has been in the past. While I personally found that there was no way to be true to the convictions of my heart and remain a member I certainly hope that is not the only option for everyone who wrestles with this issue. I think as more members begin to express their views the door will be opened for more compassion and understanding.

I would also like to point you to a place where your comments and your perspective would be most appreciated. www.Signforsomething.org is a website that seeks to empower members to speak their conscience on this issue. It is our hope that all members and friends of the church who wrestle with this issue will share their views.

Blessings and peace,

Peter Danzig

The Faithful Dissident said...

Peter, thanks for stopping by my blog and taking the time to read my post. I read the story of your experience that led to the withdrawal of your membership in the Church and although I may not agree with you 100% on everything, my heart goes out to you and your wife because regardless of what happened, it must be very difficult to leave one's faith. I know I would have found the experience to be traumatic myself.

I've given a lot of thought to the dilemma that you found yourself in and I posted some thoughts on your situation a while back. I hope you won't take it as "telling you what to do" because I don't know the whole story. But I posted what I "thought" I would have done had I found myself in your situation, based solely on what I had read. Feel free to share your thoughts if you wish. You can read the particular posting here:

http://thefaithfuldissident.blogspot.com/2008/05/on-spiritual-death-row.html

Gay LDS Actor said...

Very thoughtful post. I actually have nothing to add other than to say I admire you for speaking out about it here, and that I agree with your thoughts.

I also responded to your comment on my blog.

Lisa said...

It's funny, because I've made the same argument (though I believe it still merits some repeating).

It isn't the same as asking a heterosexual to abstain from sex until marriage.

...and that's why I wonder, just a little bit, if part of this is us saying "Well, first of all, it's a sin to have sex if you're gay. Secondly, you're not even married so you shouldn't even if you were straight. And--oh yeah--you can't marry a member of the same sex, so hahahahaha. GOTCHA."

Of course it wouldn't be with that same tone, but I get hints of that attitude sometimes when reading statements and hearing people speak.

So sad I didn't catch your blog some months ago. So glad I'm not alone. It's all hard for me to understand too.

onikarenee said...

Faithful Dissident:

You said, "I honestly don’t know what my opinion is on this anymore."

I was in the same situation for a while. This is why: Clearly the scriptures indicate that homosexuality is a sin. My dilemma was that even though it is a sin, do gays still have a legal "right"? As long as they aren't hurting anyone or infringing on others' rights then why should it be illegal?

If you asked God he would say no. If it isn't right you don't have a right. What if you don't believe in the God of the OT/NT? Then you have to ask, "Is it a Natural Right? Is it in accordance with Natural Law?" To answer that question, what is the purpose of marriage as opposed to just cohabiting or having a sexual relationship? It is the safety/security/stability of the children, of course.

In nature can homosexuals conceive and bear children? No, they have to go outside the partnership and get donors. If everyone were homosexual the human race would go extinct. It is not a Natural Right. For homosexuals to raise children (as well as singles) it is against the laws of nature because children require a parent of each gender obvious by the fact that children would not be produced with out the cooperation of both genders. Nature intended for children to have a mother and a father. This is why in many ancient societies it was against the law to divorce before the children were raised. As far as families are concerned, ancient Babylon was more protective and had stricter laws than we do today. If we don't have a Natural right to something, we should not have a legal "right" because legal rights have to be founded on Natural Law for society to be free.