Alex Blaze

LDS church changes position on same-sex lovin'

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 08, 2007 6:56 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Mormon, theology

The Mormon Church has released a new pamphlet on homosexuality:

Not long after, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued "God Loveth His Children," a treatise that said same-sex attractions themselves are not sinful, even though homosexual activity is.

Leavitt, who is no longer married or a member of the Mormon Church, says the pamphlet seems to signal a softening of the church's stance on homosexuality, even if its strict prohibition on homosexual conduct remains intact.

"It's don't ask, don't tell," he said. "If anybody (who is gay) wants to stay in the church, that paved the way for them to do it. You can come out 80 percent of the way. Anybody would be hard-pressed to initiate (excommunication)" based on same-sex attractions, he said.

I know several people who left the LDS Church over its inability even to acknowledge that sexual orientation doesn't just change because someone wants it to along with its inflexibility on any such issue. It's not like certain Protestant sects that allow individual churches to set their own policy on who can show up, creating "conservative" and "progressive" incarnations of similar theology, or like the Catholic Church, which generally looks the other way for people who want to attend mass; the LDS Church can be pretty strict about what a person can say or do regarding her sexuality.

And just like I said about Muslims yesterday, a change in theology is going to have to come from within:

For Mormons, homosexuality presents a particular challenge because the church's emphasis on marriage carries eternal consequences. Mormons believe heaven is organized by families formed on earth; having a family is necessary to reach heaven's highest ranks.

"For a lot of Mormons it's unimaginable that you could be gay. You probably feel like you need to deny it because it just can't happen" said Boyd Petersen, coordinator of Mormon studies at Utah Valley State College.

Homosexuality challenges basic tenets of Mormon doctrine, said Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, a California-based organization that defends the church against criticism.

"The core of Mormon theology is the family unit. The Declaration on the Family (a key church document) says marriage is between a man and a woman ... and family is eternal," he said.

But the spiritual violence that's happened based on the Church's teaching (violence that won't stop as a result of this change) can be pretty shocking:

"With that thought came so much self-hate because I thought I could be gay," said Leavitt, now 46, who grew up in a small predominantly Mormon town in Alberta, Canada. "If I would've faced it, it would have been too difficult to deal with that."

Now, not only is Leavitt facing it, but so is the church.

Like many gay Mormons, Leavitt tried to ignore his sexuality and married a woman. Last year, he was excommunicated after telling church authorities he was attracted to men, even though he was faithful to his wife and wanted to stay married.[...]

Leavitt, who was the organist for his Florida church before his excommunication, said he kept waiting for his same-sex attractions to disappear, even after he got married.

"The church told me, and everyone like me, that this was a social construct, and that if you got married (you would be attracted to women). I was 44 years old and it hadn't gone away," he said.

Can you imagine losing 44 same-gender loving years of your life over a church's inability to deal with reality?

But that's part of what faith is - trust that someone else knows better. And the LDS Church just got a step closer to meeting the needs of that trust.

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Just one more reason why im glad im pagan.I have meet many GLBTers who are also pagan and so far I haven't found any pagan group that would get all out of wack if two people of the same sex got handfasted upset for not being invited to the event yes not because they got married!

Love ya

But that's part of what faith is - trust that someone else knows better.

Forgive me, Alex, for zeroing in on a passage that has little to do with the main point of the post --- but "faith" is one of those words that means enormously different things to different people --- and this point alone deserves commentary.

To some people:

... "faith" can mean "blind trust" in a particular religious teacher, or group of teachers.

... "faith" means the same thing as "belief" --- a set of doctrines that one chooses to agree with.

... "faith" can mean conforming to the veiwpoints taught to you by your parents, church, and community.

... "faith" might mean an urgent need to question practically everything that others have previously taught you.

... "faith" might mean looking inside yourself to ascertain what *you* really accept as true.

... "faith" might mean seeing that, even though we are all different races, genders, religions, nationalities, and political persuations, basically people are the same ... which means that, ultimately, you are the same as me.

... "faith" might mean letting go of one's ego in order to dedicate oneself to serve humanity, or God, or Truth, or Righteousness, or Rightfulness.

... "faith" might mean a metaphysical conviction that, even though things are not going the way I'd like them to, the course of the universe is unfolding the way it should.

... and on, and on ...

Thus, when I hear a politician say "I am a man of faith," I find the statement to be almost meaningless. It probably means he (or she) tries to always "do the right thing." It probably means they try to be honest. It probably means they belong to this church or that church. But beyond that ... it could mean almost anything generally "good"-sounding.

Now, to get back to your post, particularly its ending (at least a little bit), one might ask, "What causes one person to follow the Church all their life, even though its teachings have very painful personal repercussions, and causes another person, sometimes very early in life, to say to himself, "These people are nuts! This church stuff is a bunch of bullshit!" Conventionally, the first person is said to have "persevering faith" --- but doesn't the second person also have a type of faith, namely a faith in their own mind (or spiritual faculty) that they can intrinsically distinguish a worldview of sensibility from a worldview of superstitious dogmatic nonsense? One person, maybe named Donnie McClurkin, says, "I can't allow myself to be gay because the church says it is sinful," --- and another person, maybe named Allen Lopp or Alex Blaze, says, "I don't see anything intrinically wrong with loving a member of one's own sex --- the Church must be wrong about this."

This relates, then, Alex, to what you posted a few days ago about your views re "free will" --- and after thinking, I tend to agree with you: No, we are not choice-less machines, but at the same time, most (all?) of us are not truly capable of following any one among all the options that are physically or intellectually open to us. I might have "free will" --- but, outside of a war situation, I doubt that I could compel myself to kill someone in cold blood --- there is something inside me that simply will not allow me to do that, and that thing limits my choices, and maybe that thing is a part of my "faith" make-up.

Now, to close this philosophical manifesto, I will add that there is an area of psychology called "Faith Development Theory" that I have read a fair bit about, and, without going into it in depth, it starts by proposing that "faith" is whatever internal mechanism we use to make sense and meaning out of our human experience. And what I am trying to work out right now, is that this "faith" mechanism must have something to do with the way a GLBT person relates to his/her sexuality --- some of us insist on living as "out" and some of us insist on staying in the closet, for example.

And as for the Mormon Church --- or the Catholic Church, or any other --- there has to be an internal "faith" mechanism also going on internally at the organizational level: some of these churches say, "We must remain steadfast in our previous teachings no matter what questions are raised, " and others are willing to say, "We need to look at this issue afresh, and decide whether maybe we have been wrong in the past." So in this regard, this "faith" mechanism must also be related to what most churches call "revelation."

And, apparently, Alex, you have posted here about the Mormon Church and one of its little recent "revelations" --- and thus, its internal "faith-making" mechanism must have had a shift, or an improvement, or a maturation, of some type.

And simply because I have to stop sometime, I'll stop here.

Actually, I'm glad that you read my posts closely enough to write a comment about one little word. I choose my words carefully, and if I write something confusing or insulting or untrue or whatever, I don't make the "Gee, why are you all getting caught up in the details?" response because I either think I'm right or I just messed up. It's flattering, really, to have one's writing so closely criticized.

The definition of "faith" that I intended to use was:

"faith" might mean a metaphysical conviction that, even though things are not going the way I'd like them to, the course of the universe is unfolding the way it should.

People put their trust in the LDS Church to lead them in the right direction in matters of the afterlife and spirituality, and some people in the Church abuse that trust.

That's not to say that anyone else's faith is any less worthwhile, or that people who are skeptical of institutionalized religion or just in general. I was mainly saying that when people do have faith that depends on others, those others have a responsibility to that original person.

No, we are not choice-less machines, but at the same time, most (all?) of us are not truly capable of following any one among all the options that are physically or intellectually open to us.

Totally. Like two identical lesbian twin sisters, one brought up in the Mormon Church in a small town in rural Cali by a small het family and the other by a free-lovin' second-wave pair of lesbian moms in SF, are going to have completely different ideas about what to do with their sexualities. They may even have access to the same knowledge, educational possibility, legal rights, and they're not automatons, but they're going to end up with different relationships to their sexualities.

But we aren't all identical twins in cool hypothetical examples, so like a Donnie McC might come to a different conclusion than an Allen Lopp, but, yeah, that doesn't mean that either one is spiritually inferior based on their differing types of faith.

I get you, Allen Lopp!

Alex, thanks for posting this. But the article you're quoting is vastly overstating the "change" in the Church's position on homosexuality. I'll post more about this on Monday. But take it from a former Mormon. The "don't ask, don't tell" mentality is nothing new. The Church still says that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be treated, much like alcoholism. And the Church still advocates celebacy for gays and lesbians who wish to remain members. The Church is trying to make it look like they're more accepting because they think Mitt Romney actually has a chance and the White House. This is all just political posturing to make the Church look better.

But you want to know the truth? My mother was told last week that she is unworthy to attend the Temple because she has a lesbian daughter. This is a woman who has faithfully given 10% of her income to the Church all of her life, even when we were on welfare. This is a woman who quilts with her women's group and collects supplies for Katrina victims. And someone who doesn't watch rated-R movies, drink caffiene, or use curse words. But because she refuses to accept the Church's position on homosexuality, she has had her temple privileges revoked. Now does that sound like a church that is making any sort of progress?