Thursday, March 23, 2006

I believe in more

Yes, my posts have tended toward epic length. And epic boredom. So, I'll try to tease you a bit by noting up front that this is the post where I talk about the "doctrine" of gayness. But it takes some context, so hang in there.

I've mentioned before that what happens to us here on earth happens within the context of an infinitely larger social system--one with rules which we can't possibly understand in mortality because of our human limitations. There has been and will be an arrangement of grouped relationships in families outside of this world. There will be friendship. There will be sex. And the sex will be really good, because we'll all be resurrected and have the body of Jude Law. :-)

God talks about spheres of truth. He notes that we don't understand his ways. We should hardly be surprised then when things don't make perfect sense. The confusion may lie in the pain and suffering God allows us to experience. The confusion may lie in some other seemingly unreasonable cross we have to bear. It may lie in scientific or anthropological discrepancies (which I'll address in a future post). But ultimately, we're just little kids who are entirely dependent on our Father. He tells us stories to help us understand how the world works, and we get it... a little bit. As we grow, we get it more. Unless we just jam the scissors in the power outlet anyway. Then our fried fingers may find fewer opportunities to trust.

You can easily see where I'm going with the gay issue. Despite all the talk, there remains a big fat question mark shadowing the whole topic. Some demand answers from the church--after all, the church claims to have a link from God, so let's have the straight dope. Knock and it shall be opened to you... and yet my bloody knuckles have been knocking for years. All I can say is, God must be on his own timetable for some damn good reason.

There's more.

There's much, much more that we don't know. I spend a fair amount of effort keeping myself from forcing the issues. I want the answers now... in mortality. But that's impossible. And if I have faith in an afterlife at all, it's an unnecessary demand.

What we do know now is that families are destined for eternal durability. There is an eternal social structure in which mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, are an integral and necessary part of the eternal human economy. Their eventual roles are specific and largely unfathomable to us now. So, in my view, there's no use rationalizing away that eternal gay love is just as legitimate. It's like a toddler claiming that because candy is good, there's no need for vegetables.

We also know that physical imperfections will be gone in the resurrection. My personal view is that same-gender attraction is a physiologic imperfection similar to obesity--it's not a disease unto itself, it's the body working in a completely adapted normal way that happens to produce an effect that is a risk factor (not a cause) for actual, serious diseases. And obesity (I believe) will be gone in the resurrection. Perhaps then, after a life of struggling and searching for relief, I will also be more attracted to my wife when I am resurrected. I can think of nothing more wonderful to hope for. And while such a prospect may seem disgusting to you (I don't WANT to be attracted to women... I like myself just the way I am), I doubt it would bother you so much in the actual application. As for me, bring it on! I'll be keeping all my male friends, I just won't be inclined to awkwardly check them out all the time when they aren't looking.

This all seems pretty clear to me, despite that I see lots of consternation on the topic among my friends and fellow bloggers. And though it's clear to me logically, it doesn't assuage the very real dread pit of longing in my stomach.

I have more difficulty applying this reasoning to women. Presumably, there is some larger reason that women don't hold the priesthood. We're told that they are equal partners with men, but then the actual practice is to relegate women to mostly non-leadership positions. It's just plain contradictory. Women can take upon them the name of Christ, but not the power and authority of the priesthood. How does that make any sense?

Well, an appeal to the same logic I've used above covers it. But for me it seems less adequate in this context. People talk about motherhood as the supernal role balancing out the lack of priesthood. But I think there are some women who would trade in morning sickness for the chance to lead a ward. But, fairly, I should also say there might be men who would trade home teaching responsibilities for the chance to be the most important single person in a baby's life.

The doctrine of eternal gender identity (i.e., I am who I am and the gender that I am for some sufficient reason that will allow me to fulfill the measure of my creation) combined with the promise of equal blessings to men and women for obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel seem to mollify me. But is there a promise of equal blessings? I'm not so sure on that off the top of my head. The example I can think of puts man between woman and God in a key way. That doesn't seem equal.

Regardless, my wife and I are pretty invested in the whole thing, and it has worked well so far. She's a feminist and I'm gay. And we are both active and practicing Mormons. The union between my wife and I is one of the most boring appearing, and yet remarkable and fascinating commitments I know of.

And though I intended to address gay and women's rights in this post, I'm going to put that off. I started writing more and there was just too much for this post. The central issue of this particular post is humility when we consider how little we know and how much God has in store for us. And I look forward to the time I can get to know a little "more".

17 comments:

Chris (hurricane) said...

I'm going to mull this one for a but before responding.

Dave Walter said...

The flaw in your logic, I believe, is that it assumes that God's truths -- as filtered through biased minds of prophets -- are indeed true.

Is it an LDS doctrine that prophets be considered infallible?

Chris (hurricane) said...

I once heard it said that Catholics claim to believe in papal infallibility, but don't really, while Mormons claim to believe in prophetic fallibility, but don't really.

LDS doctrine does not claim that prophets are infallible. But Mormons generally respond to them as if they are.

Dave said...

Alma 34:34 says, "for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." I was always taught that meant that whatever your feelings and inclinations you have in this world they will continue into the next world and addiction was used as an example, but by the same reasoning you could say that one's attraction to the same gender will continue into the next world. If you believe that you will be attracted to your wife in the next life then I can see why you would want to stay with her in this life. I just don't think it's very realistic but I guess that's what faith is for.

Chris (hurricane) said...

And the sex will be really good, because we'll all be resurrected and have the body of Jude Law.

I'm hoping for Jake Gyllenhaal myself.

But seriously...

Nothing you've written here has convinced me that the gay issue is qualitatively different from the blacks and priesthood issue. (Surprise!) Society's heterosexual bias is simply stronger and more deeply rooted than its (diminishing) racist impulses. It is not hard for me to imagine at all that this bias in favor of heterosexuality has significantly colored how we understand our eternal purposes. Just as church leaders of the past didn't feel any need to change the lot of black people as long as it reflected broader cultural attitudes, so too have current church leaders largely accepted cultural attitudes about homosexuality, and it is reflected in LDS theology and their understanding and illumination of LDS doctrine.

But these cultural attitudes are in flux. The church is going into retrenchment. But I truly believe that we will see progress toward greater acceptance of gay people not only in the Church, but in its theology. Greater societal acceptance of gays will force the church's hand.

That said, your conclusions about homosexuality as defective and something that will be changed in the world to come are understandable, as are your conclusions about the man-woman coupling in eternal families. I think they are the only way LDS theology works given our current understanding and the interpretations offered by Church leaders.

But once upon a time, LDS leaders taught that polygamy was an essential component of eternal marriage and exaltation. Mormons don't believe that anymore. I don't know why we won't consider the possibility that heterosexuality may make enough room for homosexuality in the eternities as well.

On a more personal note, my wife and I have discussed this at length, and we both believe that homosexuality is a matter of the soul and spirit as much as the body and mind. We both think that I have always been gay and will always be gay, worlds to come.

-L- said...

Drat! I thought surely my cool logic would bring everyone everywhere into agreement! And yet nobody has thus far written a supportive comment [hint, hint].

I am delighted by the thoughtful comments posted by everyone. (Even dave walter, whose comments I will mock mercilessly in just a moment). You've really helped me look at this from a new point of view.

I'm not sure what prophetic "fallibility" is supposed to mean. Prophets make mistakes, certainly. Jonah, for example, didn't exactly go down in the history books for his infallible response to his scheduled Nineveh gig. But when a prophet says something with divine authority, it is absolutely axiomatic in the Mormon faith that what he has said is from God. I can back this up if I need to, but don't make me because finding the references sounds boring.

So, dave walter [tongue in cheek]. When I started this series of posts I considered titling them "Dave Walter believes..." but I was afraid you might sue me and also it seemed to be slightly less accurate than the title I eventually decided upon. I take your comments to mean that the flaw in my logic is that I accept prophets as prophets. But we've already established that we're reading from different scripts... Aw now, don't go get mad at me. I'm just teasing.

Dave [doktor2be dave], I really liked your comment. You could easily have quoted a number of scriptures and statements from church leaders to that effect (but then, you probably consider finding references as boring as I do). For example, spirit prison is a bad place to repent because (I've heard) your physical inclinations can no longer be addressed as merely a spirit, and repentance is therefore complicated. But, psychological behavioral patterns and physiologic processes can be teased apart in your example of addiction. If I like to check guys out all the time, perhaps I'll continue doing so after I'm resurrected just out of habit. But when I do end up checking them out and my physiologic response has changed (in the resurrection) from getting aroused to the feeling I get right now when I look at Britney Spears (mild disgust), I'll know my body is now perfected in that arousal is now correctly physiologically linked to the prospect of procreation.

And I suppose that dovetails into my thoughts about hurricane's last post. Cultural influences have "forced the hand" of the church in relation to polygamy, but not necessarily in the actual doctrine, just the practice. I don't pretend to understand the doctrine and I certainly don't intend to get into a discussion of it in the comment section of this post (maybe another post!), but it differs from homosexuality fundamentally in that it brings about MORE procreation rather than less. I doubt in vitro fertilization clinics and adoption agencies have a prominent part in the plan of salvation. Hence the proclamation on the family affirming gender as an eternal traight.

And families--progeny--are absolutely fundamental to church doctrine at the core of the plan of salvation--both for this life and the next. I know many gay Mormon men find comfort in the prospect that the church will someday accept them in the way they want to be accepted, and I can't blame them. But, like LDSwithSSA, I think the church's position has been made abundantly clear on this matter in a variety of ways and over a length of time that make the chance that it is based solely on cultural influences essentially non-existent.

Chris (hurricane) said...

L:

Cultural influences have "forced the hand" of the church in relation to polygamy, but not necessarily in the actual doctrine, just the practice.

Yes--and no. Polygamy still exists as a doctrine of the church in that men are allowed to be sealed to more than one woman. But the Saints of Brother Brigham's day viewed it as ESSENTIAL to exaltation. We don't today. If a man is sealed to but one woman for time and all eternity, he can enjoy the highest degrees of celestial glory. The doctrine of polygamy has in fact changed, just not as dramatically.

I doubt in vitro fertilization clinics and adoption agencies have a prominent part in the plan of salvation. Hence the proclamation on the family affirming gender as an eternal traight.

So what of infertile couples?

God will make it right in the next life, I hear you saying it already. So why couldn't he also make it possible for eternal same-sex couples to procreate as well? If the answer is, "in the next life it will be made right," then why must we assume what and how that happens? It's our heterosexual bias.

But, like LDSwithSSA, I think the church's position has been made abundantly clear on this matter in a variety of ways and over a length of time that make the chance that it is based solely on cultural influences essentially non-existent.

But the thing about culture--it's awfully hard to step out of it. Even when you're trying, you can't completely break free.

Moreover, a church that claims to believe in continuing revelation and an open canon ought to take those beliefs seriously, regardless of the doctrinal question.
____

I should probably also 'fess up and say that this is largely an academic discussion for me. I simply don't believe much of the doctrine and theology on which this discussion is based.

tbirdguy58 at gaycom said...

Since the theme seems to be "conflicting LDS doctrines" may I suggest the website http://home.comcast.net/%7ezarahemla/index.html ... I just came across it this week and found it to be very interesting. You can spend hours there. You won't find anything about the church vs gays but you will learn a lot about the LDS church (stuff they won't tell you themselves).

Dave Walter said...

Aw now, don't go get mad at me. I'm just teasing.

Don't worry; I've got a thick skin. But if you poke me with a stick, I might get agitated.

-L- said...

God will make it right in the next life, I hear you saying it already. So why couldn't he also make it possible for eternal same-sex couples to procreate as well?

Can’t you just give me the pleasure of responding myself? Sheesh. I’ve been rebutted prematurely!!! ;-)

It makes sense that infertile heterosexual couples will have no problem procreating after they are resurrected. It’s not going to take any extraordinary intervention on the part of God—they’ve got compatible hardware that will have been perfected. Gay couples, on the other hand, will have to completely deny their own eternal gender identity in order to do so. Someone’s going to have to grow a uterus, or someone’s going to have to go up to God, tap him on the shoulder, and tell a perfect being that the reproductive system he designed wasn’t quite good enough and could he please go back and try again?

But the thing about culture--it's awfully hard to step out of it. Even when you're trying, you can't completely break free.

True, true. And precisely the point of my post—there’s "more" beyond the constraints of our current point of view. I’m going to pretend this is intended to be validating (since no actual validation has appeared, I have to mollify myself somehow!). However, we disagree on what we would learn if we could remove ourselves from our cultural paradigm. I believe the "more" will explain the reasons for why God does things—things that appear to not make sense. You believe it will actually reverse things—allow him to contradict himself and give you what you want. Other than wishful thinking and an honestly conflicted feeling by gay men that they are entitled to eternal gay love, I have seen NO indication anywhere that this has any place whatsoever in God’s plan for us. Further, his prophets have specifically denied such a proposition.

But if you poke me with a stick, I might get agitated.

Oh, okay. [hides stick behind back]. So, I can still come visit you when I’m in Hawaii, right? :-)

And, lastly, tbirdguy58. I’m still toying with the notion of deleting your comment because it annoys me. I’ve deliberately tried to focus this post on my specific belief of greater context in the eternal scheme of things, not create a hotbed of bashing or jumping point for anti-mormon references. I consider your link to be comment spam because you do not contribute to the discussion here and the site you reference makes no effort to be objective—it only provides links to some individually objective third party resources that collectively comprise a completely anti-mormon viewpoint. There are many, many web sites that successfully offer a more reconciliatory take on these topics and these would be far more in line with what I’m attempting to discuss. While the agenda of some commenters may seem to be attacking the credibility of the church, MY agenda [the one that matters on this blog] is to work through my own beliefs in a way that will help me find peace as a man who is both a practicing mormon, and gay.

tbirdguy58 at gaycom said...

L - please don't take offense. I believe my comments are appropriate to the subject at hand.

Hawaii Dave asked, "Is it an LDS doctrine that prophets be considered infallible?" Hurricane asked too. And you repled, "when a prophet says something with divine authority, it is absolutely axiomatic in the Mormon faith that what he has said is from God. I can back this up if I need to, but don't make me because finding the references sounds boring."

I responded by posting the link.
The discussions there are from sincere, honest people whose opinions are just as valid as yours and mine. Church historical records contain many "big" subjects where 19th century LDS prophets claiming divine authority did whacked and dishonest things. These references are "backed up" in church history, but you don't learn them in Sunday School class.

Our own church history is full of contradictions, and Hurricane took a lot of effort to share some of his concerns. I share those as well.

Please don't slam the door just because the comments wandered off subject and were different than you hoped. Your blog is great and I hope you continue. It makes us think and ask hard questions. We're all in this together, Friend.

-L- said...

I'm not offfended, I'm annoyed. I'm sure there are many fascinating "whacked and dishonest" things charged to the prophets of the day. If your point in providing the link was to point out that true prophets don't do such things, feel free to say so. Then I can respond directly. But the laundry list of anti-mormon website "issues" are not my issues. Dave walter and hurricane have my respect for their demonstrated good faith in past discussions. You do not.

Consider the door wide open. I look forward to finding out who you are and how you respond to the issues. I recommend getting a non-anonymous id and blog of your own as a start.

Dave Walter said...

While the agenda of some commenters may seem to be attacking the credibility of the church...

Think about that comment for a second. Why would anyone get any satisfaction from pursuing such an agenda in a Mormon-oriented blog community?

The agenda is to help gay Mormons in turmoil because of LDS teachings about homosexuality. But I don't see how that agenda can be carried out without challenging the church's credibility, at least with regard to homosexuality.

About the visit to Hawaii, I'll tell you what a lot of residents of paradise have figured out to say: "I'm thrilled you're coming to Hawaii! What hotel are you staying at?" ; )

-L- said...

Why would anyone get any satisfaction from pursuing such an agenda in a Mormon-oriented blog community?

Ask tbird. That's why I didn't appreciate the link without a little more explanation.

The agenda is to help gay Mormons in turmoil because of LDS teachings about homosexuality. But I don't see how that agenda can be carried out without challenging the church's credibility, at least with regard to homosexuality.

I'm trying to carry out that agenda in precisely such a manner. We're like yin and yang, DW. :) We can each self-assign which is which!

tbirdguy58 at gaycom said...

L, thanks for cutting me slack and staying with me. Here's my opinion: I no longer believe in the concept of a prophet as God's spokesman. Not the literal mouthpiece-for-God definition that permeates LDS beliefs. I used to be in awe at the Bible and BOM stories that were so fantastic. I believed that in our day, our prophet literally had 1:1 conversations with Christ in the holy-of-holies (inside the temple for those who don't know).

But consistently, church policy lags behind the times. Polygamy? Banned when the church leaders were threatened with jail time. Blacks + priesthood? 15 years after civil rights legislation.

I expect more proactive behavior if God is in charge. My disblief began after I read Spencer Kimball's "The Miracle of Forgiveness" about 25 years ago. The book was full of spite and hostility. He seemed to delight in calling gays "perverts" and did not distinguish the temptation from the lifestyle. I couldn't believe this bile was coming from God's prophet-to-be.

I always wanted to hear some news, some update from God about the "last days" during church conference. Tips, prophecies, the inside scoop from the Man. We hear the same old rehash every 6 months. It's all on autopilot.

There's security and order in having faith in a prophet. I lost that feeling. I guess the reality of how they operate is different than my expectations.

I'm just a questioning soul, not anti-mormon or a pro-mormon. I've chosen to stay away from the church. They don't have the structure to support us, even if we are celibate and try to participate. How many middle-aged gay men have church leadership positions or fit into the social environment? I don't want to hang around anywhere as a closeted second-class citizen. It would be creepy and kill my self-esteem. Okay, I'm off subject. But you hinted at wanting to know more about me... thanks for keeping the door open.

tbirdguy58 at gaycom said...

L, I forgot to mention... I probably won't be doing a blog. I have an ordinary life and don't have opinions strong enough to substantiate a web presence. But thanks for the suggestion.

-L- said...

Tips, prophecies, the inside scoop from the Man.

lol. You FUNNY! Always write funny stuff like that. :)

They don't have the structure to support us, even if we are celibate and try to participate. How many middle-aged gay men have church leadership positions or fit into the social environment?

Well, considering I'm in a bishopric (not middle aged, but hopefully that's optional), I'm getting free counseling funded by fast offerings (and school), and fully active spiritually and socially in the ward, I have to disagree with this statement.

Not only that, I belong to an online group of hundreds of active LDS men with SSA, many of whom ARE middle aged and holding significant leadership positions you mentioned.

See, if you had a blog and an e-mail I would have been able to get in touch with you directly with more details. I'll bet you have as much to say as anyone else. If not, come say stuff on my blog and I'll write a snippy retort if you step out of line. ;-) Mail me if you want.