Religious History is replete with heretics or dissenters who, years later, look like prophets.?Ç¬ Think Galileo against the Roman Catholic Church on the subject of heliocentrism; think Orson Pratt against Brigham Young on the subject of Adam-God; think Juanita Brooks against both church leaders and fellow members on the subject of Mountain Meadows Massacre.?Ç¬ I have my own modest portfolio of unorthodox or heretical beliefs.?Ç¬ I think most people do.?Ç¬ Some I keep to myself, some I share with a few trusted friends.?Ç¬ Some seem trivial, others feel quite urgent.?Ç¬ I wonder sometimes what to do about my urgent beliefs: remain silent, or speak out??Ç¬ I also sometimes wonder if any of my heretical beliefs will look prophetic through the lens of tomorrow.?Ç¬ What got me thinking about this?
For those of you who have a life, you might not have noticed that the “Bloggernacle's” collective heart rate was recently set aflutter by a candid interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Lance B. Wickman, a member of the Seventy, on the subject of Same Sex Attraction (SSA).?Ç¬ Two of the Bloggernacle's tent pole institutions, Millennial Star and By Common Consent, eagerly tackled the subject and logged a whopping 445 and 221 comments respectively.?Ç¬ Like Ether at the end of the final Jaredite battle, I 'go forth' (Ether 15:33) onto the now silent battlefield to wade through the carnage…
(Pause for dramatic effect.)
Before you exclaim, 'Not another Gay-Marriage Blog Post!' and click the 'Back' button on your Internet browser, let me state forthwith that I'm not interested re-hashing the various arguments for and against Same Sex Marriage; instead, I'm interested in using the debate as a backdrop to: 1.) muse about the capricious way time sometimes reverses the perceived correctness of our opinions; and 2.) wonder what can be done when our personal beliefs are at odds with religious institutional beliefs.
To put the rest of this Blog Post in perspective, I need to state my beliefs relative to same-sex attraction: ?Ç¬I believe?Ç¬same-sex attraction?Ç¬to be a natural and perfectly acceptable phenomenon.?Ç¬ As such, I see no valid theological (or secular) argument that could keep us from recognizing same-sex relationships in our temples for time and/or eternity.?Ç¬ You can quote scripture, the Proclamation, or prophetic revelation until you are blue in the face — that was not a challenge! 🙂 — in my opinion, the only thing holding us back is human prejudice (no matter how well-intentioned) and limited understanding, not God's laws.?Ç¬ I arrived at these beliefs the same way I arrive at all of my beliefs?¢Ç¨Äù via the time-honored 'study, ponder, pray' process; as well as interacting with others, experiencing life, etc.
Given my beliefs, it shouldn't be a surprise that some of the comments made by Elders Oaks and Wickman?Ç¬reminded me somewhat of comments made by Church leaders in the past that we now tend to distance ourselves from.
For example, in a speech given at BYU in 1954, Apostle Mark E. Petersen said,
A Chinese, born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race seems to have little opportunity. ?Ç¬But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. ?Ç¬In spite of whatever they might have done in the pre-existence to justify being born over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn’t the mercy of God marvelous??Ç¬ Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood… in spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. ?Ç¬If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. ?Ç¬He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.
Today, distance and policy changes make it safe for Latter-day Saints to say that Elder Petersen 'spoke with limited light and knowledge', or that he was 'misinformed, a product of his time, subject to the prejudices of his day.'?Ç¬ You might even get away with saying Elder Petersen was 'flat out wrong' were the quote to come up in Sunday School or Priesthood/Relief Society and scarcely elicit a raised eyebrow from your ward's staunchest Iron Rod.
But in 1954, were you to say any of the above remarks about Elder Petersen's comments you would have been branded a malcontent or murmurer at best, a heretic or apostate at worst.?Ç¬ Such epithets were directed at Lowell Bennion and Stirling McMurrin (among others), both of whom spoke out against the Priesthood Ban and faced the real possibility of lost employment and/or lost church membership as a result.?Ç¬ Today, like Galileo, Orson Pratt, or Juanita Brooks, many see Lowell Bennion and Stirling McMurrin as comparatively enlightened, ahead of their time, if not martyrs for the cause.?Ç¬ Heretics yesterday, prophets today.?Ç¬ (Note: If it isn’t obvious, I'm using the term 'prophet' not to draw comparisons to, or depreciate the official Church role or office; but in the ordinary definitional sense, as one who foresees the future, or one who is ahead of his time in terms of spiritual and moral insight.)
So I wonder, what will the interview with Elders Oaks and Wickman look like to future generations??Ç¬ While their remarks are softer than Elder Petersen's remarks, I wonder if the following remarks by Elder Wickman will one day seem a little na?É¬Øve or?Ç¬simplistic:
The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ?¢Ç¨ÀúI'm not stuck with it forever.' It's just now?¢Ç¨¬¶ 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing ?¢Ç¨Äù including eternal marriage ?¢Ç¨Äù is and will be mine in due course.
When Elder Wickman states that 'same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life', will his assertion one day seem speculative in the same way that Elder Petersen's comments about the pre-earth life of Chinese and Blacks now appear today?
When Elder Oaks compares 'homosexual feelings' to the temptation to steal, drink alcohol, or grow angry, or when he compares homosexual identity to being a Texan, a U.S. Marine, a red head, or a basketball player, will these analogies seem insensitive or ill informed?
Despite our conflicting opinions on this issue, I respect Elders Oaks and Wickman, and the late Elder Petersen, and recognize that they have done more in the service of God and/or their fellow man than I have done, or am likely to do, in my lifetime.?Ç¬ Furthermore, I recognize that their remarks were delivered with the best intentions, and that they likely feel as passionate and sure of the correctness of their opinion as I do of mine.?Ç¬ Finally, I recognize that I am not qualified to receive revelation on behalf of the Church.
But I can receive so-called 'personal revelation'…?Ç¬ and this is MY church too, right?
So this gets me to the crux of my question: I disagree with Elders Oaks and Wickman (and by extension, the Church), at least on this one particular issue?¢Ç¨¬¶ how does a faithful Latter-day Saint dissent and not be branded a heretic, or worse, an apostate?
What does one do when personal beliefs contradict Church doctrine, policy, or revelation??Ç¬ Ignore personal revelation and put your faith in the leaders of the Church??Ç¬ Quietly abstain with regards to the issue in question, keep your opinion to yourself, and openly support the Church in all other endeavors??Ç¬ Grouse to friends and family members and occasionally pop off in Elder Quorum??Ç¬ Write an editorial for the Salt Lake Tribune?
I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m interested in hearing your opinions on how we should express dissent, or even if we should. I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m also interested in hearing your personal experiences with dissent: what was the issue, what did you do, how did it work out, would you do anything different?
“I believe same-sex attraction to be a natural, and therefore perfectly acceptable, phenomenon.”
I don’t know if this detracts too much from your post, but what, exactly, do you mean by “natural”? Furthermore, how does something being “natural” in whatever sense you mean it automatically make it perfectly acceptable?
I know you don’t want to debate the appropriateness of homosexual acts; neither do I. I don’t mind people believing what they want about it. I would just say that the reasoning you give, that natural=acceptable, is pretty weak. You probably have more, better reasons, or at least a more nuanced view than simply that things that we are naturally inclined to do are acceptable to God, but what comes across in your post is inadequate, in my view.
I’m having a hard time answering your questions because I imagine that if I felt that the Church was so far off base, I’m not sure I’d stick around at all. I don’t think that I would have enough confidence that the Church was divinely sanctioned to make it worth it. If I felt strongly enough about it I suppose I’d publicly register my dissent and taking whatever consequences followed.
In my opinion, the case of homosexuality is fundamentally different from the way that the church may have been wrong in the past in that the proscription of homosexual acts is more closely tied to and based on the Plan of Salvation as taught by the church than any of the other things that are cited as mistakes of the church. If exhaltation is reserved for people in man/woman partnerships and if it comprises eternal increase that, by its nature, can only be realized by a man/woman pairing, then the only position the Church can take on homosexuality is the one it is taking. On the other hand, if homosexuality is fine by God, then many of the uniquely Mormon aspects of the Plan of Salvation are false, which means the prophets have been way off base, to the point that they couldn’t rightly be called prophets at all.
The Priesthood ban, if it was against the will of God, which I don’t know for sure but I won’t dispute, isn’t a case of getting the Plan of Salvation wrong, at least not on the same scale; it would be more a case of getting smaller scale details of the pre-existence wrong and misapplying Old Testament notions of priesthood exclusivity.
“if homosexuality is fine by God, then many of the uniquely Mormon aspects of the Plan of Salvation are false”
I disagree with this, but I think it’s a very meaty hypothesis, and I hope you’ll provide some specific details Tom.
Just to get you started with a hypothetical:
IF God revealed tomorrow that homosexual relationships can be exalted, and the adopted children (in their families) could be sealed to them for eternity, what other aspects of the Plan of Salvation would this, throw off-kilter? Which prophets would come under intense scrutiny for being so off-base?
“Smaller scale details” ?? So the priesthood ban was really no big deal? It excluded a heckuva lot larger percentage of humanity from the temple than the gay issue does today.
But back to the question of dissent. I think it’s not only possible; it’s imperative, and if God is truly leading this peculiar people it will continue until further change occurs on the gay issue. The new Bennions and McMurrins are already here. Supportive hetersexuals like you, Matt Thurston, and gays like D. Fletcher who just stay in the Church and quietly testify by their very presence and openness.
Think of how very different things are in the Church compared to even two decades ago. I expect the next phase the Church will enter is something more along the lines of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ when it comes to non-celibate gay members, gay couples, etc. Too late for me and my family to get much out of it, but I’ve made peace with that.
You are right, my one-sentance support for why I disagree with the Church’s position on SSA is inadequate and vague. I probably should have just said I disagreed with the Church’s position on same-sex attraction without offering my reasons, and moved on from there. Like I said, I didn’t want to get bogged down in for and against arguments which have already been promulgated ad nauseum all over the Internet.
For now, I’ll simply clarify the terms “natural” and “perfectly acceptable”. I believe same-sex attraction is “natural” and “acceptable” in the exact same way opposite-sex attraction is natural and acceptable. “Natural” meaning, among other things: 1.) good (not bad), 2.) legitimate (not illegitimate), and 3.) in accordance with or determined by nature.
There may be other inclinations that pass some of the definitions of natural above, but not others. Pedophilia perhaps? Those that don’t pass all of the definitions may not be acceptable. My sentance would read better if I deleted the word “therefore”: I believe same-sex attraction to be a natural and perfectly acceptable phenomenon. That way “acceptable” is not dependent on “natural.
I agree with MikeInWeHo’s #5. My own comments would be plaigaristic, so I’ll simply quote Joan Chittister instead. She’s a prominent Benedictine nun, and in speaking of her own Catholic faith, she says:
The church is a human institution, and it is slow. It’s also a universal institution. It takes a long time for ideas to seep to the top, let alone to move the bottom. So you just realize that what is going on right now is simply the seeding of the question. It comes down to how many snowflakes does it take to break a branch? I don’t know, but I want to be there to do my part if I’m a snowflake.
She says much the same thing in this example, from one of her speeches:
In the mid-17th century, Spanish seafarers sailed up the west coast of the Americas to what is now known as the Baja peninsula. The cartographers of the time simply drew a straight line up from the Strait of California to the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Vancouver Island and Washington state. Consequently, the maps that were published in 1635 show very clearly that California was an island. For 50 years, then, the years of the most constant, most crucial explorations of the California coastline, those maps went unchanged because someone continued to work with partial information, assumed that data from the past had the inerrancy of tradition and then used authority to prove it. Finally, after years and years of new reports, a few cartographers, the heretics, the radicals and the rebels, I presume, began to issue a new version, and in 1721, the last mapmaker holdout finally attached California to the mainland. But ?¢Ç¨Äù and this is the real tragedy perhaps ?¢Ç¨Äù it took almost 100 years for the gap between experience and authority to close. It took almost 100 years for the new maps to be declared official despite the fact that the people who were there all the time knew differently from the very first day. Vision is the ability to realize that the truth is always larger than the partial present. The map you use to explore this new world will be the path by which the next world walks.
I think this applies to our church as well, it will just take time.
I tried to elaborate a little more on “natural” and “acceptable” in #6. I don’t believe one follows the other, though my original post was worded that way.
You said: The Priesthood ban, if it was against the will of God, which I don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t know for sure but I won?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t dispute, isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t a case of getting the Plan of Salvation wrong, at least not on the same scale; it would be more a case of getting smaller scale details of the pre-existence wrong and misapplying Old Testament notions of priesthood exclusivity.
I’m not sure I agree, but I can see why some people believe more is at stake if the Church’s position on SSA turns out to be wrong. I’m wondering, does this fact make you more determined on this issue, since being wrong causes the whole house of cards to fall down? I’m sure people felt that way about the end of Polygamy, and later the Priesthood Ban: that reversal of the policy was too big of a hurdle to overcome, that it would be the last straw that proved the Church was a man-made institution. Today we wave off those previous hurdles with a brush of the hand. I can’t help but think we’ll do the same for the same-sex attraction hurdle tomorrow.
For what its worth, I’m not sure the Plan of Salvation needs to change much to accomodate same-sex couples. Like you see the Priesthood ban, I see this as a “small scale” misapplying of religious notions of sexual-orientation exclusivity. Why can’t we correct the Plan of Salvation to include same-sex couples (and adopted children)? Sure, we’d have to correct (or re-interpret) some scripture and some statements said by previous prophets, but we’ve done that many times before.
What does one do when personal beliefs contradict
Church doctrine, policy, or revelation? Ignore personal revelation and put your faith in the leaders of the Church? Quietly abstain with regards to the issue in question, keep your opinion to yourself, and openly support the Church in all other endeavors? Grouse to friends and family members and occasionally pop off in Elder Quorum? Write an editorial for the Salt Lake Tribune?
I guess it all depends upon how important this issue is to you. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, even though there are apparently a lot of people who think in such absolute terms.
All I can tell you is this: Although I am heterosexual, I found the position taken by the LDS church to be so contrary to what I believed, and its political actions to sway public policy to support that position so reprehensible, that I resigned my membership.
I had many questions in my mind concerning many things in Mormon history/doctrine, but this particular issue was of sufficient importance to me that I could no longer affiliate, even peripherally, with an institution that holds these views. It affirmed an idea that had gradually been forming in my mind that the leaders were definitely NOT “inspired”, and that they do NOT “speak for God.”
Others may differ, or find a way to accomodate their beliefs. I couldn’t. It was purely a personal decision on my part, but one with which I am comfortable.
Let me add one of my own, from the great Levi Peterson:
Many Mormons see little value in the process of civilization. Some of them tend to regard the Church as a culture which gives to but does not take from its sister cultures in the world, particularly in such essential matters as theological insight and moral understanding. Such things, in their view, come strictly through revelation, and it is the role of the Church to dispense them to the world through missionary work. It is inconceivable that an increased understanding of perfection might come to the Church from the wisdom which slowly accumulates through the civilized development of the human conscience in many cultures.
Certain other Mormons are even more militantly conscious of their disesteem for civilization, which they express by rejecting the world at large as the symbolic Babylon from which the Church, as God’s specially anointed society, is to keep itself unspotted. This view tends to take on a doomsday color, for the changes occurring in non-Mormon cultures are often seen as totally corrupt and retrogressive, tainted by sin and worthy of destruction. Everywhere are wars and rumors of wars without end and perversities and whoredoms beyond calculation. Armageddon looms on the horizon, and the fearful settle into the fortress of their righteousness to await the imminent end of the world – something like Jonah, who supposed there was nothing in the city of Nineveh worthy of salvation.
This cynical view of civilization is unfortunate. The Church is not a detached and isolated island; it has a symbiotic, interdependent relationship with numerous other cultures, with whose people its members commingle on a daily basis. Civilization is a social process which flourishes most dramatically precisely when such interaction takes place. A new insight, a new value, a new tool passes from person to person, crossing boundaries and domesticating itself in various cultures, stimulating among its recipients further inventions and discoveries.
Given the fact of proximity and interaction, the Church has inevitably influenced its sister cultures, not merely by proselyting converts from among them but also by the example it gives of Christian living. But one does no dishonor to the divine mission of the Church by admitting that, in its turn, the Church is highly influenced by the world, sometimes even in matters relating to Christian living. Evidence for this assertion may be seen in events preceding the revelation of 1978 which extended the priesthood to Mormon men of all races. That revelation was an immense relief to numerous Mormons, whose united concern and questioning about the inequality of the former policy had moved the prophet to seek a revelation on the matter. But why should Mormons of the 1970s have been so concerned when Mormons of the 1920s were not? The reason is that they had been influenced by the growing racial equality in other cultures.
Seeing other Americans, white as well as non-white, endorsing racial equality, Mormons gradually became sensitive to its value and became more and more uncomfortable with the former priesthood doctrine. This was civilization at work. The Church, being a conservative society, may change more slowly than some other particular culture and in a differing order and proportion, but it nonetheless changes in rough correspondence to the large, collective changes affecting the totality of the civilized world. [empahsis added]
Many of the arguments I hear against same-sex marriage from Mormons follows the logic Levi articulates above, that theological insight or moral understanding can only come via our prophets; it cannot come from “the world”. In fact, moral understanding from “the world” is the opposite, its IMMORAL, further proof of the correctness of the Church’s position. Remarks made by countless leaders during the Polygamy days reflect this fact, same as remarks during the Priesthood Ban days. In each case, the Church finally caught up with the slow, creeping “civilized development of the human conscience” of the rest of the world.
Some day, this creeping human conscience will catch up in the hearts of so many Mormons that the Prophet will inquire of God. Then, when the members are ready to accept homosexuals in the Church, some future Prophet will not surprisingly find that God is ready to accept them too.
Some day, this creeping human conscience will catch up in the hearts of so many Mormons that the Prophet will inquire of God. Then, when the members are ready to accept homosexuals in the Church, some future Prophet will not surprisingly find that God is ready to accept them too.
I hope I misunderstand you, or that you wrote hastily. Are you saying that God is NOT “ready to accept” homosexuals right now? Or, are you saying that the “creeping human conscience” has simply not registered with Mormons yet?
ISTM that there is a big difference about whom God accepts, and whom the Mormon church accepts.
(BTW, I fully accept the idea that any church, including the LDS church, has the right to accept or reject anybody for any reason. The question that remains is; do churches speak for God when they reject people on the basis of arbitrary “rules”?)
I didn’t write hastily, I was being ironic. Yes, I believe God is ready to accept homosexuals, always has been. I’m saying he’s waiting for us to figure it out.
D. Fletcher: IF God revealed tomorrow that homosexual relationships can be exalted, and the adopted children (in their families) could be sealed to them for eternity, what other aspects of the Plan of Salvation would this, throw off-kilter? Which prophets would come under intense scrutiny for being so off-base?
It depends on what is meant by exhaltation. The way I understand it, exhaltation entails, not only being sealed to a spouse and children, but also eternal increase in posterity, which is something that can only be done by a man/woman partnership.
I suppose you’re right that the prophets being wrong on that point–that exhaltation entails begetting spirit children–wouldn’t mean that every single thing that’s unique to the Mormon view of the Plan of Salvation is false. And, to be honest, that idea isn’t something that’s pushed in official Church settings a whole lot these days. So I may be overstating it a bit. But it’s still clear to me that the proscription against homosexual acts is in a different class from the priesthood ban in that the former makes sense and is defensible within the framework of the Plan of Salvation, which was revealed and taught long before homosexuality was on the public radar screen. In contrast, the Priesthood ban arose in an environment of racism and so, if it was against the will of God, it’s easier to see it as a reactionary mistake founded in racist sentiment. If the procreative model of exhaltation is wrong, it wouldn’t be a case of excluding homosexuals based on anti-gay bigotry; it would just be a case of being plain wrong. If the Church was wrong in either case, it’s a blow to the faith, but being wrong on homosexuality is less understandable to me if the prophets are prophets.
Matt: I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m wondering, does this fact make you more determined on this issue, since being wrong causes the whole house of cards to fall down?
Actually, I wouldn’t say that I’m very determined on this issue. Being wrong would be a blow to anyone’s faith, but it’s not like I’m desperately holding on the the proscription on homosexual acts because if that falls everything falls. The reason I support the Church’s position on homosexuality is that it makes sense based on my understanding of the Plan of Salvation, which I believe to be true. If I didn’t believe that the Church was teaching the true Plan of Salvation I would find it hard to stick around.
Mikeinweho: ?¢Ç¨?ìSmaller scale details?¢Ç¨¬ù ?? So the priesthood ban was really no big deal? It excluded a heckuva lot larger percentage of humanity from the temple than the gay issue does today.
No. I’m just saying that if the Church is/was wrong in the eyes of God on both issues, being wrong on homosexuality cuts deeper than being wrong on the priesthood ban. Put another way, in my view, being wrong on homosexuality would undermine the claims of the Church to divine sanction and prophetic authority to a greater extent than being wrong on the Priesthood ban. I’m not suggesting that the priesthood ban wasn’t/isn’t a big deal.
No. I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m just saying that if the Church is/was wrong in the eyes of God on both issues, being wrong on homosexuality cuts deeper than being wrong on the priesthood ban. Put another way, in my view, being wrong on homosexuality would undermine the claims of the Church to divine sanction and prophetic authority to a greater extent than being wrong on the Priesthood ban. I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m not suggesting that the priesthood ban wasn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t/isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t a big deal.
I agree. That’s why I resigned. I could no longer see any basis for claims to “divine sanction and prophetic authority.” I was able to live with the “priesthood ban”, although I didn’t agree with it, and could find no scriptural basis for it. The attitudes toward homosexuality simply made no sense to me. But, YMMV.
(This is my way of saying: what does YMMV mean?)
Thanks for answering, Tom. I’m just curious, how important are heterosexual relationships to your notion of the Plan of Salvation. I have to be honest, when I think of God’s plan, I just don’t think about male-female relationships all that much… I think about the human family. If a caveat were made for same-sex relationships, would the whole Plan of Salvation break down for you?
Preston, I understand your reasons for resignation. I’m curious… I’ve always felt that maximum spiritual growth required two components: an individual component and a community component. I’ve always felt we couldn’t maximize our spiritual growth by only being a “Buddha on the mountain,” that a group/community component was also necessary, that we learned something vital by serving each other, something that couldn’t be learned by individual study/worship/meditation. Since you’ve left the Church, have you tried to find another community? (Not an online community, but a physical community.) And do you agree with my theory? Just curious.
Tom, I think you’ve reduced the Plan of Salvation to gender-based procreative activities in the afterlife, of which we really know nothing. If spirit children can be born to parents in the afterlife, it’s just as likely that they will spring from their foreheads (like Athena from Zeus) as come the way they do in this life.
But the Plan of Salvation provides for adoption. Those couples incapable of reproducing in this life can adopt children and be sealed to them.
This particular Mormon doctrine (found in no other religion) gives some doctrinal foundation in our Church (and no other) to the possibility of two people of the same gender fostering an eternal family. Two people of the same gender who adopt children who then marry and have children normally will start an eternal increase which will be no smaller or less significant than the opposite gender couple who have children naturally.
I honestly don’t see how the inclusion of same gender couples into the Plan of Salvation will alter anything.
My last comment is really wrong. The inclusion of same gender couples into the Plan of Salvation will be of enormous benefit to them, since it will provide a model of morality and righteousness for these couples and their children. Those who choose it (like their heterosexual counterparts in the LDS Church) will find blessings that come from the most intimate kind of communion with God, the blessings they are now denied because of the preference for same-gender coupling to which they were consigned before they they were old enough to walk or talk.
Allow me to hijack the conversation (even though I’m responding directly to the original post).
I’d be interested to see you consider your idea through the “prophetic” statements or attitudes that don’t fit within the range of values you seem to espouse (humanist, as far as I can tell).
For example, as many Mormon women could tell you, women have considerably less power in the church now than they did 100 and more years ago. They used to have their own rites and blessings. The Relief Society used to be an independent auxiliary of the Church.
There probably were some people (likely male) back then who said, “Those sisters are getting too big for their corsetts. One of these days they’re going to be put in their God-ordained place. The priesthood will be moved completely into its proper (male) sphere and the Relief Society will come under the benevolent control of the bretheren.”
And they were right. (I’m not espousing any of the values in the previous paragraph.)
How do you respond to those “heretic/prophets”? Are you willing to put them in the same group with McMurrin and Bennion?
Quick question (also off the original question, sorry*(see below))
Were the bretheren ever as fully invested in denying blacks the priesthood as they currently are in denying SSA legitimacy?
I see little clips (sometimes larger) from Petersen, McConkie, earlier bretheren about how “negroes” are “cursed” etc. But what I don’t see is the priesthood ban equivalent of the Oaks and Wickman discussion.
I ask this because if the church ever did accept SSA they would be setting themselves up for major reversal of frequently and clearly expressed policy. Was the priesthood ban just as clearly and emphatically defended as the SSA issue?
My two cents: the church will never change its position on SSA. I believe it is too invested. (Yeah, but what about polygamy and the priesthood ban?) . . . Well, they are going to draw the line somewhere. (Where is the “women should be able to openly practice the priesthood” debate gone? Wasn’t that going to be the next priesthood ban to fall? Is it on the back-burners until we get the SSA thing figured out?)
Also, isn’t saying, “the practice of homosexuality is a sin,” different from saying, “blacks are not authorized to hold the priesthood.” It seems to me that the path from unauthorized to authorized (or cursed to not cursed) is much shorter than the path from sin to not sin. (This is especially so considering the precedents that extend the gospel to different people at different times, w/ differing levels of priesthood dispensation.)
Even if you don’t respond to these (not particularly original/pithy) arguments, please to respond to my original question.
* It is funny how just mentioning the gay marriage issue has this affect on boards. Especially when it wasn’t the original question. (To answer the original question: I just go along with the church. Sooner or later, they figure it out. In the meantime I haven’t trespassed what I consider sacred promises to sustain the bretheren (my understanding of “sustain,”). They eventually figure stuff out. (e.g. missionary discussions use to be word for word . . . now, several years after my service, they figure it out!)
You said: “They eventually figure stuff out. (e.g. missionary discussions use to be word for word . . . now, several years after my service, they figure it out!)”
My question back to you is this: How do you think they “figure stuff out”. Don’t you think it is at least in some part due to feedback (dissent) from the members? I’m sure there were complaints re word-for-word missionary discussions that in part lead to the re-examination of the discussion process. That is dissent. The temple ceremony was changed in the early 90s (?) in part because of complaints from the rank and file. This is dissent. The examples are legion. I’m not sure the rhetoric from the pulpit to “follow the Brethren” means sitting on our hands and waiting for them “to figure it out”.
You asked: Were the bretheren ever as fully invested in denying blacks the priesthood as they currently are in denying SSA legitimacy?
Someone else will have to tackle this question. My quick answer/guess is “yes”. You could fill books with quotes by general authorities since B.Y. on the subject. And didn’t the Church take a public position during the 60s on a civil rights measure, something involving Benson who claimed the measure was not to help Blacks, but would help the Communists?
You said: It seems to me that the path from unauthorized to authorized (or cursed to not cursed) is much shorter than the path from sin to not sin.
Good point. It certainly is an uphill battle. However, I’d argue that the Church going from monogamy to polygamy in the 1840s and 50s was a path from sin to not sin. In the context of the times, the idea that a man could sleep with multiple wives was definitely a sin. And the ramifications of the decision to adopt polygamy were much greater for the members then, than they would be if we were to sanction same-sex marriage. If the Church were to reverse their opinion on same-sex marriage today, I don’t think my life would change much. It would be a different story if they brought back polygamy.
Yes, the imaginary men you describe (those who sought to minimize the role/power of women in the Church) follow the same heretic/prophet trajectory. Their position was one of dissent/heresy at one time, and later their position became the status quo. From a humanist perspective, I’d argue that McMurrin/Bennion’s heresy moved the Church in a forward direction, while the heresy of the men who sought to minimize the role/power of women moved the Church in a backward direction. So I’d put them all in the same group if we’re simply describing the phenomenon (objective), but in different groups if we’re describing the “quality” of the heresy (subjective).
I’m not sure if I answered your question.
My bottom line question is this: What is the proper apparatus for dissent in a religion that so strongly emphasizes “follow the Brethren” or “sustain your leaders”? Whether the dissent is later vindicated (looks prophetic), or whether it moves the Church forward or backward is really beside the point. I imagine most heretics today are heretics tomorrow. But even the kookiest heretic has no real roadmap to register dissent.
Preston, I understand your reasons for resignation. I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢m curious?¢Ç¨¬¶ I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ve always felt that maximum spiritual growth required two components: an individual component and a community component. I?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ve always felt we couldn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t maximize our spiritual growth by only being a ?¢Ç¨?ìBuddha on the mountain,?¢Ç¨¬ù that a group/community component was also necessary, that we learned something vital by serving each other, something that couldn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t be learned by individual study/worship/meditation. Since you?¢Ç¨Ñ¢ve left the Church, have you tried to find another community? (Not an online community, but a physical community.) And do you agree with my theory? Just curious.
I’ve not tried to find another “physical community.” I’m simply not interested. I’ve had my fill of man-made organizations of *all* kinds. Perhaps I’m just misanthropic, but I don’t care to attend any meetings or adhere to any schedule of any kind. (Being retired, I have that luxury.)
I don’t particularly agree with your theory. Being agnostic, I don’t see the need for a community. I am able to participate in meaningful community service without the need for an organization to which I belong. Although, I volunteer at a community organization that is run by other people, including my wife. I just don’t need somebody telling me what to do and where to do it.
That said, I understand why *some* people need some sort of organization. I’m just not one of them.
The way I see it, either (a) going to the temple and holding the priesthood isn’t terribly important in the scheme of things, (b) the church is guilty of apostasy through a failure to address the salvation-needs of the world, or (c) it’s part of God’s plan. Anyone have a 4th alternative?
DKL September 1, 2006 | 9:02 pm
The way I see it, either (a) going to the temple and holding the priesthood isn?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t terribly important in the scheme of things, (b) the church is guilty of apostasy through a failure to address the salvation-needs of the world, or (c) it?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s part of God?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s plan. Anyone have a 4th alternative?
I see lots of alternatives, but for starters, perhaps there is no “scheme of things.” That’s the one I personally favor.
When I was learning about the gospel, it was made clear that this was a “plan of happiness” that would provide for ultimate joy with those we loved on earth. Why is it that this plan is only efficacious for straight people?
Matt, for starters, I agree with you regarding same-sex attraction and same-sex marriage. I pray for the day when these can be accommodated within Mormon theology and practice. And, like you, I don?¢Ç¨Ñ¢t think this would particularly upset the Church?¢Ç¨Ñ¢s plan of salvation theology. At the same time, I found the Oaks-Wickman interview quite troubling, as well as insulting to a whole constituency within the LDS community. I hope that this does not signal the start of a greater ?¢Ç¨?ìretrenchment?¢Ç¨¬ù on the part of the Church. I find it quite admirable that you, while disagreeing, are able to maintain respect for Elders Oaks and Wickman, as well as the late Elder Peterson. I have some difficulty in this regard, but I try. But to the specific question:
First some general thoughts: (1) In a top-down corporate-style organization, such as the LDS Church, opportunities to dissent, and positive results, are at best limited, and I certainly have no ?¢Ç¨?ìsuccess stories?¢Ç¨¬ù to tell (but hey you-gotta-have-some-fun); (2) in dissenting, a good sense of tact and timing (i.e., good ?¢Ç¨?ìstreet smarts?¢Ç¨¬ù) is essential; and (3) dissent, especially in official Church gatherings, should be done in small increments, ?¢Ç¨?ìline upon line; here a little and there a little,?¢Ç¨¬ù sowing seeds, planting ideas.
Some possible vehicles for dissent: (1) Grousing to friends and family (as you suggested), as I recently did in an email to my conservative brother where I suggested, among other things, that the Proclamation on the Family should be given a proper burial, but there I have the luxury of ranging far and wide; (2) speaking-up in Priesthood and Sunday School classes, where in the past I have sometimes been labeled, endearingly in most cases, as ?¢Ç¨?ìthe intellectual?¢Ç¨¬ù or ?¢Ç¨?ìthe liberal;?¢Ç¨¬ù or (3) slipping some ?¢Ç¨?ìradical?¢Ç¨¬ù ideas into an otherwise garden-variety Sacrament Meeting talk. For example, once when assigned to give a talk at the University Ward in Berkeley, I chose the topic of civic involvement, and quoted liberally from B. H. Roberts, Hugh B. Brown, and even J. Golden Kimball, all good Democrats, hoping to raise a little political consciousness. My continuing wish, from a long wish list, is that the Church would undertake a campaign, like the one in the late nineteenth century, to achieve a better political balance in the body politic (pun possibly intended) of the Church (e.g., ?¢Ç¨?ìToday, brothers and sisters, we are going to give out political party assignments.?¢Ç¨¬ù)
I have never dissented publicly or challenged Church leaders individually or collectively as a certain op-ed writer did recently. I greatly admire and support those who do, but have seen how mean the Church, and/or some of its affiliated businesses and schools, can be when that happens.
So let’s get to your actual question. How does one go about dissenting well?
I think effective dissenters must have a way ot instilling real tension into the social body.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:
“I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”
This is quite hard to do, mostly because we all like comfort too much. The dissenter has to become, like Jesus, the person who stretches him or herself across the divide between what is just, and what is acceptable. Think of MLK Jr, or Arthur Miller’s adaptatoin of Ibsen’s play “Enemy of the People.” The main character, in order to instill change, had to go through great personal sacrifice. He even had to make his family sacrifice. Which, I think, is one of the great ethical dilemmas of instigating change: how much do you allow the results your convictions to affect people who are in your care and don’t have the power or the faculties to consent in an informed way? Do you add suffering upon your children in hopes that you will relieve future suffering? That’s a hard one.
One good example of this, I think, is Lavina Fielding Anderson’s essay on how she decided to write her famous article on ecclesiastical abuse, and refusing to back down in the face of excommunication. I think I remember reading her essay in Dialogue, but I could be wrong. She tells about how she wanted to dissent on a number of different issues (the ERA, the Vietnam War, etc) but never felt “called” to do so, even though she felt passionately about those issues. It wasn’t until the ecclesiatical abuse issue came up that she felt like God was actually calling her to deal with it.
And she went through a lot of suffering.
I think real dissenters have to do that. They have to be willing to let an idea be more important than themselves. Interestingly, the Church very much condones this practice. The spiritual person is supposed to be someone who subliminates their own desires for the needs of others, and for the needs of the Church.
In a way, I think you do need to be “called” to really dissent well. You need to be cleansed of ego. You have to be more interested in your cause than in how many article are published about you, or how you will be remembered by the history books. You have to be willing to be entirely misunderstood by rational people.
MLK Jr, wrote:
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will”
I, personally, have not been called to dissent.
So, maybe an interesting question (and maybe it’s what you intended to ask, and I just misunderstood) is “how does one dissent from one’s armchair?”
By the way, someone from tne news media has finally reported on the Oaks/Wickman interview. See Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article here:
Lee and Stephen, thanks for taking the time to answer my question. You both make some excellent points. I hope to find a little time tonight to respond.
In my original draft of this Blog Post I had two additional paragraphs that discussed this idea of being “called” to dissent. I used the Lavina Fielding Anderson Dialogue article you reference as an example. In the SL06316, Gays in the Mormon Universe session at the recent SLC Symposium, Jeffrey Nielsen uses similar language to describe the reasons he decided to write his Tribune letter. I cut the paragraphs because the post was too long as it was.
Anderson and Nielsen’s decision to put their membership and/or employment on the line is reminiscent of Fowler’s Stage 6 Faith. I’m not suggesting Anderson and/or Nielsen possess Stage 6 Faith — maybe they do, maybe they don’t — but their actions, at least in this regard, sound like Fowler’s description of Stage 6 Faith:
“Heedless of the threats to self, to primary groups, and to the institutional arrangements of the present order that are involved, Stage 6 becomes a disciplined, activist incarnation — making real and tangible — of the imperatives of absolute love and justice of which Stage 5 has partial apprehensions… In their devotion to universalizing compassion they may offend our parochial perceptions of justice. In thier penetration through the obsession with survival, security, and significance they threaten our measured standards of righteousness and goodness and prudence. Their enlarged visions of universal community disclose the partialness of our tribes and pseudo-species… It is little wonder that persons best described by Stage 6 so frequently become martyrs for the visions they incarnate.”
Stage 5 Faith, on the other hand:
“Stage 5 remains paradoxical or divided, however, because the self is caught between these universalizing apprehensions and the need to preserve its own being and well-being. Or because it is deeply invested in maintaining the ambigous order of a socioeconomic system, the alternatives to which seem more unjust or destructive than it is… But Stage 5 acts out of conflicting loyalties. Its readiness to spend and be spent finds limits in its loyalty to the present order, to its institutions, groups and compromise procedures. Stage 5’s perceptions of justice outreach its readiness to sacrifice the self and to risk the partial justice of the present order for the sake of a more inclusive justice and the realization of love.”
When you talk about “liking comfort too much” or worry about “the results [of] your convictions [and the] affect [on] people who are in your care”, you are describing Stage 5 apprehensions. That isn’t a value judgment of course, most of us feel that way. Since I imagine most of us don’t feel “called” to put it all on the line, my post was a call for effective ways we can “dissent from [our] armchairs”, as you put so well. Lee came the closest to offering any real advice. I’ve done more than my share of grousing, as my family would attest. I’ve spoken up on occaision in SS or PH, but I’m not very good at thinking on my feet so I usually hold back. (It would be easier if they let me teach a PH lesson!) I’ve slipped my share or “radical” ideas into sacrament meeting talks. For example, 2-3 years ago I gave a talk about community and respect for beliefs and questioned what I thought were judgmental and condescending remarks made by some ward members in SS and over the pulpit in Sac Mtg with regards to the movie The Passion of the Christ, and the people who made, watched, or believed it the values the film espoused.
But these few attempts at dissent have been weak and woefully inadequate. I feel impatient with the state of the Church. I have an admittedly naive dream of the “ultimate environment” it could be and want to be around to see that happen. I don’t feel like I’m contributing much of anything at all at Church. But I don’t feel like I can contribute much of anything with the tools, ideas, and language at our disposal. Like you, I don’t feel “called” like an MLK, but I’m anxious to follow an MLK. Will Mormonism have an MLK? Have we ever had one?
By the way, Fowler appears to agree with the idea of being “called”:
“It is my conviction that persons who come to embody [Stage 6 Faiith] are drawn into those patterns of commitment and leadership by the providence of God and the exigencies of history. It is as though they are selected by the great Blacksmith of history, heated in the fires of turmoil and trouble and then hammered into usable shape on the hard anvil of conflict and struggle.”
“Will Mormonism have an MLK? Have we ever had one?”
We definitely have. Some of them we love, some of them we hate. Think Brigham Young inspiring people to move into the wilderness. Think Ezra Taft Benson promoting the John Birch Society. Think of Bruce R. McConkie coming down on heresies. Think Lowell Bennion luring people into Christian service.
Think Lavina Fielding Anderson and the Utah Alliance. Think Tapestry of Polygamy. Think of the clarion calls issued by the September 6. Think of the people who run Affirmation. Think of what Carol Lynn Pearson is trying to do with gay acceptance in the Church.
There are all kinds of MLKs running around. The problem is, they’re all “nuts” in a stage 6 sort of way. People in all the previous stages (including me) can’t see what’s to be had from sacrificing for this kind of obsession. I wonder, if we follow these people, are we effectively going back to stage 2 again, depending on the structures of others to guide our lives?
i remember what it was like to have a calling. To love something transcendent. The problem was, that transcendent thing turned out to be full of holes. It had been made by someone else, therefore, it wasn’t for me.
People in that stage six have tailor made something that resonates with them. That’s why they can love it so wholeheartedly. But, unless that idea has the luck of being able to resonate with many other people, it may never progress beyond a kooky obsession by the rest of the world’s standards.
Stephen Carter wrote: ?¢Ç¨?ìThink of the people who run Affirmation. Think of what Carol Lynn Pearson is trying to do with gay acceptance in the Church. . . There are all kinds of MLKs running around. . .?¢Ç¨¬ù
Along this line, I would add others who are working for gay acceptance in the Church including, among others, Bob Rees, Bill Bradshaw, Wayne Schow and Ron Schow, who have all written and spoken widely, and who regularly participate in Sunstone sessions. Bob Rees, for example, who once served as bishop of a singles ward in Los Angeles, and who continues to counsel LDS gays and lesbians, commented at a Sunstone session last year (SL05-336) that his experiences had lead to this field ?¢Ç¨?ìin which I was called or called myself.?¢Ç¨¬ù
Tom (comment #15): Since no one ever answered, I googled “YMMV” — apparently it’s “your mileage may vary.” New one to me.
afn (comment #20): You say: “My two cents: the church will never change its position on SSA. I believe it is too invested.” I say: Never say never.
Elder Wickman, in the interview, says “Homosexual behavior is and will always remain before the Lord an abominable sin.” First, it sounds like he either doesn’t understand the concept of revelation or doesn’t believe it exists. Either way, saying anything “is and always will remain” unchanging before the Lord calls into question the belief in and nature of prophecy, of newly revealed wisdom and doctrine.
Wikipedia on abominable sins quotes Elisabeth Anne Kellogg:
Of the various activities labeled as to’ba [Hebrew for “abomination”] in the Old Testament the most common is idolatry in Leviticus 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 13:14; 17:4; 27:15; 1 Kings 14:24; 21:26; Jeremiah 44:4 and numerous other verses. Among other cultic acts that are to’ba are sacrificing blemished animals (Deuteronomy 17:1), dedicating children to Molech, using mediums and magic (Deuteronomy 18:9-14), and using a prostitute’s wages to make an offering at the temple (Deuteronomy 23:18). Also to’ba are the sacrifices of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8; 21:27) and the prayers of the lawless (Proverbs 28:9) and allowing the uncircumcised to enter the sanctuary (Ezekiel 44:6-7; see also Acts 21:28). A broad range of sexual and non-sexual activities are labeled as to’ba, from incest, bestiality and adultery to practicing polygamy with sisters (but not polygamy in general), marrying a divorced woman (Deuteronomy 24:4) and having sex during a woman’s menstrual period (Leviticus 18:6-30; Leviticus 20:1-27). Other to’ba acts include cursing your father or mother (Leviticus 18:6-30; Leviticus 20:1-27) and using dishonest weights and measures (Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Proverbs 11:1; 20:10,23). The shedding of blood, lying and stealing are labeled to’ba (Proverbs 6:16-19; Jeremiah 7:9-10; Ezekiel 18:10-13; 22:6-12). Even King David’s census was ta’ab (1 Ch 21:6).
While some will point out that homosexuality and cross-dressing are in the same category as incest and bestiality, it should be noted that so are divorced people who remarry, those who have sex during menstruation and children who fight with their parents. In fact it seems that any uncleanness, any violation of Jewish Law, can be considered to’ba…
The LDS Church comes out against homosexuality because it is considered “Unnatural.” And yet the currernt LDS position is that “the natural man if an enemy to God.” (This based on the Calvinistic/Pauline doctrine taught in “The Book of Mormon.”
So if the Natural Man is God’s enemy, and the homosexual man is an Unnatural Man, then one could reason that the Unnatural (Homosexual) Man is a friend of God.
Of course, this entire premise can be turned on its head by Brigham Young’s teaching that “the Natural Man is a friend of God.” Young clearly taught this concept, going so far as to teach that had “The Book of Mormon” been written in light of later revelations, the entire “Natural Man is an enemy” doctrine laid out in that volume, would have been reversed.
So according to Brigham Young, the Natural Man is a friend of God. In light of the concept of progressive, continual revelation, Young’s teaching is more authoritative than the teachings of “The Book of Mormon.”
Therefore is homosexuality is natural, then the homosexual is by nature a friend of God.
To fruther complicate the supposedly straight forwardness of the currernt LDS position on homosexuality, one can reference the teachings of Joseph Smith himself on the nature of human sexuality and sexual unions.
When he proposed polygamous marriage to Nancy Rigdon, the young woman was morally horrifided and revolted. Joseph responded by teaching Nancy that “Happiniess is the object of our creation….God is more liberal in his views than we imagine….what is wrong in one instance, may be and often is right in another.”
These concepts were taught with regard to human sexuality. These statements by Mormonism’s foundder are virtually unknown by the rank and file LDS Church member, and they are ignored by LDS apologists.
I am not LDS, but a Reform Mormon, and therefore I accept that homosexuality is completely natural, that the natural man is a friend of God, and that happiness and companionship–not mere procreation–are the purpose of marriage.
As for the current LDS doctrine that spirits are begotten by a sexual uniion of a Heavenly Father and Mother, this doctrine was never even taught by Joseph; it was presented–via speculation–by Orson Pratt as a justoification for the LDS Church’s acceptance of polygamy. The book “LINE UPON LINE” published by Signature Books, contains an excellent essay on how this supposedly essential Mormon doctrine was never taught by Mormonism’s founder at all–but was introduced after his death.
Interesting perspective Rob (#34), I would be interested in the source for the Brigham Young approach to “The Natural Man.”
Personally I don’t see the LDS church changing course on SSA. Where there are some parallels with other big changes in doctrine, there is a big exception with SSA because there exists no nuanced view or distinctly unique perspective among the current leadership. With Polygamy, there existed leaders who dissented from polygamy in some public way. With Priesthood discrimination, there always existed inconsistancy, from Joseph Smith to J. Reuben Clark, Hugh B. Brown and Lowell Bennion, this eased the change.
The change in both these cases was not a substantive change. The first official declaration was not a change of doctrine, polygamy is still a dormant doctrine. Priesthood discrimination remains doctrinally based. We still have Section 132 and the Book of Abraham – the church has only changed the practice of the faith, not the doctrine.
What Dallin Oakes is saying, and the proclamation on the family is doing is drawing the line in the sand that will make faith in revelation more difficult when science continues to draw conclusions that are contrary to that doctrine.
For me, this is troubling; however, I see the greatest challenge is the emphasis on the historicity of the Book of Mormon has created a straw-man that says history is ‘this’, while losing focus on the inspiration that can be drawn from the Book.
Comments are closed.