Friday, October 17, 2008

I don't know how many of you have read the Gospel Doctrine lesson for this coming Sunday but it includes a story about a gay man who was converted to the church. The story attributes his homosexuality to learned behavior. Here is the story:

"I know [a] good man who was reared in a family without the blessings of the gospel. Through a series of unfortunate events in his early youth, he was introduced to homosexuality, and gradually he became a prisoner of this addictive behavior. One day two young missionaries knocked on his door and asked if he would be interested in learning of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. In his heart of hearts he wanted to be freed from his prison of uncleanness, but feeling unable to change the direction his life had taken, he terminated the missionary discussions. Before leaving his apartment, the two elders left a copy of the Book of Mormon with him, and testified of its truthfulness.

My friend placed the book on his bookshelf and forgot about it for several years. He continued acting out his homosexual tendencies, assuming that such relationships would bring him happiness. But alas, with each passing year, his misery increased.
One day in the depths of despair, he scanned his bookshelf for something to read which might edify and uplift him and restore his self worth. His eye caught hold of the book with a dark blue cover, which the missionaries had given him several years before. He began to read. On the second page of this book, he read of Father Lehi’s vision in which he was given a book to read, and “as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Ne. 1:12). And as my good friend continued reading, he too was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.

He read King Benjamin’s benedictory challenge to undergo a mighty change of heart—not a little change, but a mighty change. He was given hope by the comforting conversion stories of Enos, Alma, Ammon, and Aaron. He was also inspired by the account of the Savior’s visit to the ancient Nephites. By the time he reached the final page of the Book of Mormon, he was prepared to accept Moroni’s loving invitation to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (Moro. 10:32). My friend contacted the Church and was taught the gospel and was baptized. [Spencer J. Condie, “A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 16–17]."

I don't refute this man's conversion to the gospel or his change of heart. What bothers me is that his homosexuality was something that was gradually learned over time. I find it hard to believe that he gradually became gay as a result of some bad choices as a youth. This story contradicts what the church teaches about homosexuality not being a choice. Am I interpreting the story correctly to assume that it says being attracted to the same sex is a choice?


Zach said...

I think you're confusing the homosexual tendencies (orientation) with the homosexual acts. The way information is presented in the story, it is easy to assume the teller is using them synonymously.
The story says he was introduced to homosexuality and gradually became prisoner to it's addictive behavior. While It may be implying that homosexuality is a cognitive choice here, I I believe it to mean the man began acting on it and probably became addicted to something more associated with it (pornography, masturbation, etc.)rather than attraction to other men in general. Again, I don't think the teller meant to, but this is playing on more of a stereotype than anything. The stereotype that all gay men experience some sort of sexual perversion.

The story continues saying he was "acting out his homosexual tendencies." So, again, I think it's referring more toward acting out than the fact of mere attraction.

I see what you are saying with the story implying the "tendencies" are presented as a choice, but the way it is introduced, meaning the man was "introduced to homosexuality" implies the man was molested or otherwise sexually abused as a child, in which case he didn't really have a choice.

I don't know if any of that make sense... too often I just start typing as things come into my mind...

Abelard Enigma said...

I'm not convinced the church acknowledges that homosexuality may not be a choice. The "God Loveth His Children" pamphlet doesn't address the cause of homosexuality, it merely acknowledges that some people may not be able to 'overcome SSA' no matter how hard they try.

"While many Latter-day Saints ... overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life."

The wording also suggests that those who are unable to 'overcome' are in the minority - in other words, most people with SSA can and should 'overcome SSA'.

Of course, the meaning of "overcome SSA" is also subject to debate - does it mean you change from a homosexual to a heterosexual? Or does it merely mean that you control your actions and do not engage in homosexual relationships?

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Yes, it does. It totally says that. In 1993 (when this was written) that was the church's stance, even doctrine. Fortunately they've amended it, but not before it severely damaged many people, me included.

Zach, homosexual behaviour is no more "addictive" than heterosexual behaviour.

And I would be REALLY careful about associating "homosexuality" to molestation. That is not only offensive and damaging, it is scientifically unsound. There is absolutely no evidence at all that a child being molested will in any way affect their sexual orientation, and most molesters are male and straight, regardless of whether they're molesting a male of female child.

But yes, I agree that it is playing on stereotypes, falsely, misleadingly, and dangerously playing on stereotypes.

Beck said...

Forester: What drives me absolutely crazy about this is that a story from 1993 is being used in a correlated lesson of 2008. The Church is like a huge cruise ship that takes forever to turn around in the port. And by the time it does turn around, the damage has been done.

I can see from the quote you've used, how my wife can attend this lesson and even will all that she knows of me, she can come away still confusing attraction as a choice or learned behavior. And if she can, then so can all others who don't give a thought to these things.

This is so aggravating. I'm glad I don't go to Gospel Doctrine (as another calling takes me away).

I'd love to have a follow up by anyone who experiences this lesson with this story being shared.

Zach said...

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊], I realize heterosexual acts are just as addictive as homosexual ones, but as we weren't talking about heterosexuality, I didn't mention it. I assume people will realize pornography and masturbation are practiced among both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Sorry if my comments were offensive. That was surely not the intent.

Alan said...

I agree that the story could be interpreted just as you suspect, Forester. I also note that it's 15 years old and told by one member of the Seventy. As such, I give it about the same amount of credence I would any other sermon given in a Sacrament Meeting, attributing much of it to the personal perspective and biases of the speaker. The fact that the author is a member of the Seventy doesn't make any difference to me. He is as fallible and susceptible to incomplete information as the rest of us. Don't let it bother you.

Silus Grok said...

Which lesson is this?

I'm teaching GD in two weeks and wonder if this is my lesson.

* cringes *

Bror said...

Do you have to learn to be heterosexual too. I don't remember learning how to be homosexual myself. It just came as a packaged deal called me.

bravone said...

Forester, I haven't formalized an opinion about the whole nature/nurture concept. My only real point of reference is my personal experience. At a very young age, a male cousin and I began experimenting with each other's bodies. We were too young to even know what we were doing. Many men have had similar incidents in youth and turned out totally straight, seemingly unaffected by the early same sex exploration. It is attributed as a natural part of growing up and self discovery. Others like me don't break out of that pattern and our attraction to males increases. I don't know if that is because I was "predisposed" to ssa or whether I was just comfortable with it because of early life experiences and thus it felt natural to pursue.

I think that if someone is inclined to ssa, it can be enhanced with continued attention, but I don't think that is necessarily the same as a learned addiction or choice.

I think some of it may be genetic. In my family, I have two gay uncles, a gay brother and three gay cousins. Maybe it was something in the water!

I don't think it really matters how we got where we are as much as what we do now that we are here.

Forester said...

Beck, I think you hit my concern exactly. It's such an uphill battle when the stigma of SGA being a choice is perpetuated in a current Sunday lesson. I think people will also come away from this story thinking that all homosexual behavior is addictive. Sex in general can be very addictive if not kept within certain bounds, whether straight or gay.

The focus of the lesson is not on homosexuality or sex at all so I'm hoping that in most cases the story won't be shared or it will be quickly related to make another point in the lesson.

However, in some cases, those who pay attention or who have actually read the lesson, will undoubtedly be influenced or reaffirmed in a belief that is not true. Those of you who are out to your wives and families may have some explaining to do after the lesson.

Silus Grok said...

Okay … am I just using a different manual? I looked through lessons on either side of where we're at in adult Sunday School — and I'm not finding it.

Which lesson is this in?

Forester said...

It's lesson 42, but I just realized that I get a weekly email from that contains the weekly lesson. It turns out that they added the story to the lesson. Luckily, this will limit the use of the story. I think I will write a letter to LDS living about the inappropriateness of the story.

Silus Grok said...

* phew *

I'm not crazy!


Yes … do write them! D'love to hear how they reply.

robert said...

I was waiting to read "and they all lived happily ever after" at the end. This kind of "lesson" is not a lesson of any kind. It is a "cautionary tale" riddled with moral messaging that cannot be refuted by any sane person. The short version of the story: "I was gay, found the Lord and now I'm a happy well-adjusted heterosexual...Its a miracle. The end."

Forester said...

Silus, no you're not crazy....yet. Robert, that's how I felt about the story too. I don't doubt, nor do I have the right to question, this man's spiritual experience, but it would be nice to hear the full story and find out how he is doing today.

Silus Grok said...

I fully reserve the right to go crazy at my (in)discretion.


Bravone said...

Forester, haven't heard from you in a while. Is everything okay?

Alan said...

Hey Forester, where are you. I passed through your town today, I do that once in a while. Are you willing to show your face in return for a free meal? LOL. Let me know. It's nice to get to know bro's in the community in real life.

Bravone said...

Forester, Is this a good thing that we aren't hearing from you?

Since July 15, 2007