Am I a Sheep or a Goat?

Like 750,000 other California Mormons, I sat amongst my fellow ward members in our local chapel today as our bishop read the Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families memo over the pulpit. He followed that by reading a memo outlining the church's views on political neutrality. He closed by asking each of us to ponder in our hearts in the coming days and weeks how we could best follow the prophet and implement his advice.

There was no discernable reaction from the congregation ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú no murmurings of disapproval, nor whispers of agreement; no heads silently nodding in assent, or shaking with quiet displeasure. The subject did not come up in our Gospel Doctrine class, nor during our combined Priesthood/Relief Society lesson. If there was discussion about the memo in the hallway, I didn't hear it.

My reaction? During the reading of the memo, and for most of Sacrament Meeting, my heart beat fast and my face slowly burned. What was my emotion? Anger? Disappointment? Sadness? Not really. Sure, I've felt those emotions with regard to this issue, but I've known about the memo for days, and I've always maintained a pragmatic, low-expectations approach to the issue: I'm optimistic that positive changes for Gays in the church will occur, but it won't happen overnight, and it will inevitably come about via the stumbling two-steps-forward-one-step-back process. This was yet another proverbial step back.

So if I wasn't feeling noticeable anger or sadness, why was my heart thumping like a pair of shoes in a Whirlpool washer-dryer?

It took me a few moments, but I finally realized what it was: Impotence. I wanted to do something, I wanted to say something. But do what? Say what?

My wife's advice was to remain silent and not make waves, that it would all sort itself out in the end. On the other end of the spectrum I'd read of others who planned to stage a walk-out protest during the reading of the memo, and heard of others who planned to stop attending church altogether. Neither alternative appealed to me, nor seemed particularly effective.

My feeling of impotence was exacerbated because just that morning I had re-read Frances Lee Menlove's superb devotional, Compassion With Action. (Go read it right now ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú trust me, it's the best thing you'll read on the bloggernacle this month.)

Menlove's devotional is an exciting and somewhat daunting exploration of Matthew's parable of the final great division of the sheep and goats. The Son of Man will separate people, one from another, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. To the Son of Man, the sheep are those who '…did it unto the least of these… For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.'

According to Menlove:

In this story, the final performance appraisal reduces all criteria to compassion. There is not a whisper about creeds or doctrine. There is not a word about cursing, or attendance at church meetings, or homosexuality. Nothing about fame, knowledge, or fortune. It is so simple it's scary.

Actually, that's not quite correct. It does not simply reduce to compassion. The difference between the sheep and the goats is action. It is compassion with action. The goats are goats because of inaction. They did nothing. There is no indication they had hostility or any ill will. They didn't do anything wicked, they just failed to do good.

But this is the part that really sunk its hooks in me, the part that was primarily responsible for my feelings of impotence:

But the Bible is concerned not only with suffering but also with causes of suffering. In fact, it could be argued that 'the Bible is less concerned with alleviating the effects of injustice, than in eliminating its causes.' William Sloan Coffin puts it this way: 'Said prophet Amos, ?¢‚ǨÀúLet justice' ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú not charity ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú ?¢‚ǨÀúroll down like mighty waters,' and for good reason: whereas charity alleviates the effects of poverty, justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it.'

It is a lot easier to talk about charity than about social justice. Social justice talk leads to political controversy. But ignoring social justice issues because they raise political issues is itself a very political position in favor of the status quo. We are called on to be more than an effective and compassionate ambulance service. It is important to save poor orphans from burning buildings, but it is also vital to work toward a society where orphans are not poor and buildings adhere to fire codes.

In other words, as followers of Jesus, we are called not only to care for those who are suffering, but also to transform the conditions that bring about suffering.

So my wife's advice ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú to remain silent, or 'go write a dumb blog post that nobody is going to read' ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú left me feeling like a bleating goat. It's all compassion and no action. It's ignoring social justice issues because they are political and unpleasant. It's tacitly accepting the unjust and unequal status quo. It's agreeing to live with systemic cancer.

So how can an Active Mormon who values his or her membership in the church, but who also supports the rights of gays to marry, show compassion with action?

Any ideas? Here is what I decided to do:

I made an appointment to see my bishop to discuss the Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families memo. My purpose is two-fold:

First, I'd like to share my concerns regarding the church's position on Gay Marriage, as well as my unease with the church's definitions of 'political' vs 'moral' issues. I think it is important he know that some people ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú and at least one member of his ward ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú believes that committed gay marriage is not a threat, but possibly even a boon to traditional heterosexual marriage. I consider my bishop a friend. He and I have kicked around other controversial subjects in the past, always in an open and respectful manner.

Second, and more important, I'd like to share resources with him that might be of use when or if he counsels gay members (or member spouses, mothers, fathers, etc. of gays)?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ call it a Gay 'Care Package.'

It will include the following:

1.) One copy of the pamphlet A Guide for Latter-day Saint Families Dealing with Homosexual Attraction. A wonderful little guide written by Robert Rees, Ron Schow, Marybeth Raynes, and William Bradshaw that does just as the title suggests.

2.) One copy of the book In Quiet Desperation by Fred and Marilyn Matis and Ty Mansfield. It isn't perfect, but it was published by Deseret Books (very important), and accurately depicts the sometimes agonizing struggle of those who feel same-sex attraction, as well as those related to them.

3.) The classic Sunstone article, Pasturing the Far Side: Making a Place for Believing Homosexuals, by Stan Roberts.

4.) The Dialogue article, Between Suicide and Celibacy, by Robert Rees, a great framing review for the book In Quiet Desperation.

5.) Ben Christensen's Dialogue article, Getting Out/Staying In: One Mormon Straight/Gay Marriage, as well as Ron Schow's response, Homosexual Attraction and LDS Marriage Decisions.

6.) John Gustav-Wrathall's Sunstone article, A Gay Man's Testimony.

So here are my questions:

1.) Whether you agree with the recent memo or not, how else can Active Mormons who support gay rights show Compassion with Action? How can we be sheep, not goats?

2.) What are some other good resources that I can include for my bishop's Gay Care Package?

Postscript, July 18, 2008:

I had a wonderful meeting with my bishop last night.?Ǭ† I told him I wanted to focus on the needs of our Gay brothers and sisters, and the feelings for Members who might not agree with the Church’s stance on this issue, rather than the political, social, or religious pros and cons of Gay Marriage, or the very complex nature of sexual attraction.?Ǭ†

I’ll keep the rest of our meeting private, except to say that I think we both felt uplifted by the conversation, and that he appeared to be very touched by my “Care Package” (which included everything listed above, plus Carol Lynn Pearson’s “No More Goodbyes“).?Ǭ†

He closed by thanking me again, and saying,?Ǭ†”I wish every Bishop had a Matt Thurston in his ward.”?Ǭ† Ha.?Ǭ† That made me smile.?Ǭ† Not that I doubted his sincerity for a moment, but that was one of those “Was that a compliment… or not?” statements. 🙂


  1. anon - says:

    Matt – you were probably referring to the daily universe quote. ouch – not me.

    Rick- still not taking this personally.

  2. Eugene says:

    To Jason #142: you say, “?¢‚Ǩ¬¶like anon, I feel at a disadvantage when trying to support my position because the only things I really have to fall back on are the scriptures and the words of the prophets (which I believe are in theory supposed to be the same thing).”

    Jason, when one has personal experiences that are like those described in the scriptures–or even NOT found in the scriptures, one is generally faced with new decisions on how to navigate life. If one’s comprehension of reality changes as a result, namely becoming aware of a new inner sense of authority, one usually must make decisions that others may not understand or approve of. This is all a part of being true to one’s own conscience versus that of others, whether they are parents, friends or church leaders and whether or not they are dead or living prophets. As you say, it can be a “rocky path”.

    I think there are many in these blog conversations that are treading such “rocky path” experiences. I am one of them. But, I am not interested in imposing my understanding on anyone else, although I realize I may be more willing than most to share and become vulnerable. I am, nevertheless, willing to discuss things from a different perspective and always open and interested to know the experiences of others in the belief that there is always something to be learned. I would not dare invalidate the experience of another, although I may question it to find understanding. For example, consider someone’s dream. I see dreams in general as ultimately sacred to the dreamer, i.e., a creation of the soul. It is no other person’s right to denigrate or trash that experience. Question it, yes, but not dismiss it. This to me is a variation of “Faith seeking understanding.”

  3. Rick Jepson says:

    How could anyone claim to be a faithful mormon but not accept revelation through dreams?

  4. Anon said, “The application of this exact same formula to my life has led me again and again to the same answers.”

    I know, and basically said as much when I said: You both feel ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcentered,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù or ?¢‚Ǩ?ìpeaceful,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù or ?¢‚Ǩ?ìat right with the world/universe,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù when your views are in accordance with the prophet. You feel validated. I understand that.

    Such a feeling of peace and centeredness comes from application of the formula.

    Anon said, “There is an absolute brilliance, goodness, light and general ?¢‚Ǩ?ìrightness?¢‚Ǩ¬ù in the church and the church leadership which I feel has been completely ignored – even to an intellectually dishonest extent – by the sunstone crowd.

    I know, which is why I remain active in the church. And you’ve greatly mischaracterized the Sunstone crowd. Sunstone exists because of its love of Mormonism. Whether some of the “Sunstone Crowd” always agrees with this or that policy or doctrine is beside the point. I’d be surprised if you came to a symposium and didn’t enjoy the diversity of the people and the presentations.

    Anon said, “I knew you and I would never agree when you called Mormonism your ?¢‚Ǩ?ìinherited faith tradition.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù You can probably guess that I consider it more than that (namely, the truth as it actually exists in the universe).”

    I cannot escape the fact that I was born into Mormonism. Had I not been born in Mormonism, I would have different beliefs today. Why is that hard to understand?

    I’ve studied enough other faiths to see their inherent goodness and understand the circular logic of their truth/faith claims.

    We have to be humble enough to recognize that “chance” plays a role in determining our beliefs. Had you been born a Jew, with the same loving support system you have now; and had you applied yourself with the same diligence to that faith, you’d likely be a believing Jew today.

    It is no different than the love you have for your spouse, assuming you are married. Yes, you love that person with all your heart. But had you not married your spouse, you would have found someone else who filled your heart with the same degree of love.

    We open our hearts to people, to propositions, to institutions, to truth… and whatever “it” is comes rushing in to fill the empty contours, and it fills us up to the rim. We say, “I am completely full, there can be no greater love, no greater truth, no greater ______.” But it is that feeling of “fullness” that is universal, not the specific truth, not the specific person.

    If Rick’s comment #147 was a “tirade”, then how would you characterize my comment #99? 🙂 Come on, Rick’s comment was a perfectly benign response.

  5. Nate Housley says:

    There’s a lot of responses here. From my skimming, I’m not posting anything terribly redundant, so here goes.

    First, I don’t see any problem with voting religiously. I believe in the separation of church and state, but saying that a religious conviction should not bear on an individual’s choice while holding that an intellectual or any other type of conviction should is inconsistent.

    Secondly, let’s call the amendment what it is: a statement. It has little to no bearing on the ability of same-sex couples to adopt children (domestic partnerships are legal in California), so the idea that the amendment would guarantee the right of unborn children to a traditional marriage is unfounded. The Church is making a statement, using the law to promote a social value. If you don’t agree with that, you have to disagree with the opposition as well, who are doing the same thing to promote their own social value (acceptance).

    Casting the Church as uncompassionate is inaccurate. The Church has taught, does teach, and always will teach compassion to all children of our Heavenly Father. While it frustrates contemporary thinking, I don’t see an incongruity in being compassionate on a personal level and being uncompassionate (I do think the amendment is uncompassionate) on a public level.

    Seeing the amendment as a statement makes it easier for me to (hypothetically, since I don’t live in CA) support it. I can take the First Presidency’s word for it that such a statement has merit, even if only for clearing our society of sin for the afterlife.

    At the same time, if I may be so audacious as to tell the Church its business, I think there is a critical distinction to be made when dealing with homosexuality. On the one hand, you have legitimate sexual freaks, who purposefully pursue sexual taboos for pleasure. On the other hand, you have those attracted to the same sex (biological? psychological? I don’t think it really matters) who want to be in a committed relationship. If I were the Church, I would support committed same-sex relationships and condemn sexual hedonism of all stripes.

    As far as homosexuality being a sin, isn’t fornication as well? And if a marriage isn’t sealed by the Priesthood, isn’t that a kind of fornication? But the Church recognizes legal (officiated by the state) heterosexual marriages, allowing those in such relationships to enjoy full fellowship in the Church. Why should it be different with homosexuality?

  6. sue says:

    Ah that would be right…homosexual marriages get legalised and support way before considering giving priesthood to women…because our concept of what is right and what is equal is just so skewed. I’ve yet to hear a single LDS commentary on this that uses the word lesbian…come on…there ARE female same sex couples out there.

    I have a good idea why your wife said don’t make waves and stay silent. She does it a lot huh. It all works out in the end…well yes…I guess so..there are pros and cons to being silent…so we’ve learned. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s tacitly accepting the unjust and unequal status quo. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s agreeing to live with systemic cancer. It’s knowing your husband has a gay care package, but as for women…well why transform their lives and alleviate conditions that bring about their suffering…what suffering? They don’t suffer from impotence…it’s a man thing.

    You’re a goat.

  7. Rick Jepson says:

    Sue, I’m sorry for all that you’ve endured. I think, however, that your anger is misplaced in your post.

    I have, for example, included lesbian couples under the umbrella of of “homosexual marriage” or “gay marriage” throughout the thread. And I’m quite sure that everyone else has as well. The term “homosexual” is clearly not gender-exclusive.

    Sunstone in general has also been quite progressive and forceful in its discussion of women and the obvious problems we have with gender exclusion in our church structure. There was, in fact, an entire issue dedicated to it earlier this year (and there’s never been a full issue dedicated to homosexual issues).

    The truth is that I’m much more hurt and frustrated by the limited roll of women in the church than I am about the church’s encouragement to block homosexual marriage.

    It’s more personal. I belong to a bright, beautiful, independent wife and we’ve got a bright, beautiful, independent daughter of six years… these problems weigh heavily on my mind.

    So while I may be an a-hole or a troublemaker or a jerk or a lazy S-O-B. I hope you’ll reconsider calling me (or Matt, or whomever you were attacking) a goat.

  8. Sue, I’ve mostly used gender-neutral terminology like “gay” and “same sex attraction” throughout the post and subsequent comments on purpose to apply to both gay men and women. According to Wikipedia, “While gay applies in some contexts to all homosexual people, the term lesbian is sex-specific: it is used exclusively to describe gay women.”

    I’m not sure why you are conflating the women/priesthood issue with the gay marriage issue? Both are important issues, but this post is about gay marriage.

    Finally, you make assumptions about my wife and I out of thin air. How can you possibly know how she or I feel about the status of women and the church? For all you know, I could be your ally? Or I could be a raving misogynist, but determining my opinion on that issue from this post is no different than trying to determine my favorite flavor of ice cream.

  9. Rick Jepson says:

    Matt, I have a deep impression from your posts that your favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip. And I hate you for that.

    : )

  10. Matt Thurston says:

    The shocker is that mint chocolate chip IS my favorite flavor of ice cream! I made home-made mint choc chip just last Sunday!

  11. Rick Jepson says:

    See, I can divine all kinds of horrible things about you so I have every right to make wild ASSumptions, call you a goat, etc.

    you and your damn mint chocolate chip. All REAL mormons go for rocky road and if you dont’ get that, I suppose this discussion has run its course.

  12. Eugene says:

    Amen to #162, Rick! A Rocky Road it is indeed!! ‘Tis my favorite, even when I choke on it.

    Re: Comment #154. “How could anyone claim to be a faithful mormon [sic] but not accept revelation through dreams?”

    Great question! I have asked this question for decades, believing that our people would surely welcome a serious study and application of the subject. Actually, I have found that regular Mormon folks are generally open to techniques that allow them understand their dreams and find it useful. To my dismay the leadership seems frightened by it! Nevertheless, I still believe that such a study and understanding would do much to alleviate the distress we are collectively feeling about gay marriage, to say nothing about polygamous marriage and the principle behind the “Proclamation”–or any other difficult issue!

    GLH and I will be discussing your question and more in our back-to-back papers at the upcoming symposium.

  13. Mary Ellen says:

    Re: Sue’s comment #157

    You raise a good point–that the language used in our conversation about same sex marriage is gendered in a way that often excludes/erases lesbians. You’re right; we shouldn’t do that.

    Which is why, way back in comment #5, I suggested Matt include women’s voices and stories in his Care Package and referred him to the Affirmation web site where he could find some.

    However, I thought your speculations about Matt’s wife, her views and their relationship dynamics were unfair.

  14. LG says:

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long held to the doctrine of separation of church and state originating in part from the long antagonism local and state governments have had towards their faith. Mormon writings have affirmed ?¢‚Ǩ?ì[n]o domination of the state by the church; No church interference with the functions of the state; No state interference with the functions of the church, or with the free exercise of religion; The absolute freedom of the individual from the domination of ecclesiastical authority in political affairs; The equality of all churches before the law. The Church?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s official Articles of Faith, which outline the basic beliefs of the church, state that: ?¢‚Ǩ?ìWe believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law?¢‚Ǩ¬ù.[1] [2]

    1. Clark, James R. (1965). ?¢‚Ǩ?ìMessages of the First Presidency?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. Brigham Young University, Department of Educational Leadership & Foundations. Retrieved on 2006-11-30.
    2. ^ ?¢‚Ǩ?ìPolitical Neutrality?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-30.

  15. Mike says:

    Define “separation”

    If you mean, for instance, that government officials should not pray on the job, or that the Ten Commandments is a violation of the principle, I say, you are forgetting that the founding fathers prayed and quoted the bible and held days of fasting and sent missionaries to the Indians.

  16. Mike says:

    >>Mike feels that the decision by the California Supreme Court inhibits his free exercise of religion. I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t see that it does. Nothing the Supreme Court has done will require the Church to perform gay marriages. Yes, his company is free to fire him if he engages in boorish behavior in the workplace, but it already has that right under laws that existed well before the Supreme Court?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s decision.<<<<

    This sums it up for me. Defining religious belief as “boorish” and then proceeding to terminate employment is discriminatory and defeats what this country was founded for – religious freedom.

    And to have people blithely caricaturize my arguments is EXACTLY why you can’t have a straight discussion with liberal leftists. Instead of responding to your argument with substantive comments, they call you names, and characterize you as too mean, cartoonish, boorish, etc, to be permitted to engage the subject.

  17. Mike says:

    Claiming that the gay marriage issue is a civil rights issue is misidentification. Gays have a right to marry already, they can marry someone of the opposite sex just like I can.

    They want to introduce new behavior, and have that behavior sanctioned by the nation. Furthermore, they have chosen behavior that many people believe is immoral and repugnant and against the religious beliefs of many.
    Still, in a democracy, the majority rule, and it was actually put to a vote.

    But that wasn’t sufficient for the power hungry ideologous, who prop up and promote this idea, not only for the 3 percent of the people who could possibly benefit from it, but to shore up their flagging political support.

    If it weren’t for the fact that people are free to believe what they will and that judicial activism seeks to enslave us to laws not of our own devising, then I’d say the law should pass.

    But it didn’t. The legislature passed the law, the people voted on it, and a handful of liberal leftist lawyers decided to filibuster on the bench.

    It is wrong to force religious freedom to bow to the gods of political correctness and materialistic philosophies of men.

  18. Mike says:

    Do I have a right in America to believe that homosexuality is wrong?

    Do I have a right in America to believe that homosexuality is sub-optimal for survival of the species?

    Do I have a right in America to believe that sexual urges are subordinate to other pro-survival urges such as the family unit?

    Do I have a right in America to think and to express my opinion on an equal footing with other people, that homosexual marriages are detrimental to family life and society?

    Do I have a right in America to frankly discuss my opinions that homosexuality is a dysfunctional behavior?

    Do I have a right in America to believe and express my opinion, wherever I may be, that homosexuality can be overcome, that it may be an immature stage of development that some people are stuck in?

    Or – am I forced to accept other’s opinions who happen to disagree with me, and do I have to be silenced, legally shut down, and possibly removed from my place of employment and / or have my religious belief curtailed because some others wish to have their behavior classified/categorized as irreproachable ?

  19. Mike says:

    If a man kills a black man, is that a de facto hate crime? Is it racist?

    If a man kills a gay man, is that a de facto hate crime? Is it homophobic?

    If a man kills a gay black woman, what is the motive? Racism? Homophobia? Sexism? All three? Should the penalty be tripled? Or is a crime, a crime, regardless of the motive?

    And how do you tell?

  20. Mike says:

    >>To the point before us: Merely because we have a RIGHT to discriminate against gays, does that mean we SHOULD? For me, the answer is ?¢‚Ǩ?ìno.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù For Mike the answer is ?¢‚Ǩ?ìyes.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Again, I recognize that intelligent people can differ on this.<<<<

    The issue is not discrimination. Gays have a right to marry, the same way all the rest of us do.

    If you redefine marriage to suit the sexual tastes of a few, then how do you take a principled stand against polygamy? How do you take a principled stand against threesomes? How do take a principled stand against bestiality?

    And then, how do you go about limiting the rights of other people who have those pesky religious beliefs that such things are immoral and detrimental to society and the family unit? And WHY ?

    There are reasons God created men and women – and there are reasons why sexual tastes don’t always develop in a mature fashion. And what this law says is – not only do you have to ‘tolerate’ gay marriage, you have to change your beliefs about it. You are compelled by law to believe that gay marriage is natural, normal, and above criticism – or suffer the legal penalties – lose your job, be sued and pay civil penalties and fines – and this – because we now have determined that certain sexual behaviors are protected by the thought police.

    It’s Orwellian.

  21. Mike says:

    Regarding the separation of Church and State:

    “The reaffirmation of this doctrine and policy, however, is predicated upon the express understanding that politics in the states where our people reside, shall be conducted as in other parts of the Union; that there shall be NO INTERFERENCE BY THE STATE with the Church, nor with the free exercise of religion. Should political parties make war upon the Church, or MENACE the civil, political, or RELIGIOUS RIGHTS of its members as such,-against a policy of that kind, by any political party or set of men whatsoever, we assert the inherent right of self-preservation for the Church, and her right and duty to call upon all her children, and upon all who love justice, and DESIRE the PERPETUATION of RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, to come to her aid, to stand with her until the danger shall have passed. And this, openly, submitting the justice of our cause to the enlightened judgment of our fellow men, should such an issue unhappily arise. We desire to live in peace and confidence with our fellow citizens of all political parties and of all religions.”

    Adopted by vote of the Church, in General Conference, April 5, 1907

  22. Rick Jepson says:

    Mike, I never stop being amazed by people who are so amazingly intolerant but somehow manage to feel themselves the martyr.

    Your statements not just about homosexuality, but especially about women and “feminization”, etc., are beyond offensive. Stunning. Yet somehow you play the victim.

    I can appreciate that–to you–marriage has a very specific, very religious definition. But surely you don’t think that most heterosexual marriages are made of the same stuff. Right? Why then attempt to apply your own definition to this special case?

    More importantly, I don’t think the crux of this thread is about homosexuality at all, but instead about what one should do when faced with the horrible situation of being compelled by the church to do something he or she feels strongly against. As an exercise, it might be interesting for you to imagine how you would feel if, this next Sunday, your bishop asked you to spend your personal time and money campaigning FOR gay marriage. How would you react? Would you feel conflicted? Tormented? Would you feel you needed to share or clarify your objections?

    Also, you’ve yet to answer my other question: would you support the legalization of polygamy?

  23. Rick Jepson says:

    Eugene, if Sunstoneblog were truly an open forum where non-permabloggers were allowed to spontaneously start threads (hint hint to anyone reading), I’d sure enjoy a discussion of revelation by dream.

    It’s something I’m entirely uncomfortable with, even though I know I can’t be and also believe that Lehi, Nephi, etc. all had revelatory dreams.

    I’m sure it’s because of my prejudice against them that I’ve never been blessed with one. If I had the Tree of Life dream tonight, I’d surely disregard it in the morning.

    Shame on me!

  24. Eugene says:

    Rick #173, excellent response to all those posts from Mike. It brought to mind two statements I heard from COC’s new apostle Susan Skoor during a Sunstone workshop two or three years ago. 1) “We [COC] have learned to see Joseph through the eyes of Jesus, rather than seeing Jesus through the eyes of Joseph.” 2. Something to the effect of: “You must have the courage to disagree with me if your conscience strongly speaks to you on an issue.” Can you imagine any leader in the SLC ecclesiastical enterprise saying such a thing?

  25. Eugene says:

    Rick #174, you courageously say, “…I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d sure enjoy a discussion of revelation by dream…I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m sure it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s because of my prejudice against them that I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve never been blessed with one…”

    Consider this: all of us human beings dream every night. The thing that blocks one’s memory of dreams is one’s ego. By its very nature the dream BYPASSES the ego, since it comes from one’s true self. If the ego is in charge of one’s life, it is a false self that rules. The same can be said for a “collective ego”.

    I’d be pleased to discuss this assertion with anyone, any time.

  26. Mike says:

    Rick, you are a false witness. I am not guilty of intolerance.

    It never ceases to amaze me how easily people hurl out the ‘I’ word when all I am trying to do is discuss the issue and have an honest difference of opinion.

    But in this day and age of political correctness, where no standards are sacred anymore, because each individual has his or her own standard, and the worst crime imaginable is that someone should be ‘judgmental’, (in whose judgment is ‘judgmentalism’ to be judged, I wonder?) anyone who dares disagree with the liberal orthodoxy as to what constitutes equality is pilloried with the label of intolerance.

    I wish we could discuss the issue without the prejudicial labeling and stereotypes being misapplied.

    In what universe is this issue ‘not about homosexuality at all’ ?

    In what universe could my bishop possibly come to me and request that I ‘support’ homosexuality?

    It is obvious from reading what John Taylor had to say about polygamy, that he felt it was a religious institution, and not subject to Congressional oversight or legislation. I am confident that he would rail against a government that sought to dictate in what manner a religious ordinance was to be performed.

    I don’t know what I would do in the hypothetical situation were polygamy to be commanded of the Lord – why deal in hypotheticals? I’ll deal with that if and when the time comes. We have the reality before us that the Lord’s Church has requested our help in a political matter – it’s not a hypothetical – it’s a reality – and to my mind it’s where one’s true colors are shown.

    It’s pretty interesting that no one is answering my questions, yet they expect their questions of me to be answered.

  27. Eugene says:

    Mike and Rick, the conversation between you two seems to have become a contest of egos, which egos love to do. Wrestler Rick may have an advantage here, depending on Mike’s stamina.

    In any case, I feel overwhelmed by all of Mike’s posts, challenges and questions. I don’t feel a whole lot of beloving or humility in his comments. So, Mike, in behalf of those of us who feel swamped by you, can you distill all of your questions down to just a few–like no more than three? I, for one, have lost the focus on your major concern. Please ask your key questions again, since it is clear that you are passionate about this issue.

  28. Rick Jepson says:

    Thank, Eugene, for your thoughtful refereeing.

    Mike, you posted so many questions in such rapid succession, that I took them to be hypothetical (particularly because they are phrased in a way that makes it seem as though you find them self-answering).

    Please do distill them down if you expect answers.

    And please feel free to answer my questions, even if it forces you into hypotheticals.

  29. Rick Jepson says:

    Mike says: “I wish we could discuss the issue without the prejudicial labeling and stereotypes being misapplied.”

    Mike also says: feminization of our young men, masculinizing our young women, unmasculine men, wussified men, hormones are calling the shots, thought police, liberal leftists, thought police, Orwellian.

  30. Nick Literski says:

    Do I have a right in America to believe that homosexuality is wrong?

    Absolutely! Of course, others have a right in America to believe that homosexuality is entirely acceptable.

    Do I have a right in America to believe that homosexuality is sub-optimal for survival of the species?

    Absolutely! Of course, others have a right in America to believe that homosexuality is a natural form of biological diversity, which has been observed in over four hundred species.

    Do I have a right in America to believe that sexual urges are subordinate to other pro-survival urges such as the family unit?

    Absolutely! Of course, others have a right in America to believe that consenting adults have a right to express their mutual love and affection in a physical manner, with or without the approval of your particular faith.

    Do I have a right in America to think and to express my opinion on an equal footing with other people, that homosexual marriages are detrimental to family life and society?

    Absolutely! Of course, others have a right in America to think and express their opinion on an equal footing with yours, that marriage equality is beneficial to family life and society.

    Do I have a right in America to frankly discuss my opinions that homosexuality is a dysfunctional behavior?

    Absolutely! Heck, you even have a right in America to frankly discuss your opinions that the earth is flat, and that babies are delivered to expectant parents by very strong storks. Of course, others have a right in America to frankly discuss their opinions that homosexuality is no more “functional” or “dysfunctional” than heterosexuality.

    Do I have a right in America to believe and express my opinion, wherever I may be, that homosexuality can be overcome, that it may be an immature stage of development that some people are stuck in?

    Absolutely! Of course, others have a right in America to believe and express their opinions, wherever they may be, that the drive to impose one’s religious standards of behavior onto the citizens of a pluralistic society can be overcome, and that it may be an immature stage of development that some people are stuck in.

    Or – am I forced to accept other?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s opinions who happen to disagree with me,


    and do I have to be silenced, legally shut down,

    So long as you don’t incite violent or criminal acts against others, why would you “have to be silenced” or “legally shut down?”

    and possibly removed from my place of employment

    In most states, an employer can choose not to continue your employment, if you engage in workplace expressions which violate company policy or expose the company to charges of sexual harassment, etc. For that matter, in most states, an employer can choose to terminate you for being an insufferable, intolerant jackass. Don’t feel bad, though. In the majority of states, it is still entirely legal to terminate an employee purely on the basis of his or her sexual orientation.

    and / or have my religious belief curtailed

    How, exactly, would your “religious belief” ever be curtailed? No person or government is capable of “curtailing” another’s belief.

    because some others wish to have their behavior classified/categorized as irreproachable?

    Oddly enough, it seems that you’re trying very hard to have your own behavior (i.e. intolerance, and socially inappropriate public religious denunciations of others) classified/categorized as irreproachable. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

  31. Eugene says:

    Nick, thank you for having the patience and care to respond to Mike’s long list of challenging questions. You rose to the task with rigor and creativity and in so doing you have done us all a service. You answered as I wanted to do, but was incapable of by myself.

  32. Eugene says:

    Matt, your postscript meeting with your Bishop seems like a milestone event! May its example resonate with all other LDS leaders.

  33. LRC says:

    Mike – You’ve reminded us that homosexuals are free to marry anyone of the opposite sex. Would you want a gay man to marry your daughter/sister/niece? Would you be happy to see your son/brother/nephew promise his life to a lesbian? How would you feel about these couples raising your grandchildren, etc.?

    And what would you advise the straight relative to do in the event that the homosexual spouse decided living in heterosexual matrimony was no longer worth the sacrifice and left to pursue “greener pastures”? And what would you tell the couple’s children should Mommy/Daddy leave for another woman/man?

  34. Suzanne says:

    VARIATIONS ON A THEME: My work has brought me into interaction with almost a thousand children a week for the past three decades. The many kinds of “families” and “homes” these children spring from defies description.

    What also defies description is the one variable that is the most important: All of our children feel a unique and necessary connection to the people with whom they live. Whether it be with a “traditional” mom and dad under one roof, or with grandparents, step parents, transient parents, single parents, gay parents, foster parents, extended families, institutional staff, homeless parents, abusive parents, inadequate parents, loving parents, criminal parents, or whatever — that connection is the most fundamental element of the child’s existence.

    The “Family” Proclamation is at once inspirational and anguishing. The ideal or goal that it sets is inarguably a model that was set out in the Creation Story, but even then there must have been those little nuances that required the barely mentioned “adaptation.”

    What is it then that makes the model the Cadillac plan? A man, a woman and an egg, of course. And a plan for division of responsibilities that provides for the care and nurture of the resulting child. Okay. That’s good. But nature is not all that dependable…. apparently as part of the Grand Design. Storms and drought and earthquakes ruin the nest; fathers have to go to other lands during famines and war and sometimes they die or abdicate. Mothers sometimes give up mothering for selfish reasons or for illness. But the child is still entitled to nurturing.

    When I read the Family Proclamation I have to swallow at the part that says ?¢‚Ǩ?ì Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. ?¢‚Ǩ?ì What does entitled mean? Lucky? Assured? Guaranteed? Were we all told when we accepted the Plan of Salvation in the pre-existence that we would be coming to a two parent, two car, four child family with good times, good food, and enough gas to get to all our meetings and a good job and the mall too? I know it looked good according to Saturday?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Warriors and other descriptions, but didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t we also opt to be born in Africa and being sold into slavery, or to tribes wandering barefoot around the desert, or into disease-ridden slums and war torn villages? Were we not warned it might be tough down here?

    The Plan was rifled with variable circumstances but the instructions were the same :
    Love – really love – one another.

    We get warm fuzzies at the tales of the boy raised by the mother fox, or the mother dog suckling the orphaned kittens. We smile when the Family Section of the newspaper shows the lovely Christian couple who provide for a dozen disabled and adopted children. But we rail at the thought of women choosing single parenthood or gay men adopting children. Even though gays and singles usually opt for the children that heterosexuals have abandoned and white middle-class married couples don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t want, i.e., mentally and physically challenged, a little aged and variously hued.

    The other night I was on the message boards at the LDS Mingle site. (My kids gave me a membership for Christmas thinking it might a good thing.) Several single sisters were discussing adopting children from places like Sri Lanka and China, wanting to indulge their maternal instincts and rescue orphans. (Those of us who are ?¢‚Ǩ?ìfamily?¢‚Ǩ¬ù challenged can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t adopt through agencies like LDS Social Services.) I shared the blessings and challenges from my experience of having adopted four young girls from the bowels of Southern California. Immediately, the Family Proclamation was brought up and several posters insisted that it was against ?¢‚Ǩ?ìthe church?¢‚Ǩ¬ù for singles to adopt. That only temple worthy two parent financially secure families should adopt and so that the adoptees could be sealed into the ?¢‚Ǩ?ì acceptable?¢‚Ǩ¬ù family situation. We pointed out that if every good LDS family adopted a couple dozen international orphans there would still be plenty for we singles to pick up. And that the possibility of the leftovers in Rumanian orphanages being sealed into a Utah family was rather miniscule. Then this comment was posted: You should ask yourself if you have the faith to follow The Prophet and the Proclamation and leave that child where he is so that he has a chance to be sealed into an eternal family? Would you really be selfish enough to deny that child the possibility to be sealed for all eternity to a mother and father? You should go talk to your bishop because he will tell you that’s what the church says.

    Compassionate action. Everyone can practice it. Persons who are single, disabled, and gay can love and nurture children. And when they do they are living an essential part of the Plan of Salvation and the gospel. And we have an obligatory responsibility to support everyone who is willing and capable of giving children the nuturing they are entitled to.

    That much I know. I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know how to deal with all the other stuff.

  35. RickJepson says:

    Suzanne, I’m horrified. And so, so, so sorry that someone said something that awful to you. I’m flabergasted.

    Please know that you and people like you are loved and appreciated. I’ll carry a prayer for you in my heart all day today.

    Also, you really changed my whole concept of this issue…really broadened my vision of it. Thanks for that.

  36. David says:

    The revelation has already been recieved and read in sacrament meetings the world over:

    The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

    We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

  37. David says:

    You are very good at describing our culture and its different families. You’re not nearly as willing to describe what God describes will bring the greatest happiness.

    The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

    We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

  38. Rick Jepson says:

    David, I think it would be more interesting–for even you–to discuss not WHAT the proclamation says, since we’re all familiar with it, but instead WHY it says what it does. What are the underlying principles? What are its applications and exceptions? How does it square with biological/social/spiritual reality? If it doesn’t always line up, why not? And what’s the best solution?

    An orthodox voice is always welcome and too often missing in these discussions. But if that voice just copies and pastes a statement we all have on our walls already… doesn’t further the discussion at all.

  39. Sid says:

    If the great commandments are to love God and our neighbors as ourselves, then the great sin would be to withhold love – from anyone. Never did Jesus give us a reason or an example to reject or place one human being over another. By taking away rights that you and I enjoy for moral reasons in nothing more than a majority deciding who we are better than.

    In the proclamation the wording does say that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. I agree that it is. But you cannot infer that statement means to exclude relationships that are different. It is merely a statement of fact which the church believes. It says nothing of homosexual relationships.

    In cases like this, I find it better to defer to the great commandments. I will be eternally grateful that my gay son agreed to this horrifying challenge in the pre-existence to give me the opportunity to learn true charity.

  40. Ben says:

    Suzanne #187 this is the most humble and honest thing I’ve read in sunstone. I agree with you 100%
    Rick – Do you have a younger brother named Rob?

  41. Rick Jepson says:

    Yes, indeed. If you’re who I’m thinking of (his friend from high school with longish dark hair)—-then hello! If not, also hello, but I have no idea who you are. : )

  42. Ben says:

    It’s interesting for me to hear opinions concerning these sort of matters that I agree with coming from a Jepson, I don’t mean that I disagree with Rob in a lot of ways but you guys have a very engaging way of communicating your point of view that is very specific to your family (at least the ones that I know). Rob is a great guy who has had a huge impact on me. Say hello to him for me, I only got to see him once since he got back and I’d like to stay in touch.

  43. Rick Jepson says:

    Yeah, he’s a good guy. He’s probably the sibling I have the most in common with when it comes to exhausting conversations like this. : )

    He was back and gone so fast that none of us have really seen much of him yet. But I know he was glad to break away and see you the weekend he got back. Do you have his e-mail or phone number? I’ve got it somewhere, if you don’t.

  44. Jax says:

    I am gay and have yet to be furnished with this *gay agenda* that is so often referred to. What would it look like? That I want the same things the *heterosexual agenda* wants? To be able to spend my life with someone I love, someone I can connect with emotionally, physically and spiritually? Is that a bad agenda to have? At the end of the day I want to come home to someone who is genuinely happy to see me at the end of the day. I want to be able to share my victories, and defeats, with someone one who knows my heart and soul intimately.

    To imply, as on poster did, (I believe it was Mike) that I have the same right to marry as everyone else does because I can marry someone of the opposite sex is so old, and also very disrespectful to everyone involved. Talk about minimizing the importance of marriage – its like saying anyone will do. It is also gives no credence to the incredible amount of work couples in mixed orientation marriages go through to make their marriages work.

    I often wonder how many member the church would have if the imposed the same rules and regulations on their heterosexual members as they do their homosexual members? How many of you would be willing to give up your spouse and family to live a solitary life? Not only that but also, you can’t even really be friends, with anyone with heterosexual attractions – it is too dangerous.

    And lastly – to the father who said he would love his homosexual child but not allow anyone important to visit his home (my paraphrasing) I am so glad I have the father I do. I realize more and more all the time how blessed I am to have parents that love me unconditionally

  45. enigma says:

    I think it is important to note that one parable, in this case the parable of the sheep and the goats, does not contain the whole of the gospel, nor does one commandment-to love everyone. Christ loved us all more than any human being could ever love another human being, which is why He gave us commandments and covenants that allow us to obtain the blessings of exaltation. He was the perfect example of love, and that love included subjection to the laws and ordinances of our Father.

    The Savior taught that He walks before His sheep and that they willingly follow Him (and the shepherds He appoints to watch over them) because they are familiar with Him and trust Him.(John) He calls to those who have taken upon themselves His name, and if they do not hear Him, they are not the sheep of His fold but of the devil’s. Those that deny this are liars and children of the devil. (Alma)

    In the parable of the goats and sheep, the sheep inherit exaltation-meaning not only are they loving and service oriented, but they have also qualified for and obtained the ordinances of the temple and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The parable also follows two others related to the day of judgment-the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents. Both contain equally important distinctions between those who will enter the marriage feast and those who will not, and between slothful and faithful servants.

    One of the comments in the initial thread spoke of compassion, and the compassion and love offered by Jesus Christ extended beyond this world and into eternity. Compassion is the desire to alleviate or prevent suffering, and His purpose in giving His life for ours was to allow us to repent and accept the atonement so that we would not have to suffer for our sins.

    The world would have us believe that ALL suffering, ALL trials, ALL struggle is evil or unjust, but the Lord teaches otherwise. The world would have us believe that anything that brings mortal happiness will likewise bring eternal happiness, but the Lord did not agree. The world would have us believe that it is impossible to unconditionally love someone and call them to repentance at the same time;the Lord proved over and over that such an idea is false.

    If we want to love others as Christ loves us, we must first love Him. And three times in John 14 He tells us that the difference between those that love Him and those that do not, is that those that love Him keep His commandments.

  46. Rick Jepson says:

    Predominant classes and groups have always reminded the minority and subserviant groups that they’re supposed to suffer in this life…that they’re not meant to be as happy as the predominant group. This same mentality–once used to control black slaves–is dangerous and egotistical.

    The gospel decidedly leads us to joy in this lifetime, not just to a pie in the sky. You, no doubt, derive great joy, love, and satisfaction from your own heterosexual relationships. So please, whatever your views on this horribly complex matter may be, don’t patronize homosexuals with a lecture on how God wants them to be miserable.

  47. enigma says:


    The gospel will lead us to joy in this lifetime, and to the fullness of joy in the life hereafter that God wishes for all of His children, but only if we make and fulfill the covenant to live it. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìGreat joy, love, and satisfaction?¢‚Ǩ¬ù emanates only from God and is predicated upon obedience to the laws and ordinances irrevocably decreed before this world existed. God does not play favorites. God ?¢‚Ǩ?ìesteemeth all flesh in one?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìhe that is righteous is favored of God?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHe [God] doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

    God ?¢‚Ǩ?ìinvites?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcalls?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìbeckons?¢‚Ǩ¬ù to His children, and none will be denied that choose of their own will to ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcome unto him and partake of his goodness?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. But God does not force the minds or wills of His children. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìWherefore men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediation of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”

    Gays and lesbians are a minority group by sheer mathematical proportion to the majority. This is fact rather than insult. And while I might have missed a post somewhere, I cannot find one that calls this minority group subservient or subordinate, much less “reminds them” that they are supposed to suffer in this life (more than anyone else that is). Where is this lecture on how God wants them to be miserable? The gospel of Jesus Christ does not make any such claim, nor does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sincere and studious members of the LDS Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ have no doubt that it is Satan and not God that wants them to be miserable.

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