Dec 30, 2008

Gender: A State Of Mind

I sort of touched on this subject several months ago in an earlier post, but I wanted to revisit it because I've had some new thoughts and ideas on the topic. I was reminded about it after catching an old episode of Oprah a few weeks ago. Those of you in North America probably saw it months ago, since Oprah is delayed by a couple of months here because they need to add subtitles.

The guests on Oprah were young transgenders, who underwent hormone therapy and/or a sex change operation because they felt they had been born into the wrong body. One had been born a boy, but was living as a woman. The other had been born a girl and was now living as a man.

The more that I witness the personal stories of such people, the harder it is for me (or anyone, in my opinion) to deny that what they feel is extremely real and often devastating, depending on the support -- or lack of it -- that they receive from their loved ones.

I found the story of the young girl-to-man especially compelling. It was interesting to see old pictures of when he was a little girl. You could see the unhappiness and, more than anything, the awkwardness. I don't meant to be mean, but she was a very homely girl. Why? Because she looked like a boy in a wig and dress. Now that "she" has become a "he," he looks normal. His mother described the living hell that their family went through when this young girl was suicidal because of her mental and emotional agony. As soon as she began with hormone therapy and started on the road to becoming a man, he became a happy person, the depression and the suicidal feelings disappeared. Being Mormon, I tried to imagine being in the position of that mother, who wasn't Mormon. If she had followed Church policy on gender -- which, from what I understand includes excommunication for those who undergo transgender operations -- and pushed for her daughter to continue living as a girl, the daughter very likely would have taken her life or at least remained terribly depressed her entire life. Talk about feeling torn.

One thing that really puzzles me whenever I try to reconcile Church doctrine on gender and sexuality with such personal accounts from real people is the fact that almost all of them report feeling either that they were gay or were born the wrong gender from a very early age -- before the age of accountability. We are taught that Satan has no power on those under the age of 8. To me, that means that if a child is feeling a homosexual attraction or gender confusion at age 5, for example, then it can't be a temptation coming from Satan. So where does it come from? God?

Another thing I've thought about is the perplexing question of those people who are born intersex.

"Intersexuality is the state of a living thing of a gonochoristic species whose sex chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An intersex organism may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. Intersexuality is the term adopted by medicine during the 20th century applied to human beings who cannot be classified as either male or female." (Wikepedia)

In "The Family: A Proclamation To The World," the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles stated:

"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

Where does this leave intersex people? They're neither one nor the other. Do they have to choose? Is their gender determined by how they feel or is it determined purely by biology and whether or not they have a Y chromosome?

I've tried to imagine what it would be like if someone said to me, "FD, you are a man, so you just need to accept it. You need to start thinking, acting, walking, talking, and dressing like a man. And therefore you should be attracted to women."

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to convince yourself that you were actually the opposite sex that you think and feel you are?

I agree with the the "Proclamation On The Family" that "(G)ender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." I believe that our gender is eternal and that Heavenly Father didn't just leave it up randomly to our DNA to decide whether we would be one gender or the other.

But...

I'm thinking more and more that gender really is a state of mind and spirit: one that is as much a part of us as all the other aspects of our spirit and intelligence. I am female because I feel and act female. If I were sitting in a male body at this very moment but with the same mind that I have now, would I consider myself to not be female?

Heavenly Father can and does allow some of us to be born into bodies that are defective or imperfect, for reasons that are often a mystery to us. The physical state of such individuals does not change their spirit. Could it not also be the same case with physical gender? Could he not have allowed certain individuals to be born into the "wrong" physical body, which then causes a conflict with their spirit, which is of a different gender?

We are taught in Mormonism that our physical bodies are imperfect, subject to disease and defect, and that our spirits and intelligences are eternal. Why, then, should our gender be defined solely by our physical bodies? Should not the mind/spirit take precedence over the body?

This is just a theory that has got me thinking a lot. I'm sure many would say that I'm wrong and they may be correct, but to me personally, it's the only way that I can reconcile the Church's teachings on gender with the compelling personal accounts of those who are intersex, transgender, or struggling with the feeling of being in the wrong body. It's the only thing that makes sense to me.

45 comments:

derekstaff said...

The issue of hermaphrodism was the first which made me begin to wonder about the Church's statements on sex/gender. Their very polar, definitive statements seem to make no room for the very real existence of this group of people. Given the fact that, like you mentioned, transgenders often "know" that they are not what they appear virtually from their first conscious moments, I can't help wonder about them as well. Perhaps they are wrong and they do need to accept their "true" identity. But given the fact that I cannot fathom feeling like I am something different, I refuse to in any way make that judgment. That's between them and God.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I'm sort of in a strange position on this one because I agree with the Church's statement on gender, but they probably define gender differently than I think I do. Obviously, they define gender anatomically, that is to say that if you were born with male parts, then that is all that's necessary to define your maleness and that you are eternally male with a male spirit. But, as you said, intersex people are neither one nor the other. I personally don't believe that a spirit can be intersex. Being born intersex is, to me, limited to physical mortality. I would assume that the eternal spirits of intersex people are either male or female, but because of their physical "defect," if you want to call it that, it may not really be possible to determine their true gender in this life. They could perhaps choose one, but they may be wrong. So it seems perhaps just as unfair to tell someone who feels 100% woman that he is a man simply because he has male parts.

I saw an intersex person on Oprah last year (different episode from the transgenders). Her body-type (at least with clothes on) looked more female and her voice was fairly feminine, but her face was very masculine. They didn't show her genitals, of course, but I think she described them as "ambiguous." I think she had small breasts, but if I remember correctly, she said that she had testes, which resulted in a high sex drive sometimes from the testosterone. She didn't say what sex she was attracted to, but she said she felt lucky to not have to define herself as one or the other.

The case of that person really made me wonder. If she/he is unable to define her gender, would she/he be allowed to get married in the LDS faith? If she had married a man, the Church could define it as a gay marriage because she looked and acted so masculine and her body produced male hormones. But if she married a woman, even if there was a sexual attraction, would that be totally right if she had female genitalia and breasts?

I've never heard of any intersex Mormons but it would be fascinating to hear what it's like for them. If the parents of such a child are forced to decide which gender the child should be surgically made into being, isn't that just as wrong as transgender operations by those who feel that they're in the wrong body? They could be wrong and then the child could grow up to feel trapped in the wrong body.

I was thinking last night how being gay and Mormon must be excruciating at times, but imagine being Mormon and feeling trapped in the wrong body. Then it's not just a matter of having to stay celibate, but rather living a total lie from how you dress, act, what restroom you use, and everything else. It's no wonder so many of them end up depressed and suicidal.

Maraiya said...

I wonder about this too. I also wonder if this could be, like so many other issues, a case by case basis. For the large portion of the population, the hard and fast stance work but there will be cases that need to be approached with counsel from God.

That said, I have no idea what I would do if I felt this way or if my children approached me with this dilemma.

Just Jennifer said...

Let me start off by saying that I am not a Mormon and I do not agree with Mormon teachings and do not recognize the leaders of the church as having any standing as prophets. But I am a devout Christian and have had to deal wirh this issue as such.

Simply put, our "gender" is inherent. It is something that is fixed at birth. And yes, it is anatomical, but not in the way that some think. A better term is "sexual differentiation of the brain." And our genitals may be sexually differentiated at odds with our brains. It all has to do with hormone levels in utero. I was born a male physically. But my brain was female. I struggled for much of my life, not knowing what was wrong. Even when I figured it all out, it took some more years to reach the point where I understood what could be done to rectify the situation. I am now a happy and successful woman. And I am closer to God than I was as a very unhappy parody of a man. Those who wish to tell people like me that I should "just deal with it" are both ignorant and cruel.

Yes, there are a lot of people who want to "play with gender." There are men who get off on dressing as women, and there are people who choose to rebel against their gender. But there are a few of us, relatively rare, who have a true medical condition. And yet, we are the ones who get most of the focus.

derekstaff said...

The idea that gender is an eternal characteristic does to me seem to make sense. However, never having experienced any deep-seated gender issues makes this a very superficial statement. I cannot relate to the concept of being sexually attracted to someone of the same gender, let alone feeling that I was innately the opposite gender. So for me to tell them that their feelings are errant feels grossly unfair. I can only judge situations of which I have some understanding. I can judge issues of pornography and fornication, because I can understand lust, the desire to look at women or to satisfy my sexual urges. I cannot begin to understand the same gender attraction, transgender feelings, or the confusion of hermaphrodism, so I don’t feel that we can really make any definitive statements about them.

The issue of gender is particularly problematic because it is difficult to separate out cultural expectations or stereotypes from genetic ones. For example, am I failing to live up to my masculinity because I am quick to ask for directions? Because I don’t care for competitive sports? Because I am the less sexually aggressive partner in my marriage? Because I don’t like violent movies? Should I be concerned about living up to the masculine image, or should I accept me for who I am, regardless of gender identity?

There is a school of thought which suggests that, to the extent that gender is truly genetic/immortal and not cultural, gender is a spectrum rather than binary poles; that most people are not truly “100%” male, but some amalgamation of the two. I have a friend who recently wrote an interesting post on the matter, and on which an interesting discussion evolved in the comments. For full disclosure, my friend is homosexual, is ex-Mormon, and has embraced Atheism. Some people discount his thoughts based on those facts, but I think he brings up some very relevant and interesting issues (as do the commentors).

I've never heard of any intersex Mormons but it would be fascinating to hear what it's like for them. If the parents of such a child are forced to decide which gender the child should be surgically made into being, isn't that just as wrong as transgender operations by those who feel that they're in the wrong body? They could be wrong and then the child could grow up to feel trapped in the wrong body.

Very good point. Trying to choose a sexual identity for a child before that child has a chance to determine for themself which gender better expresses their nature would be a nightmare. And yet how does the official Church position relate to someone whose physical gender is ambiguous?

A very troublesome issue, no doubt.

dragonnldy77 said...

I have never thought about it like that before. But I must say it makes so much sense. I have a couple of good friends who are gay, one is transgender. They always knew it. To be honest I always knew it about them, long before they told me. They are good people who I cherish as my friends. I do not know if the church policies are the way they are because of the leaders, or because they are inspired. Or if maybe we are like the israelites who are simply not ready for a more open and expanded gospel. Maybe there is more enlightenment ahead when more and more of us can handle it with faith and love. But until then I will continue to deal with my friends with openness, fairness, and love.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Dragonnldy, I think your approach is the one we should all take. I really try to remember that until we've walked in another person's shoes, we can never really know exactly what life is like for them. My best friend from kindergarten is a lesbian but she never came out until college. But, like you, I knew. I was in denial for a while, but when she finally told me it was no big shocker.

Papa D said...

Great thoughts, FD. I have thought something similar for a long time.

Just Jennifer, that personal example is a very good one. Thank you for sharing it.

Zoe Brain said...

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to convince yourself that you were actually the opposite sex that you think and feel you are?

I didn't have to. Imagine, that is. That is exactly what happened to me.

Your post shows not just compassion, but true understanding of a situation most people find incomprehensible. I can't blame them either, it's no easier for those of us in this situation. Many of us go through decades of denial, trying to be like others around us.

Talking about Intersex, you know that all infants born with either 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency (5alpha-RD-2) or 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency (17beta-HSD-3) look like little girls at birth? Even the boys. But the boys (and alas, some of the girls too) change later in life, and are masculinised by their mid-20's - unless they get treatment to stop the natural change. To over-simplify, they get a "natural sex change", something which theologians prefer not to think about, so they ignore it.

Male-to-female changes happen too, but are much rarer than the ones going the other way, less than 1%. The conditions that cause this are not well understood, sample sizes are too small.

I was one of them, by the way. The burden I'd carried for 47 years was lifted, and has left me wondering "why me? why not someone more deserving?".

So I try to educate people, by commenting on blogs, newspapers, amd the like. Running my own blog too, which has recently made the finals of the 2008 Weblog awards in the "Best Australian and New Zealand blog" category.

I feel that education in the biological realities would prevent much of the misery these syndromes cause. Most people are actually pretty good, kind, and charitable. It's just that too often they see a distressing medical condition as a form of perverse evil, to be persecuted and destroyed.

mina said...

I just want to say thank you so very much for an amazingly compassionate position from all of you - as a trans-woman myself, I'm not used to such understanding from deeply religious people.

I'll be honest in that this aspect of who I am caused me years of anguish. I had grown up in a very conservative Dutch Reformed community, and even though I knew I was different from a very early age - 4 or 5 if I remember correctly, I denied it into my mid 20's. Then I came across a very interesting opinion piece by a young catholic priest. Basically he took the position that we need to remember the Fall from Grace, and that one of God's punishments was visitation of pests and plagues on Adam and his descendants. The world was MADE imperfect then and there, including how we develop from conception. We humans have added to this imperfection through chemical pollution and the like, and so intersex and transsex are to be expected.

For anybody who's interested, a research group called CHEMTrust recently released a report detailing the damage pollution is doing to gender.

Summary Article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/its-official-men-really-are-the-weaker-sex-1055688.html

Full Report: http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/documents/Male%20Wildlife%20Under%20Threat%202008%20full%20report.pdf

Mina.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I want to thank those who have shared their very personal stories with us. It certainly gives us an interesting perspective and insight into what it must be like to go through what you all have. I never expected to hear from anyone who has first-hand experience, so I thank you for stopping by and sharing.

Lisa said...

I can't add too much to the comments already made, but damn girl: good post.

I hadn't considered those who know before the age of accountability. Interesting.

This topic has been on my mind a little lately, but you've really done well in expressing and organizing it all. I can't imagine being in that situation, and I too will never judge anyone who is in this situation.

Thank you for this. Excellent.

Natalie said...

I took a class about human sexuality where I learned so much about intersexuality. "Gender" is not one single thing.... there are at least 8 factors you have to consider:

1: Chromosomes- we think this is only XX or XY, but there are sometimes those with XXY, XYY, or just X.

2: Gonadal gender - ovaries and testes... this is difficult because it's not always apparent at birth (it's not extremely rare for testes to fail to descend in men).

3: Prenatal hormonal gender: the presence or absence of testosterone before birth.

4: Prenatal and neonatal brain differentiation - this refers to which types of receptors develop in your brain... receptors that recognize testosterone, or those for progestins.

5: External genital appearance (ambiguous more often than most think)

6: pubertal hormonal gender - what starts acting up when you're 12 or 13

7: Assigned gender: what you are declared to be at birth, and how you are raised/socialized.

8: Gender identity: what you feel you are.

The complicated thing is, not all of those match up all the time. In the case of intersex people, it is impossible to say whether they are biologically male or female. And I was surprised to learn that not all of them identify as one or the other. I was also fascinated to learn that in some cultures (especially some Native Americans) there is a third gender. These people are considered neither male nor female (there is sometimes an entirely new word for them, such as the Guevodoces in the Dominican Republic) and are free to follow whatever sexual orientation is most natural.

There is a beautiful poem written by an individual with AIS (a person with male chromosomes and hormones, but female genitalia):

This Way
I have AIS, I guess
because there is a god,
and he or she or both,
peered deep into my heart
to see
that all that I can be
is best expressed
in female form.

The alternative for me
would be XY, and I
would be virilized:
so all that's soft and tender
would instead surrender
to a strand of DNA.
In the lie of X and Y
I came to challenge the
immutability
of "he" and the certainty
of "she." Blended and infused,
a ruse of gender
that upends
a different fate.

Non-functioning receptors
have rescued me

Not a failed mess
But a smashing success of nature!

Sorry to go on for so long. This is really such an important topic, that is so often deeply misunderstood. Thanks for bringing it up, FD.

Natalie said...

Oh, and that poem is by Sherri Groveman. :) Gotta give credit where it's due.

Chedner said...

I've held the theory you presented here for several years, and I've never understood how this is such a conundrum, doctrine-ly speaking.

Say, for example, a young man came to his father or his Bishop or any of his Priesthood leaders and said, "I feel like I am innately a girl."

Would it not be easy to take a day or two of fasting, scripture study, meditation, and end with a sincere Priesthood blessing to discern the true, eternal gender of that child?

One may be surprised to find that this child's mother was supposed to have a little girl, but something went awry within the womb and a male body was formed instead.

How is that not possible?

It doesn't threaten any LDS doctrines. Nothing in our canon has to be further revealed, nothing has to be altered or made more perfect.

We simply need to fully embrace what we do have: gender existed in the pre-existence; our bodies are imperfect and prone to birth defects.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Natalie, thanks for the biology lesson! Wow, it certainly is complicated (but interesting) stuff! Imagine what a pain it is for intersex people whenever they fill out a form or have to get a passport and they're supposed to check either the "male" or "female" box.

Chedner, I agree. I think that we think this is much more doctrinally complicated than it is. I was thinking how that sentence on gender in the "Proclamation on the Family" very likely is inspired, but most of us are misinterpreting it to mean that whatever genitalia we have is all that determines our gender and that's it. Nothing more. That our individual gender is determined by our spirit instead of only what's in or on our physical bodies makes so much more sense to me.

So why do you think leadership and members would reject such a theory? I'm guessing because it would be seen as a green light for transgender operations, something which many probably see as morally wrong, perverted, unnecessary. And then many would see it as even worse if a woman that was once a man is allowed to marry a man in the temple, for example.

I realize that it all sounds strange to some of us. Even to me, as open-minded as I am, I admit that it does feel strange, but I think it's because it's something that I've never been exposed to personally. If we experience something first-hand, I suppose it loses its strangeness. But perhaps we're over-complicating things both morally and doctrinally by limiting ourselves to the conservative interpretation of the Church's teaching on gender.

The Faithful Dissident said...

For those interested, an updated version of this post is being featured at Feminist Mormon Housewives where you can follow the discussion.

But it's great to keep the discussion going here as well!

Gay LDS Actor said...

I, too, have often wondered about gender issues. I remember reading an article in the paper once about a hermaphrodite, for example, and I just wondered where that person fit in the gospel plan as far as LDS Church teachings are concerned. Or i see stories about men and women who feel they were born the wrong sex and feel trapped in the body they're in, and I can relate to their issues much in the same way that I have always been attracted to men even though society and religion has told me I must be different. It's a perplexing issue. I still think there is much we just don't understand about many things. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who is able to see it all from a perfect point of view.

Mormon Matters admins said...

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onikarenee said...

I don't believe we need Satan to think of something evil. We are just as capable ourselves of doing that. I believe there are different reasons a person is homosexual. Some people choose it because the friends they hang out with choose it. Some are abused or raised in an environment that may influence it. If someone can be born with that tendency, it is possible they have a biological defect.

Read this article and it will answer a lot of questions you have. http://theautonomist.com/autonomist/articles2/answer_hijacking.html

thefirestillburning said...

However, maybe it really takes Satan to so confuse one about the Scriptures and the love of Christ that they can believe that something is evil, but may be a birth defect.

I really don't recall having much choice about being straight. I didn't have much choice about being diabetic as a child either. But, of course, my society didn't condemn me for either of those things over which I had no choice and interpret that condemnation as God's will.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Onikarenee, I'm not sure what the point was you were trying to make. Homosexuality and gender are two entirely different things. Why would Satan have anything to do with what chromosomes or hormones a person is born with?

onikarenee said...

FD you said,"To me, that means that if a child is feeling a homosexual attraction or gender confusion at age 5, for example, then it can't be a temptation coming from Satan. So where does it come from? God?"

I was addressing two issues. I was trying to say that even if a person is over the age of eight he/she doesn't need Satan to tempt him/her to think of/do something wrong.

The other issue was my opinion about why some people are homosexual. I have one friend who is homosexual who said it was a choice. I have two cousins from the same family, one female and one male, who are homosexual and I believe it is probably because of the influence of friends they had in highschool or at work (another choice). If those feelings are caused by biological reasons for some people then it can't be a sin for them to have those feelings, but like the article I cited pointed out, people can be born with various tendencies that aren't healthy or good for them but maybe those impediments can be overcome, like alcoholism, or drug addiction.

onikarenee said...

thefirestillburning:

In case you misunderstood me "If those feelings are caused by biological reasons for some people then it can't be a sin for them to have those feelings, but like the article I cited pointed out, people can be born with various tendencies that aren't healthy or good for them..."

The instinctive feeling or tendencey (if homosexuals really are born with it, which I believe is possible) isn't a sin, but nurturing those feelings would be if it hinders a person's progression.

Being a diabetic isn't a sin (although people in the Bible believed if you had a disease it was because of sin), but living a lifestyle that promotes it, makes it worse, would be.

thefirestillburning said...

Onikarenee:

"...nurturing those feelings would be if it hinders a person's progression."

But that is precisely the "Big If", isn't it? If the Mormon cosmology is right that God is in the spiritual form of a human male; if He created humanity by spiritually mating with a "Heavenly Mother" we don't hear much about; if progression and exaltation are about optimizing a family structure in heaven that can generate yet another generation of future gods, THEN AND ONLY THEN are all of the restrictions on family life imposed on earth internally justified by Mormon belief.

When you don't believe that, then marginalization of gays, singles, the married to non-members, the childless, etc. may be the sinful thing that hinders progression.

Maybe progression has more to do with learning to help people be what God made them than trying to "unmake" them into a more approved role -- not forcing the Greeks to be circumcised, to use the new Testament example.

FireTag

onikarenee said...

Firetag:

If you don't believe that being gay will hinder a person's progression, why are you LDS? That is clearly the doctrine taught not only in the Church, but in the scriptures as well (that it's a sin). You can't have it both ways.

thefirestillburning said...

Onikarenee:

That's the problem. You think I'm LDS. I'm Community of Christ. I share your belief in many things, including the Book of Mormon. Exaltation to Godhead and creation of my own universe isn't one of the things we share. I look forward to serving God throughout eternity. In fact I'm trying to do that now.

I note carefully that the Book of Mormon speaks specifically of a great many things as being carnal. Somehow none of the prophets in the BofM, including those who warned the people of carnal sins, got around to including monogamous relations between gays in that category.

The prophets did get around to condemning polygamy and promiscuity. So I think promoting monogamy is the more important idea in the BofM.

But I think the MOST important idea is to look at Jesus as the standard. Jesus ALWAYS treated people as individuals, not by their status or role in the community or the boxes they'd checked off on their religion's to-do list.

If I'm wrong, take a moment to be a ministering angel to me sometime during the afterlife in my lesser glory. :>)

FireTag

onikarenee said...

Firetag:

You're not LDS? Well that's a relief. It irks me when people try to change their church to fit their beliefs.

thefirestillburning said...

Actually, Onikarenee, we sort of try to hear the Word of God collectively as a "prophetic people" and change the church to match our best understanding of God's will.

We regard being that kind of irksome people (often to each other) as part of the job description for all of us, not just the Prophet. And since, with the blessing of the Prophet, we no longer regard ourselves as the one true church, we logically have a lot more autonomy in where we serve God than you are allowed.

So I guess I'll still be needing that ministering angel visit.

onikarenee said...

Firetag,

Since you're asking for a ministering spirit visit, and since you're trying to minister to me, I'll mention that the people in the Book of Mormon believed in the Brass Plates (OT) which does state homosexuality is a sin, and there's even a reference in the Book of Mormon, so are you sure you still believe in it?

Lev. 18:
22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Lev. 20:
13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

2 Nephi:
9 The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom, and they cannot hide it. Wo unto their souls, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!

In case there's any confusion about the reference to Sodom:

Jude 1:
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

thefirestillburning said...

Onikarenee:

And you think that Sodom had a problem with too much monogamy?

Or that the death penalty for sodomy in the Mosaic books was any more situational to the culture (even IF commanded by God at the time) than the slaughtering of entire nations, including children?

Hmmmm. You might not yet quite have the temperment for the general ministering angel calling. That actually requires caring for the lost so much that you wish you could take their place.

Keep progressing. I'll still need your help.

Just being irksome again. :>)

onikarenee said...

Firetag,

You miss the point. God said it was an abomination (man lying with mankind as with womankind). It is irrelevant if it's monogamous or there was a death penalty. Can you show me a scripture where he says it's o.k. now? but you don't need scriptures because you have the spirit and you're a prophet, right?

thefirestillburning said...

I think you miss the point of what the Scriptures are for and who writes them. Scripture is a record of men's experience with God. It contains the mistakes of men -- as no less an authority than Mormon was happy to tell you. I suppose you could say he made a mistake, but that would kind of prove my point.

I read a post on one of the Mormon blogs about a primary child in Sunday school being asked, "How many Mormon prophets are there?" His answer was "All of them."

It's a good answer. The world needs a few million of you. It's already got enough scribes and pharasees.

derekstaff said...

onikarenee, If you notice those scriptures you've cited, very few of them actually directly talk about homosexual sex (the ones from Lev 18 and 20 are the only ones, if I recall correctly). The vast majority of those you've referenced vaguely allude to things which many interpret as pertaining to homosexual sex, but there is little direct evidence to support their claims.

And since you've brought up Sodom and Gomorrha, I'll point out that there is also little evidence that homosexual sex had much to do with it's downfall. We tend to make that assumption because of the experience with Lot and the Lord's messengers, but that episode is much more like prison rape (ie, rape in order to show dominance) than it does same sex attraction and sexual expression of that attraction. Furthermore, the assumption that homosexuality was a primary factor ignores the direct prophetic pronouncements in Ezekial:

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

And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekial 16: 49-50)

Ezekial insists that S&G fell primarily because of their pride, their selfishness, their greed, their lack of charity. The only thing he mentions which can even be interpreted as referring to homosexuality is "abominations," a term which could also refer to any number of other sins (including emphasizing the ones he had already listed).

The BofM has absolutely no direct condemnations of homosexuality, only references to S&G, which as I've just shown, are not necessarily allusions to homosexuality.

It may be that the modern Church's emphasis against homosexuality is indeed a result of prophetic revelation. On the other hand, it might simply be a result of the biases of the Church leadership, just as the priesthood ban against blacks seems to have been largely a result of Brigham Young's bigotry (for example, Joseph Smith allowed blacks to be baptized and receive the priesthood). But what we can say for certain is that the strong emphasis against homosexuality is not strongly based on scriptural evidence, as you seem to believe.

onikarenee said...

derekstaff,

Genesis 19:
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.

Sodom was guilty of many sins, including sexual sins. They said "bring them out that we may know them", then later Lot asks them to take his daughters (who have not known man) instead. I think it's clear the word know is referring to sex, as it is in other scriptures.

You say it is to show dominance rather than attraction. That may be but why would Lot think they would accept his daughters instead. Probably they were not exclusively homosexual, but bisexual. Anything goes with hedonists.

If they were threatening to use force why is Lot so polite to them trying to please them? Why is he going outside by himself and shutting the door behind him. He must feel safe enough to do that. Maybe they were not threatening to use force, but if Lot were a friendly neighbor, according to custom he would let his neighbors get acquainted with with his guests.


Here are some more scriptures that I think make it more clear:

Romans 1:
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

1 Cor. 6:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

2 Timothy 3:
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

People try to water down what the scriptures say because they don't want to offend their friends.

You can still be friends even if you don't approve of their lifestyle. If they smoke, and you know it's unhealthy for them, do you say, "There's nothing wrong with smoking. I think that's great/just fine if you smoke." Do you buy them cigarettes? Do you have to support them in their lifestyle? Of course not.

You can let them know you respect their right to choose the lifestyle they want, but you don't have to say there's nothing wrong with it if you really think there is. (And you must if you really believe the scriptures are the word of God.)

derekstaff said...

And people also try to make the scriptures say more than they really do just because they personally find something gross or distasteful. But just because something makes others feel uncomfortable does not make it an abomination.

For example, 2 Tim 3. There is nothing there which directly points to homosexuality. to claim that "without natural affection," refers to homosexuality is entirely a matter of conjecture. Or "effeminate" in 1 Cor 6. Given the strong emphasis on gender roles in the Classical Mediterranean world, many think this has more to do with men assuming female gender roles in society than homosexuality.

The Lord never seems hesitant to spell out our sins for us when it comes to adultery, fornication, violence, etc; why is it we assume He is suddenly coy when it comes to homosexuality? If homosexuality was a primary cause for the destruction of S&G, why is that never listed as a primary cause? We make that assumption based solely on the story you told--which, as I pointed out, was more, about dominance and humiliation of the strangers than homosexuality (I don't know of any homosexuals who are interested in forcible sex).

Again, there are only a few instances in which the issue of homosexuality is specifically spelled out (Leviticus and Romans, as you pointed out; not a single instance in the BofM, the "most correct of any book on earth"). If the Lord doesn't bother to emphasize it very often, why do we make such a fuss about it? There are thousands of references to helping the poor in the scriptures; shouldn't we make that more of a point of emphasis? You can point to modern revelation if you want, but to act as if our extreme reaction to homosexual is founded on a clear and broad scriptural basis is simply not accurate.

thefirestillburning said...

Well said, Derek. But even Romans is more about "burning with lust" than with who you were lustful for.

Onikarenee: You said the following:

"You can let them know you respect their right to choose the lifestyle they want, but you don't have to say there's nothing wrong with it if you really think there is. (And you must if you really believe the scriptures are the word of God.)"

Very well. I respect your right to choose the lifestyle you want, but I really think a doctrine that teaches the marginalization of gay people for eternity is an erronious, legalistic reading of Scripture that is morally wrong and scripturally incorrect.

Monogamy among gays on earth is as well or better scripturally justified than was the practice of polygamy by Restorationists in the 19th Century. It is scripturally less important than withholding ministry to the poor who are not of the faith while one has abundant substance.

And I'm saying so, because I believe those Scriptures.

onikarenee said...

derekstaff and firetag:

Even if it's not repeated as often in the scriptures as other sins, it is still clearly spelled out as a sin. How many times does it have to be mentioned before you can believe it is considered a sin in the Bible?

I don't care about the issues of whether it is in the Book of Mormon or denounced by modern day leaders. The LDS Church does believe in the Bible and has never said those parts of it were incorrect. It is one of the foundations of LDS belief. If the Bible were proven false, I don't think the LDS religion could stand. I don't believe everything rests on the Book of Mormon.

thefirestillburning said...

Onikarenee:

I will try again. The Bible is not wrong. It is your interpretation of the Bible that is HIGHLY questionable. Where do you see the Bible as discussing, let alone condemming, monogamous gay sexual relations? Is it possible, just possible, that it is the lack of monogamy and not the presence of a particular gender that is being warned against?

But even then the broader principle is not to so devalue the individual that the community becomes an instrument of oppression rather than of salvation.

As LDS, you are certainly not bound by a CofChrist interpretation of Scripture, but our prophet has given very clear direction to us about this in Section 163:7, as follows:

7 a. Scripture is an indispensable witness to the Eternal Source of light and truth, which cannot be fully contained in any finite vessel or language. Scripture has been written and shaped by human authors through experiences of revelation and ongoing inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the midst of time and culture.

b. Scripture is not to be worshiped or idolized. Only God, the Eternal One of whom scripture testifies, is worthy of worship. God’s nature, as revealed in Jesus Christ and affirmed by the Holy Spirit, provides the ultimate standard by which any portion of scripture should be interpreted and applied.

c. It is not pleasing to God when any passage of scripture is used to diminish or oppress races, genders, or classes of human beings. Much physical and emotional violence has been done to some of God’s beloved children through the misuse of scripture. The church is called to confess and repent of such attitudes and practices.

d. Scripture, prophetic guidance, knowledge, and discernment in the faith community must walk hand in hand to reveal the true will of God. Follow this pathway, which is the way of the Living Christ, and you will discover more than sufficient light for the journey ahead.


So while you aren't committed to that interpretation, I am.

onikarenee said...

derekstaff,

I still don't understand why you think the people of Sodom were threatening to use force. I see no indication that they were. If they were they might have tried to break down the door, and Lot wouldn't have gone out there at all, let alone by himself, because he wouldn't have been safe. Are you thinking of the Bible movie? Maybe they thought the two men were going into Lot's house for sex and that's why Lot said, "only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof." "They came to my house because they weren't interested in your type of recreation."


Firetag,

Lev. 20:
13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: ...

I don't think it takes much interpretation to understand this scripture.

If the issue was monogamy God wouldn't distinguish in the scriptures I mentioned previously that they were man with mankind. He would just say "Thou shalt not lie with a consenting adult with whom you are not in a monogamous relationship (marriage?).

Anyway, another thing I wanted to point out is that he also gave laws about incest and many other laws that you don't see repeated very often. It wasn't necessary to repeat them. They were the law and everyone was aware of the law.

The reason any law was mentioned often in the OT was because the people were not obeying that particular law and the prophets were calling them to repentance. If they didn't accuse them of man lying with mankind very often, then maybe they weren't doing that very often.

Firetag, your concern seems to be that if people believe what the Bible says they will become violent and oppressive toward homosexuals. I don't think you have to worry about that because we don't live under a theocratic form of government like the Israelites did. God did command capital punishment for many sins which were considered to be done willingly or intentionally, or with a high hand. That is not my interpretation either.

Jesus seemed to change all that, plus capital punishment was illegal for the Jews to execute under Roman law. Since most people in this country are Christian or have a Christian heritage I don't think you need to worry about it.

Chedner said...

I don't think you have to worry about that because we don't live under a theocratic form of government like the Israelites did.

At least we shouldn't be living under a theocracy.

Yet, as this specific issue of homosexual marriage testifies, we still have laws governed solely by religious hands.

Chedner said...

... and, yes, because of manipulating our quasi-democratic system into a quasi-theocracy, those who believe in the Bible "become violent and oppressive toward homosexuals."

A couple of definitions of "oppression" from dictionary.com (emphasis mine):

1. The exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.
4. The feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc.

It is horribly unjust to frown upon/condemn/judge/etc. a person's choices merely because of religious belief, without observing and recognizing the results the choices are producing here and now.

... and there isn't enough time for me to explain all the troubles, adverse conditions, anxieties, etc. with which a great deal of homosexuals are heavily burdened... ESPECIALLY and SPECIFICALLY due (directly) to those who believe in the Bible.

thefirestillburning said...

Onikarenee:

I responded to Leviticus earlier in the thread. Rather than trprat myself, let me try to move the discussion into a deeper level than scripture quoting by trying to look at the deeper theology behind those scriptures as they relate to this issue.

A few weeks ago on the Saint's Herald blog there was a lengthy discussion of these issues, because our denomination is a lot closer to critical decisions being forced upon us than the LDS are. I recommend the entire thread "Sexual Policy and the Church" to anyone commenting here (although you'll have to scroll down to the "Previous Page" on the home page to get to the thread), but I particularly want to ask you to consider your position in light of this comment: "http://saintsherald.com/2009/06/06/sexual-policy-and-the-church/#comment-298"

The author Matt Frizell is the equiv of a Stake President in our administrative structure and has charge of a group of congregations including two with a significant portion of GLBT membership. He is also a highly trained doctoral theologian.

I think it safe to say you have no one in the LDS who speaks from at least the former perspective. But you do have GLBT brothers and sisters in the LDS who are suffering just as those in our fellowship do.

FireTag

derekstaff said...

I don't think I've ever bothered to watch that movie, onikarenee. But it is pretty clear from the scriptures that they aren't asking the messengers out on a date; they are demanding to be given those strangers so that the people outside can have sex with them whether they are consenting or not. That makes it a forcible act, rape, not a homosexual relationship.

mormongandhi said...

Hei Faithful Dissident,
Thank you for your post and comments on my article: "neither male nor female - mormon masculinity". I personally believe like I wrote in the article that we are neither male nor female and that gender is not part of our eternal makeup. It just is politically expedient for us to believe that it is. The goal is according to me that gender should not play a role when you have espoused Christ's theory of who we are: "neither Jew nor Gentile, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, because we are all one in Christ" Galatians 3:28
To check out my article on this issue, see the following link: http://mormongandhi.com/2009/10/12/neither-male-nor-female/