Saturday, October 04, 2008

I've often wondered what it would be like if the tables were turned. What if homosexuality was the way to live as taught by the church? What if straight relationships were the abomination? Would the current members of the church put aside their tendencies toward the opposite sex in order to live how God has commanded? How many would fall away from the church because they weren't attracted to the same sex? How many could handle such a huge sacrifice? I wish this could happen for one day, so that everyone would understand what we as gay men are giving up to live the life that has been taught to us and that we believe to be right. I'm not saying that I actually wish that homosexuality was espoused by the church, but I just wish they could understand what it is really like. Are the testimonies of church members strong enough to handle such a commandment? I really don't think they are. I think the church would quickly fall apart.


Alan said...

Forester – I've thought the same thing myself. While I consider myself to have a firm testimony of the gospel, one of my dissatisfactions with the Church as an institution is that it seems to keep its active members so frantically busy with callings and programs and administration and lesson preparation and reporting statistics and activity days and keeping the Relief Society tablecloths starched, all to such an extent that time for meditation, reflection, and pondering the Scriptures and gospel principles seems quite crowded out of many LDS lives. As a result, such members truly have no comprehension of what we face, probably because they simply don't have the time to think about it. The other key reason, I believe, is that they would be loathe to do so because of the latent cultural homophobia that still is common in the Church. One of my own sisters who does not know me as well as she thinks she does just today made a disparaging remark about Congressman Barney Frank as a "fag." I almost laughed at the irony which was of course lost on her. At any rate, I think such overstretched but perhaps innocently ignorant people are probably the majority in the Church and would indeed fall apart under the hypothetical scenario you describe.

On the other hand, there are those LDS members who do find time for the kind of quiet reflection, pondering, and self-examination which would enable them to walk a mile in the shoes of those who have same-sex attraction, even if only hypothetically. I believe they are the minority, but they are there. Those who are more concerned with being Christlike than with criticizing, more with charity than bigotry. Such members would, I think, be tremendously sympathetic and supportive if they pondered or considered facing themselves the challenges you describe. I think they would be the ones to carry the Church through. My experience is that those members who have moved beyond Stage Three in Fowler's Stages of Faith (highly recommended if you aren't familiar with it) more readily fall into this category. In my experience they are less dependent on the Church, culturally and institutionally, for expressions and fulfillment of their faith, and more concerned with finding and following God's will for their own lives and showing the Savior's love to others, while keeping the commandments and their covenants. My hope for the future is with Saints like this.

Chedner said...

Have you ever heard the musical, Zanna, Don't!?

bravone said...

Very interesting thought. Hopefully it would result in more compassion. I love Alan's comments above.

Forester said...

Alan, you're right about most members not having any idea about same-sex attraction. Why is the subject matter still so taboo? I guess in a lot of respects, we don't talk about a lot of struggles facing members today. I would be interested to find out how ssa is being addressed in youth classes and quorums. It seems to be that the church's way of handling most struggles, including divorce, adultery, and others is to speak privately about them with your Bishop or close friends. I like your point about members who do take the time to be in tune with the gospel and to others needs are the ones who carry the church.

Chedner, no I've never heard the musical "Zanna, Don't". I'll check it out.

Alan said...

Forester: I think it's taboo for several reasons.

(1) A majority of active American Mormons tend to fit in with social & cultural conservatives, which includes Evangelical Christians. This group has historically been very homophobic and has tried to treat homosexuality as aberrational, when admitting that it exists at all.

(2) Homosexuality is seen by many Mormons as fundamentally opposed to the plan of salvation. If exaltation is possible only for heterosexual partners married in the temple, how are we to explain those who truly have no desire or capability to do so, because they are honestly attracted only to their own gender? God is not supposed to make mistakes or deny any of His children any eternal opportunity, yet homosexual persons have a characteristic that could exclude them from the blessings God is supposed to offer everyone, if Mormon theology is correct. This is why so many Mormons are desperate to avoid admitting that it's not a choice, that it may be biological, nature not nurture. Conceding that would be tantamount to admitting that God has created some people who may lack the ability to qualify for the highest eternal blessings. This would mean God is partial, and favors some but not others. Christian theology simply can't tolerate that conclusion. It threatens the whole plan. I'm not saying any of these conclusions are correct, but I believe that subliminally many Mormons believe them, even if they haven't thought it through like this.

(3) Mormon culture is relentlessly positive and upbeat. We are always supposed to be smiling and happy. If we keep the commandments we will prosper in the land. Scatter sunshine all along the way. Count your many blessings and you will be singing as the days go by. Mormons judge each other by this standard. Happiness is often considered an indication of prosperity and divine approval. Mormons are extremely good at hiding the bad, the depressing, the difficult, the challenging, and pretending (during the 3 hour block, at any rate) that they don't exist or have no effect, because sadly they know lots of other members will judge them negatively if they freely own up to any of this. To admit or discuss openly that one or someone in one's family struggles with something so many see as aberrational and threatening to The Perfect Family and which in its pop culture form seems to embody everything decadent, well, that's just too much. Simply impermissible in the incessantly optimistic march to Zion.

(2) LDS culture is big on secrets. Callings, programs, plans, changes, etc. are kept secret before announcement. The practice of regular bishop's interviews which include what non-LDS would consider offensively intrusive questions about private behavior remains feasible because the contents of almost all such interviews are kept secret. We're good at hiding things. In light of all the above, why would the treatment of what many consider a threat to the faith be any different?

Off soapbox.

J G-W said...

I've sometimes had this discussion with straight members.

In some on-line discussions, some just reject the logic of it outright -- and use their rejection as an excuse to treat gay folks despicably.

Most members of the Church, though, both on-line and in person, I think are able to grasp exactly what is being asked of gay folks. I'm always grateful for the humility in that kind of response...

BigRedHammer said...

Forester - I agree with you too. My brother told his wife yesterday "If my brother goes back to Church he'll have to be celibate the rest of his life." I think he is understanding what a real sacrifice that is. As an aside, I'm very proud of him. I came out to him not a week ago and he's already coming to these conclusions.

Alan - Well thought out response! I think every word of your commentary is true.

I also think we LDS are very good at compartmentalizing ourselves as individuals and families. We want our problems to be private and handle them on our own and want our neighbors to do the same. We do the same with our children as well. If a neighbor were to punish your child for something he did, you'd be outraged. Outside of North America it doesn't work that way. All adults work to raise children and all adults are to have the same level of respect as their parents. So we don't look to understand or empathize with others' problems.

I also think that when straight religious people think of homosexual people they quickly think of gay sex. That's why you get the "Ewww, gays..." response. When I think of a married man and woman I don't automatically think of them procreating.

Truthfully, America just needs to be desensitized to homosexuality. When you have gay friends, neighbors, senators, actors, pastors, and every other walk of life, they'll quickly see that we're normal people like anyone else.

Since July 15, 2007