Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Detestable

"I don't want to turn our children over to an organization that will teach them to hate their father," he said.

"Gerald," I responded quickly, "you know that there is no person or organization anywhere on this earth that could teach your children to hate you. You know they love and adore you, and they always will."

"But the Church will tell them that I am evil."

"Look, Gerald," I said. "I understand your feelings toward the Church, but without it you wouldn't have developed into the person you are, or have the spiritual interest you do. I think the Church has done a lot for you."

There were tears in Gerald's eyes when he answered me. "That's the trouble, Blossom. I love the Church. And the Church detests me. That's why it hurts so much!"
Carol Lynn Pearson,
in Good-bye, I Love You

I have to admit there's a lot here that I just plain don't get. Not that the actual words have obscure meaning, but the pervasive disagreement about the church's actual attitude toward homosexuality held among gays, members, and SSA practicing Mormons. The church says they love us. Gays say the church hates us.

I was interested to learn that the church had advocated electroshock aversion therapy at BYU and that priesthood leaders have said such offensive things as that it would be better to be at the bottom of the Great Salt Lake with a millstone around your neck than to be gay or that homosexuality is equivalent in depravity to bestiality.

Apologetic apologist or not, I come out with a kind take on the church. I'm inclined to think one can believe whatever one wants about the church in this regard. I wonder if it's one of those things that reflects on the interpreter more than the subject material itself.

For example, priesthood leaders are either plain wrong (not unheard of) or overemphasizing something for its rhetorical impact when they speak of death being better than sin. It's certainly a notion that has home in parts of the scriptures and makes sense in a tactical "how will you make it through life's tests" sort of way. It also has the unfortunate side effect of alienating the vulnerable person who already feels ashamed and desperate--of giving the false impression that the church wants the person dead. Not a strategic repentance-motivating discussion I would endorse, but also not literally technically inaccurate. Rhetorically stupid, yes, but stupidity is more easily excused than hatred.

I haven't given bestiality much thought, but my guess is that it is wholly different from homosexuality and that those who compare them are just plain wrong (and perhaps willfully ignorant, I don't know). I don't know that folks are actually attracted to animals, I've always thought it was kind of an elaborate form of masturbation. It's really disgusting though, and on that basis I can see how some people would compare it to their view of gay sex. Again, poor communication and ignorance are bad, but not necessarily the same as hatred.

Shock therapy doesn't bother me nearly as much as some people. Medical history is filled with unsuccessful interventions that made lots of sense on paper. We hurt people all the time in medicine to bring about some positive result. Surgery is "cut to cure". We literally flay a person's chest open with huge metal retractors and then rip pieces of their body out... and they let us because they're better off afterward. To the extent that participants were not compelled to undergo the shock therapy and the practitioners had reasonable hope that the outcome they all desired was possible, it's not as huge of a deal as it seems. It is grotesque to think about and unfortunate to say the least, but not some scene out of Frankenstein that it's painted to be by the activists I've seen describing it.

The church has repeatedly expressed its love for gays (although they stubbornly use their own language) and its desire based on that love that gays repent and enjoy all the happiness and blessings of the gospel. God, His prophets, and His organization don't "detest" us. However, there is still too much ignorance, still offensive language used, and still misunderstandings, and battling it all is worth a go.

19 comments:

Chris (hurricane) said...

A couple of thoughts --

Gerald Pearson came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. Even I will admit that the LDS Church has changed its rhetorical attitude about homosexuls and homosexuality, er, same-sex attraction considerably since then.

I think many homosexuals feel like the LDS Church's love for us is conditional. They love us if we do what they tell us we should. I think Mormonism does, in fact, posit a God whose love is conditional and this conditionality extends far beyond the gay issue.

Finally, I'm grateful that my former wife and I see eye-to-eye on the role of the LDS Church in our lives and the life of our family as we move forward. I certainly share Gerald Pearson's misgivings about having my children raised in a church environment where they would learn that homosexuality is wrong, abberant, evil, etc.

-L- said...

Whether God's love is conditional is an extension of the same issue--the church says it's not, those against the church say its doctrine says it is.

In my view it goes back to the whole "no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God"... not because He's vindictive and doesn't love the unclean ones, but because that's how it has to be. Why it has to be that way I've discussed in comments in the past, but largely we don't entirely understand yet.

While I'm glad you and KK have consensus on how to raise your children, I would think you'd still have misgivings about conveying to them that their extended relatives are still within an ignorant, irrational, and unloving church.

Scot said...

LDS church is hostile to homosexuals. It doesn’t hate homosexuals, nor is it filled with bigots (though some members certainly do and are, as in any group).

The current LDS doctrine is hostile (though, Chris is right in saying it’s less hostile today) because asking a person to live a life of celibacy, or a life that involves sex but never with the sex natural to them causes that person (and sometimes their spouse) distress, and for some it’s strong enough to make suicide seem a better option.

Simply, the doctrine limits gays and opposes their nature, but that isn’t always a bad thing. The LDS are hostile to kleptomaniacs as well, and rightly. Also, such a moral declaration would hurt any person, straight or gay. For example, a gay father teaching his heterosexual son that heterosexual sex and couplings are immoral, for, say, wacky pagan beliefs :-), that would hurt the kid, right? But could he still be “loving”?

The tricky part really is “love”, a word in need of more words, like “snow” to the Eskimos.

Do the LDS leaders feel love for gays? I bet they do. But to many people “love” requires more than feeling the good feelings; it often means taking another’s wants as your own. When you hurt someone in a way you’d not want to be hurt--make them as teens feel defective in a very intimate way, demean their family legally and socially, try to weaken their legal ties to their children, and such--telling them “I love you” and “it’s for your own good”, comes across the difficult paths of translation as “I feel good about myself for hurting you and those you love”.

Personally, I’m sure the church feels justified in hurting gays, and I bet they feel love for them, but it’s not the same model of love people are using when they say the church feels the opposite.

Samantha said...

AAAHHHH!!! -L-, we posted at the same time, and mine got bumped, so now I have to start over!!! :(

Now I have to remember what I said.

Oh yes, totally off the subject about which you and Chris are speaking...

Sunday, one of my Laurels brought up that she had been taught that those who are gay are in that state because they choose to be. It's not a natural condition and can be removed from the person simply through self-control and righteous living. I'm still waiting for the fall-out from her parents when they find out what I told her and the rest of the class--yeah, I dispelled the myth in no uncertain terms. There can be no misunderstanding what I said.

If you're feeling strong enough (the key words here are "strong enough)next time we chat, I have some information about bestial tendencies that I think you'd find interesting. I have a newsletter about that on my bloglines, too.

Yeah, I'm just kidding about the newsletter...

Chris (hurricane) said...

I think scot's comments speak to the question of love for homosexuals quite eloquently. Thanks, scot.

-L- said...

Scot, I'm really glad you comment. This was very insightful. I suppose the church does view it as a kind of "tough love" when they advocate for hostile policy. There's a mountain of difference between tough love and hate though, and I like your assessment much better than others (e.g. Drescher).

Samantha, what was the context of the discussion on homosexuality? Just curious.

Samantha said...

Well, the lesson was on "Personal Purity through Self-Discipline". The young lady in question brought up the subject out of the blue--no precursers to this one. She said she hated it when kids at school said they were gay and acted in a certain way just to get attention. Then went on to state her views as I have published in my first comment.

I would be very interested to know how you (or anyone else, for that matter) would have responded.

santorio said...

kids in the church: my kids in the church heard both sides of the gay debate, in the church, home and community. they have free agency; they made up their minds. you know the phrase, 'love the sinner, hate the sin?' i was not very successful in teaching my children, 'love the church, hate the bad doctrine.' i don't think the church is very successful in indoctrinating kids, though it can reinforce what the kids have learned at home. i was never afraid of raising them in the church environment. someone once asked me whether i'd rather have my kids active and republican or inactive and democrat. easy answer for me and that is what i got.

FoxyJ said...

I was surprised after I left home and started running into people who told me things that "the church" had taught them that I had never been taught at church. A lot of people, both in and out of the church, view it as some sort of a monolithic organization that manages to control everyone's thoughts and opinions. However, everyone's experience with the church is going to take place on a local level. And, like someone pointed out, a lot of your attitudes and thoughts are going to come from a family setting. I grew up in areas that were pretty far from the center of Mormon orthodoxy, and my dad was inactive while I was growing up, so my experience with church teachings is probably a little different from that of others. I never learned, at church or at home, that any one was worthy of hate or that certain things were abhorrently evil (it's kind of hard to teach your kids that drinking coffee or having tattoos makes you evil when their own father fits both those categories). I really don't worry too much about what my kids learn at church or at public school, because I know that my husband and I have more control over what attitudes they pick up than any other outside influence.

Gay LDS Actor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gay LDS Actor said...

As Chris brought up, Gerald Pearson grew up in an age where the Church's attitudes towards gays and homosexuality were a lot more harsh and uninformed than they are now.
Even when I was going through my own struggles with figuring out my sexuality back in the late 80s/early 90s, most of the information I found regarding the Church's attitudes towards my problems were a lot more cold and ignorant than I feel they are today. So I don't doubt that what Gerald felt was probably true at the time. Examples of resources I had at the time were The Miracle of Forgiveness, which I found to be absolutely harsh and depressing at the time; Boyd K. Packer's talk, "To the One," which is almost belligerant, and certainly ignorant, in its attitudes regarding this subject; the very book we are discussing, Goodbye, I Love You, which, while not a Church publication, was truly one of the few things I could even find regarding a plight similar to mine, and many of the attitudes in that book didn't give me much hope.
It wasn't until they actually printed that article in the Ensign by Dallin H. Oaks about same-sex attraction and when they started talking about it more in conferences that I ever felt the Church was even trying to understand this problem from anything other than a "fire and brimstone" point of view. The late 80s and even early 90s seemed like such a hopeless time for me as far as anything the Church had to say on the subject. All I ever felt was condemnation for the sin and certainly no sense that anyone was trying to understand the sinner at all. I can imagine that Gerald Pearson must have felt even more so.
Even though the Church's attitude towards the sin of homosexuality hasn't changed, I do believe the way they handle it nowadays has a lot more love and knowledge behind it. I still think they have a ways to go, but I am much more comforted by their attitudes now than I was back then. It seemed like such a taboo subject to even discuss, but I do think as it's becoming more of a problem that they can't just sweep under the rug by saying, "It's a sin. Stop it," they are becoming more enlightened at least that it's much more complex than that and are trying harder to figure out what needs to be done to help people who struggle with. But I still feel in many ways that church leaders are at a loss as to how to really deal with this issue, though I certainly think they are trying harder and doing more to be more informed and loving, so I give them credit for that.
Those are just my two cents as far as what I've experienced firsthand.

DCTwistedLife said...

The church has repeatedly expressed its love for gays (although they stubbornly use their own language) and its desire based on that love that gays repent and enjoy all the happiness and blessings of the gospel. God, His prophets, and His organization don't "detest" us. However, there is still too much ignorance, still offensive language used, and still misunderstandings, and battling it all is worth a go.

The church loves gays who dont live a gay lifestyle. They look down upon the rest of them as sinful... you can say that they dont really harm them... but by speaking out so harsly against them, there is inherent distaste towards gays who live a gay lifestyle. I wouldnt call it accurate to say that gays are loved at church... but thats just my humble opinion...

mark said...

I have to say that I agree with dctwistedlife on this. When I have read President Hinckley's statements given either in General Conference or to the press about the Church's attitude towards gays and lesbians. For example, here is what he said in the Sunday morning session of General Conference in October 1998:

[START QUOTE]
People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.

We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.
[END QUOTE]

This kind of expression leads me to agree with Chris that the love the LDS Church extends towards gays and lesbians is conditional. But then that seems to fit with the concept of divine love as conditional that Elder Nelson described in his February 2003 Ensign article. If God loves those who are righteous more than those who are not righteous, which was Elder Nelson's theme, then it would make sense that God's love for gays and lesbians must be particularly low if they "live a gay lifestyle" given how in total opposition this is seen to be to the "great plan of happiness" and eternal family relationships as taught by the LDS Church.

-L- said...

Thanks for pointing me toward that article. But I disagree with your assessment of Hinckley's statement and with how you believe Nelson's message applies to gays and lesbians. I think God's "love" in the scriptures and passages Nelson uses is more consistent with outward displays of love--blessings. I think God loves the lowest of all sinners, and I think Nelson could just as easily have collected a set of scriptures 5 times as long on that theme.

That's my first impression, anyway.

Again, it's all in how you interpret it. I think Nelson is trying to make clear that it is not true that one can expect all the blessings of God just by virtue of His love for us.

Chris (hurricane) said...

Right, because his love is conditional.

Lynne said...

Chris,

Is your love for your children conditional? Did we not all, as children, have to realize that our actions had consequences either positive or negative regardless of our parents love for us?

Simplistic as it is, I imagine it's the same.

Chris (hurricane) said...

lynne,

I have never suggested that there are not consequences to our actions, independent of God's love for us.

That doesn't change the fact that Mormonism posits a God who withholds his love--i.e., blessings--based on what we do. That is the very definistion of conditional love.

lynne said...

And that is where I disagree with you. I don't equate love as being shown only by blessings. If I don't have all the blessings I desire it does not mean I am not loved. The blessings come from obedience to the covenants we make. The love is there regardless of whether God approves or disapproves of our choices.

Gods love is unconditional, but I have found that I am the one who puts the conditions into the relationship.

Chris (hurricane) said...

If not through blessings, how does God show his love?