Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Modern Day Church - Pt. 2

In some ways, this is a continuation of my previous post "A Modern Day Church" dated Friday, October 15, 2010

Someone prompted me to share my views on the LDS Church's view of same-gender attraction. I figured I would repost my response here just so I had it for my own records (it was a facebook comment).

First, his comment:

I respect that you have an opposing viewpoint, and appreciate the why, its just that currently the conclusions that the church has come to are having a VERY negative effect on LGBT's perceived self value and causing permanent damage to ...their self esteem and a huge strain on their social life and many of them are turning to suicide as their only option, and I find that to be terrible.

I don't see this as a Church standing against societal pressure. I see this as a Church being stubborn when a SERIOUS problem is plaguing the people when their methods and dogma are having terrible results.

Your first paragraph is basically saying: Despite the fact that the results continue to be so negative, the Prophets know what they are talking about and you should follow them anyways blindly.

But yet when Prophets have made mistakes in the past, we are then told, "Oh, well in that instance they were just acting as men" Which is a cop out. Why do you expect us to sustain a Prophet in everything they say, when later we can find out that they DO have human flaws? Couldn't this be one of those times that they are wrong because they are human?

Brigham Young said that black people WOULD NEVER hold the priesthood, and that if they did it would be the end of the church. Now obviously it is clear that this was wrong. But they could have just as easily demanded that everyone sustain him at the time, because he's the prophet.

Interestingly you should know that the Church actually made edits to Packers talk after he gave it, and before publishing it on the Internet and Ensigns. This shows you that even currently the Church is aware that its apostles, in this case Packer, are capable of making mistakes. And we are just supposed to sustain them no matter what?

All I'm saying is that I strongly feel that the Church is wrong on this issue, and causing permanent damage, and sorry if I'm not willing to just sustain a person despite witnessing the destruction what they say is causing. I attend weekly meetings held on campus where many openly gay Mormons discuss how they feel about the issue, and its really clear that there is a problem, and the problem ISN'T that they just want to get away with sin. I have attended lectures demonstrating some pretty definitive and backed up scientific evidence that this is something that they are born with, and cannot be "cured". And I have seen the terrifying statistics of youth suicide that are a direct result of the current attitude towards homosexuality.

Anyways, I AM getting really preachy now, and am making some big claims. But yeah, just trying to let you know where I'm coming from. And basically that guy's blog fails to answer all of my questions, and I'm not going to sustain ANYTHING until my questions are sufficiently answered.

"We are to stand by our convictions without forcing them upon others." - Well I strongly felt that the Church's influence on Prop 8 was in fact, forcing their convictions on others.

You have the right to believe how you believe, the only reason I speak out against it is because of what I just mentioned about forcing your convictions on others, and the damage I have personally witnessed it causing to others. That I can't abide.

My Response

I want to respond with a few clarifying points:

1. I really do value your opinion. I Do. I think there is a sense of homophobia running rampant throughout the Church membership. And it MUST stop. It has caused far too much harm. By becoming more educated and understanding of others, we can reverse that trend that sends so many with same gender attraction into a depressed inactive state, usually resulting in leaving the Church.

2. All GAs edit their talks a week after conference. Because their talks go on to publishing in Church magazines and for use by the media and most importantly, the members.

3. No, prophets are not perfect. They are human beings with human minds prone to error. BUT, they have been given authority and inspiration from Jesus Christ through their ordination to that calling. That is my belief and testimony.
In regards to Declaration 2 (Blacks gaining the priesthood), it states:

"As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings, which the gospel affords."

The key point to be made lies within "This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire". The inspiration mentioned was collectively felt by all members of the 12 and First Presidency. They saw a doctrinal issue and all collectively felt inspired to clarify it. The same idea needs to be applied to the idea of same-gender attraction. If the brethren sought inspiration from the Lord, which they have made evident to us, I will listen to their counsel. That's the organization of this Church and the way Heavenly Father communicates with us.

Nothing in the Church can be ratified without the collective approval of all of the 12. If an issue is still at odds, it will not be pushed through in any form. I'm assuming Declaration 2 had its debut in one of the meetings the 12 and First Presidency has each Thursday morning on the 4th floor of The SLC Temple where they discuss doctrine and at times, revelation. And so it is my belief, through this Church and it's organization, that these principles are completely and 100 percent inspired revelation.
Who are we to say how the Lord wishes to carry out his Church?

If we follow Heavenly Father's counsel, we will be blessed:
"Let your soul be at rest concerning your spiritual standing, and resist no more my voice." (DC 108: 2)

The doctrine of marriage and chastity always has been. It has been in the books since the beginning of this Church. The stance the Church takes is nothing new, no succumbing to modern trends or pressures. The Proclamation of the Family merely restated things.

Finally, I just want to say that I don't come here to argue. I don't think arguing is productive in any way. And I don't feel like we have in any way. I've appreciated your well-thought out points and I'm glad that we're able to discuss these things the way we do. All too often, I see people on both sides of the fence shouting at each other. It's ridiculous and it hurts everyone involved. If we learned to be more accepting of all of our brothers and sisters, we would be that much closer to Christ.

Before I converted to the Church, I was involved in the Gay Rights movement. I marched on DC, I ran a campus organization...so this issue was absolutely critical to me when I made the decision to join the Church. But as I saw myself turning from my previous views that cast the Church as the enemy and started to pray and embrace the Gospel, I had my spiritual confirmation that I was joining Christ's Church on earth. It was hard, and still is hard.

I have gay friends who are members of the Church (and those who are not) and I respect them. I may align with the Church, but this does not mean I look down on them in any way. I love them and wish them the best in their own personal faith. More importantly, Heavenly Father does the same, but with a love that is incomprehensible.


Calvin said...

This was really good, Austin.
Thank you for posting it.

Austin said...

thanks calvin!

redneckzilla said...

Perhaps those who feel righteously indignant against the stance of some prophets on same gender attraction are, in turn, providing a source of relief or support for those of the same mind in the congregation. Careful and fair criticism of the Church is helpful to anyone having doubts; not helpful in that it leads anyone to leaving, but helpful to know that they aren't so completely on their own in their opinions. So, yeah, you could say that you uphold the Elder Packer's statement and that's fine. But like you said, you know how often arguing gets people nowhere. Instead of just saying we value one anothers' opinions, why don't we agree that both points are necessary and valid, in their own way as they apply from individual to individual?

In any case, as far as prophets and their talks go; it's pretty often that prophets mis-speak or say something heretical in a conference talk, only to have it censored in transcripts. Ernest L. Wilkinson and Ezra Taft Benson used to get called to disciplinary meetings in front of the rest of the twelve relatively often (happened more than once; relatively often for an authority of a church, you know?)(Also, that talk "13 Ways to Follow the Prophet" or whatever? That was originally condemned as heretical by, I think, David O. McKay?). It's not unreasonable to disagree with a prophet on a matter that isn't declared doctrine. The doctrinal guidelines for gender and marriage are, honestly, relatively open-ended. It's all open to personal interpretation, supplemented with the direction of prayerful thinking. If the Truth for Elder Packer is that homosexuals are simply suffering from an affliction, that they can be cured, that they are actually straight; well, that's the Truth for him. My Truth is different, and while I see that his Truth is his own Truth, I know that I can choose to interpret it my own way and still be on the same level as Elder Packer (w/r/t my faith and testimony, etc. Obviously I'm not an apostle).

It was not given as doctrinal revelation. He never said it was revelation that homosexuality is environmental/choice-driven/etc. The Church, doctrinally and officially, has no stance on the matter. Therefore what Elder Packer is saying is truth is merely his own definition of it. And you can agree with Elder Packer or you disagree and, either way, as long as you are square with God there's nothing to worry about. The true letter of all of our laws is simply to love everyone selflessly. So however you land on homosexuality shouldn't affect that. I, personally, disagree with Elder Packer's opinion. And I'm going to speak out in defense of the LGBT community within (and outside of) the Church. And I'm going to do that because it allows me to fully enact my personal belief that the central tenet of this Church is love. If you can do the same whilst agreeing with Elder Packer, that's alright as well. We're deeper than our mere complicity or dissent, and I think that's alright to acknowledge.


Austin said...

I think you have a great point about members being allowed to question things. The entire apologist movement is critical to our faith and aids many in their thoughts and opinions - whatever those may be.

But, several prophets and apostles have commented that a prophet is a prophet when he delivers a message to us by the power of the Holy Ghost; it is our responsibility to be prepared and worthy to recognize that spirit. President David O. McKay also taught that official church doctrine is found in the standard works, official publications of the Church and general conference addresses after 1954 (Conference Report, October 1954, p. 7)

I follow the prophets because it is stated time and time again in scripture...people turn their ears from the prophets and in turn neglect to hear the true will of God. There are classic examples given all throughout the Bible and Book of Mormon. There have always been things we did not like to hear.

“I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff [Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212–13.)

He spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, Luke 1:70

Going off of this model, the Church most definitely has a view on same-gender attraction. It has been stated by a prophet of God, Gordon B. Hinkley and has been mentioned countless times by Elder Holland, Oaks, and Packer.


redneckzilla said...

You know, I actually tried to find that statement that, I think, Elder Ballard? Russell M. Nelson? One of the current quorum of the twelve stated that the definition of homosexuality was best left up to the minds of science and was not a matter for the Church to define. I wish I could find that. But I can't, and all I can find are those Gordon B. Hinckley and Dallin H. Oaks things.

Which... Like I said, everyone has the right to think and say what they feel inspired to by God. But to assert that all of our religious experiences are the same on some level, enough so much to create an official church stance that is not define explicitly or verified explicitly as doctrine, is hard to conceive of. You can tell me what your version is of the truth all day long, but even when I finally come to an understanding of what that means to me in light of my experiences (which are ultimately different than yours on many fundamental levels) it will still be different for me. What matters most is personal introspection and understanding of faith on an individual level. Thus the way I conceive of the truth of the gospel is not somehow lacking because it is not in agreement with your perceived notion of what the Church's stance is on something, just the same way your conception of the truth is not somehow debased because it differs from my perspective on what the Church truly upholds. Our faiths are our own; thus they are incomparable. We are having different religious experiences dude. That's why we have personal revelation, prayer, and the Spirit. We're all working with the same source materials, but it's inevitable that we're going to come up with different conclusions.

Austin said...

It's true, we obviously differ. And that's fine! Like I said with the other response, I'm glad we're able to debate ideas back and forth.

The last thing I'll say is that no matter how you try to define it, modern revelation through the 15 IS the Church's inspired direction. It doesn't matter what any past apostle has said or done off or on the record.
We are a covenant Church. That means we will not be led astray, and all things happen on Heavenly Father's own time.

The Word of Wisdom is a prime example. There are aspects of DC 89 that have evolved over time. And it's my belief that in the future, certain things will be added and taken off, just as before. It is not clearly stated what will be on the Word of Wisdom 100 years from now (and it very well could be interpreted the same way it is now). It doesn't say that in church doctrine.
That's the entire mission of the apostles and prophets - to tell us their inspired idea of the will of God. Over time, things change, different revelation is given, different ideas are preached more than others.

I've been asked before, what if the Church's views (and they have clearly defined doctrine) on same-gender attraction reverse sometime in the future? Well then, I'll follow what the First Presidency advises. That's what my stance will always be. I don't feel comfortable putting my stock in anything else in this world. That why I joined this Church. I gained testimony that it was presided by men, but was led and inspired by Jesus Christ.

redneckzilla said...

Ok, but the point I'm making is that when anything is amended, say D&C 89 becoming commandment as opposed to just Church advice, it is announced that it is, indeed, changing into a Church doctrine. It is stated, explicitly, this is revelation from the Lord that has been approved and is going to be instated Church-wide. There are things that the apostles probably all agree on. It could be that they all agree that homosexuality is a choice and not a state of being. Or it could be that they all think Famous Ray's is the very best barbeque chicken. And when they stand up on the pulpit and say, in any capacity, 'Brothers and Sisters, please understand that we all love Famous Ray's, it is the best barbeque chicken in the world and we all exhort you to eat it", they are not saying that it is now required, writ large, that everyone endorse Famous Ray's chicken. Even if every single member of the 12 and the 70 got up and said, "I feel inspired to let you know that Famous Ray's rules", that still would not be an amendment to the official Church doctrine. If the 12 got up next conference and stated, "We have been inspired, as a Church, to proclaim Famous Ray's the dinner of monday night, thus sayeth the Lord" then, well, yes. It would then be doctrine.

So even if Elder Packer is on the stand and says that homosexuality doesn't stem from a biological cause, and even if Dallin H. Oaks agrees and Gordon B. Hinckley agrees; even then, if it's not said, "We are now considering homosexuality as a choice, we have been inspired by the Lord, this is law,", if it isn't pronounced law, then it isn't law.

This has actually been a decisive point in past Church debates; namely evolution. Hugh B. Brown and Joseph Fielding Smith used to go head to head on this issue, often at BYU. When they'd address the students, they were careful every time to avoid saying that belief or disbelief in evolution was Church doctrine.

If it was Church law, it would be stated as that. It would be out there, clearly, instead of couched in past talks and pull-quotes from GBH and Dallin H. Oaks. If the official chicken of the Church was Famous Ray's, we'd know it, and we'd know it not because everybody was saying it was or because that's all anybody in the Church ate, but because it is expressly stated in the laws and doctrines of the Church.

Austin said...

I realize exactly what you're saying. I guess I wasn't sure how you defined doctrine before. You make a very valid point.

So the whole idea of this issue depends upon what one's definition of "doctrine" is.

The official "doctrine" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is outlined within the standard works. That's the simplest way to say it. And I think we can both agree on that.

The very basis for my rationale, however, lies within the very sentence you reference:
"To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation" -DC 89

It is not a commandment. BUT it is a revelation. There are many gospel principles that do not have the hash tag "#commandment" or "#doctrine" but we still have faith that they are of God. In nearly every single section of doctrine and covenants, Heavenly Father admonishes us to listen and hearken to this revelation.

D&C 1:38
"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

Notice that there is no use of "commandment" in there. We don't have to listen. Agency always comes into play.

Elder Packer's talk was not formal revelation. But the talk he made reference to is. The Proclamation of the Family is the most recent modern revelation. And revelation IS official Church doctrine. (Alma 5: 43-48) Right off the bat, it says that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Most of the time, the Apostles get up during general conference and expound on gospel principles according to their "inspired thoughts". Their words are not doctrine. But the subjects they speak of are. They are the gospel doctrines and truths of the Church.
The Brethren are prone to mistake or offense. But the gospel principles are solid and concrete. We can put stock in that.

The Church has no official stance on evolution. There was never an actual revelation given à la Proclamation of the Family.

redneckzilla said...

Exactly, they don't have a revelation on evolution. Thus, members are not compelled to take up ever conflicting viewpoint they hear in discussions or in conference.

You're right the Fam Proc says marriage is between a man and woman. But that's not the issue; the issue is the concept of homosexuals being homosexual instead of simply choosing to be homosexual. Elder Packer said that homosexuality is, basically, a problem, a sin, a weakness that Heavenly Father would never have given to His children because he loves them too much. That's not doctrine and that's certainly not good for the self-esteem of those who feel like they are perfectly fine with who they are, even if they are homosexual. The Church doesn't have a stance on homosexuality as a state of being. Thus, just because Elder Packer says, in conference, that he doesn't think that homosexuality is a natural trait doesn't mean that I have to believe him or agree with him or even feel comfortable enough with him telling that to 13 million people to not want to yell about it. He can believe what he wants and so can I and neither are doctrine for the entire church. The problem is you're saying you're on the side of the whole church (which the GAs represent) and that I'm not. Elder Packer's remarks, and the entire Prop 8 debacle, are not representative of my church. God and I are square on that one.

Austin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Austin said...

I believe Elder Packer to be in the right and you believe him to be in the wrong. Agree to disagree.

I recommend looking up the apostolic charge given to Parley P Pratt which is similar to the charge given to apostles today...

I've appreciated all of this. It's helped me to understand both your side and my own a little better.

Austin said...

dang...it still didn't work with that link.

well, just do a ctrl f and search "apostolic charge" and it should come up.