Friday, August 18, 2006

How do you know?

A frequent refrain on this blog is the contrast between what seems to make sense about accepting one's sexuality and the tension I feel because of my understanding of what God expects of us. I acknowledge there are many worldviews that good people hold on the topic, but I also feel almost apologetic in asserting that I still think any particular lovely worldview may have no basis in reality. I'm bound by the truth that I know, and despite plenty of compelling arguments as to why my life would be better, more peaceful, and more satisfying heading down a different road, I don't think it's ultimately true.

The investigation is a balance between constant re-evaluation and learning, and not conceding what I already know. And, unfortunately, it's fraught with potential for misunderstandings and offense. I've posted obliquely about how there's an interplay between knowledge and faith, certitude and unsupported confidence, but the question always seems to return: how do you know? One small part of the puzzle is living prophets. I find comfort in prophetic guidance when I see so many people making different decisions for their lives in the name of being true to themselves. It's a bit of a puzzle to know how to respond when people claim to have reached an entirely different God-sanctioned direction for themselves than I think God has indicated is appropriate.

The interplay between rationality and faith, between personal confidence and informed skepticism, is always tricky. I think I'm on the right track even while I note what I think are mistakes in the approaches of others. Many apologies for the indecency of assessing such a thing. I know some will take it to be judgmental, but I find it a decidedly important part of determining how to live one's life (and how not to). In terms of revelation, I found the following information from an old professor of mine to be helpful:

Joseph Smith taught early in his ministry that God has a system, an order by which he communicates with his children and with his prophets; that to claim to receive revelation which in fact does not come from God, to speak in the name of the Lord when one is not authorized to do so, is essentially to take the name of the Lord God in vain ( Doctrine and Covenants 63:62). Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have studied the tenets of their faith and the principles and doctrines associated therewith have come to know that:

  • A person claiming a revelation from God must be acting within the realm of his or her own stewardship. That is, one may receive revelation from God for himself or for those under his charge, but “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or anyone, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves” (TPJS, 21). In short, the early Saints learned that “revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church, are to come through the [First] Presidency. This is the order of heaven and the power and privilege of this Priesthood. It is also the privilege of any officer in this Church to obtain revelations, so far as relates to his particular calling and duty in the Church” (TPJS, 111).
  • A person claiming a revelation from God should be worthy to receive the same. That is, he or she must be living a life that is in keeping with the standards of the Church, must be in good standing before God and God’s people.
  • A supposed revelation must be in harmony with the teachings of scripture, prophets, and the law and order of the Church. If, for example, someone were to come to me and indicate that she had received a revelation to be dishonest in order to improve her financial situation, I would know at once that such a solution, though practical, was not inspired. If a person were to say to me that God had instructed him that the Church should go in a different direction entirely and that he was the one to lead the Church in that direction, I would know that the purported oracle was not of God. What, then, about such unusual scriptural commands as Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac? My suggestion has always been that we as rank-and-file members abide by the rules and leave the exceptions to the called and ordained prophets. A modern apostle, Boyd K. Packer, observed that “there are those who claim authority from some secret ordinations of the past. Even now some claim special revealed authority to lead or to teach the people. ... “There have been ... too many ordinations and settings apart performed before too many witnesses; there have been too many records kept, too many certificates prepared, and too many pictures published in too many places for any one to be deceived as to who holds proper authority. Claims of special revelation or secret authority from the Lord or from the Brethren are false on the face of them and really utter nonsense!” (CR, Apr. 1985, 43; see also Doctrine and Covenants 42:11).
  • The revelation will build one’s faith in Jesus Christ, in the Church and kingdom, and in the constituted authorities of the Church. That is to say, God will not work against himself


Chris (hurricane) said...

This is going to sound snotty, and I really don't mean it that way, but if all of those criteria laid out by Professor Millet have to be in place to get a valid revelation, then what's the point? The process is rigged so that the only acceptable answer is the Church's answer.

Samantha said...

But Chris, that's the whole point. An organized religion would never put in place a process of receiving revelation which would turn people AWAY from it.

Then again, if one believes the gospel is true, and the church is the instrument through which the gospel is administered to man on earth, it stands to reason the that process of receiving personal revelation would turn people to that truth within the church/gospel and all answers within that realm.

However, if one doesn't believe in the truthfulness of the gospel/church, then I suppose the quote will have little relevance to, well, anything.

Which brings you and I back to that original diversity of beliefs thing--and I'm really glad we have the liberty, opportunity and ability to disagree. Aren't you?? :)

Chris (hurricane) said...

samantha: ...and I'm really glad we have the liberty, opportunity and ability to disagree. Aren't you??

But of course, darling. Of course!

-L- said...

Chris, this post is more directed at folks who believe the church is true. If the church is God's, then it's not too hard to imagine why one's answers have to agree with the church's... or God's.

Chris (hurricane) said...

Oh, I know who it's directed at. Doesn't mean I'm not gonna throw in my two cents.

-L- said...

Then you concede that God can "rig" his own processes all he wants?

Gay LDS Actor said...

I understand where you're coming from. I really do. And I appreciate your thoughts. I can't explain the events that are going on in my life and how they apply to what you have written. I just know what feels right at this time. It doesn't make sense, but it feels like the right path...for me at this time.

Chris (hurricane) said...

Sure, I can concede that. If that's the kind of God you believe in.

-L- said...

Oh, Chris, you snarky boy. Yes, it's just such a rational God that I believe in!

Scot said...

I'm bound by the truth that I know, and despite plenty of compelling arguments as to why my life would be better, more peaceful, and more satisfying heading down a different road, I don't think it's ultimately true.

If this is too personal and prying, I apologize and please just skip it, but I guess my wonder is: Even if the church began condoning gay relationships, would you change your life?

Seems to me, with the choices you can’t undo, where the church says you should be now has some convincing benefits. Even if we all saw God descend and sit down and talk to the LDS leaders, broadcasted live (on what? CSPAN?), and tell them that there’s a new rule on gays--they can get married in a way natural to them, their unions are sacred, and so on--in all, you could still have more compelling arguments to keep on your current road than turn off.

Chocoknight said...

The church will never.
It is impossible. God would stop being god for it is his church.
What is the whole purpose of the creation if this woud be an option?
These are simply challenges for this life.
Gay describs more than sex and an attraction to me.
It is a craving for brotherly acceptance and love and a coming to a point with my personal identity as a man, a brother ,a husband , a father and gods son but just twisted.
I believe that there will be enough of hugging ,kissing and holding hands in a heavenly way that a gay lifestyle per se will be innecessaire and irrelevant.
Who wants to understand will understand.

Scot said...

“What is the whole purpose of the creation if this woud be an option?”

You’d have to ask God, but how does the existence of a minority of gays and acceptance of them following their attractions undermine the purpose of creation? Seems I could similarly claim that the fact that a minority of people are mechanics, and we encourage them to be mechanics, means we leave no purpose or health to our society. After all, what if everyone was a mechanic?

Does acceptance of 50/50 male/female genetic mosaic humans with both sorts of reproductive tissue, allowing them to marry the sex to which they’re attracted, and so on, undermine the whole purpose of creation also?

Anyway, not many I’ve known are confident enough to think they could predict God’s actions and decrees with such certainty. I’d be surprised if there’s no room for mystery here in the majority.

Still, even if that would be L’s position, the question would then merely change to: If you stopped being LDS, say, though some inescapable reasoning pushing you to being, say, Episcopalian, would you change your home life?

-L- said...

I'm not a big fan of absolutes, but the promise I've made to my wife is about as absolute as anything I can think of. She's already offered to "let me go" if it would make me happier, but that's not what I signed on for when I took on the commitment of a marriage and children.

The church is no small player in how I got to where I am, but it isn't really necessary to inspire in me a feeling of obligation to the best interests of my loved ones.

Chris (hurricane) said...

The church is no small player in how I got to where I am, but it isn't really necessary to inspire in me a feeling of obligation to the best interests of my loved ones.

Few things you have written have inspired greater feelings of respect for you than this. For while I find your efforts to align yourself with the Church's teachings on homosexuality frustrating, I find your love for your family inspiring. And I need not make the same choices as you to find that inspiration.

Samantha said...

Chris--I absolutely agree with you.

Scot said...

Thank you, L.

I also want to echo Chris in my respect for your position.

I’ve been considering the opposite scenario (e.g. I become convinced of your theological position through undeniable contact with the divine), and, from my vantage through the looking glass, I think I’d undoubtedly mirror your answer. I’d hang on to what I’ve obligated myself, and simply jettison the physical intimacy (if that’s what was asked). Now, if God wanted me to split up my family, then I’d be as sure as you, chocoknight, he was not He :-).

What I’m starting to see is that it’s the “what’s best for everyone involved” part that may vary wildly in these instances. I don’t get the feel you (or your wife) would be happier if you were “let go”, God or no. But I can see now others (and their spouses) could be.

-L- said...

Scot, your comment just now is, a bit surprisingly, an interesting segue into some thoughts presented in my post for tomorrow. I'm trying with difficulty to restrain myself from just throwing it down in the comments here. Anyway, tune in. :-)

santorio said...

do you remember the movie in which some teenagers drive into a parking place that an older woman was patiently waiting for? they look at her at say, 'we're younger and faster.' the woman proceeds to ram their car and tells them, 'i'm older and have better insurance.'
anyway, i'm older and have more experience-bred cynicism. i stay in the church because i think it is the best religious community in which i can do good. i accept the need for authority and some rigid structures in a world-wide church. i accept church leaders as inspired but not infallible. i was a missionary in north brazil before the revelation on the priesthood. when we tracted and met a black family we encouraged them to go to church, any church, on sunday. if we were unsure of the race we suddenly deveoped an interest in their family and asked for pictures of parents and grandparents. i am ashamed that i went along with that. if more people in and out of the church had objected, the change to a universal male priesthood would have happened earlier. the living prophets were simply wrong and some admitted it. my voice is not loud, but i will never be silent again.