I'm frequently asked why I haven't yet posted anything on this blog about this business of gay marriage. I suppose that's because I'm concerned here primarily with topics that have something to do with my religion, and since my religion hasn't had anything to say about homosexuality one way or the other, I don't have much to say about it either.
To be sure, plenty of my fellow Saints have strong feelings against homosexuality, and gay marriage in particular. Some of these outspoken members even hold positions of authority within the Church hierarchy. But the opinions of members, regardless of rank, are not the same as a revelation from God himself, so none of them are doctrinal or binding on the church. We are not supposed to be guided by the opinions of men, but rather by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
As a believing latter-day Saint, I see no reason to become overly exercised regarding something the Lord has not yet seen fit to weigh in on. God has expressed himself on many things that should be of concern to us in these latter days, but on this particular topic He has been conspicuously silent.
Since our founding in 1830, what has made us unique among all other Christian denominations has been the claim that our doctrines are obtained solely through revelations. That is the salient point I taught as a missionary in the first discussion: "Ever since that time, Mr. Brown," I testified, "The Lord has had a prophet on the earth to guide us and teach us his will regarding the important issues of our day."
If we are to take seriously our claim of a religion based on divine revelation, then we ought to stop parroting the tired objections of the sectarian churches on this matter and look to what God himself has revealed in the latter-days. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, but for some reason, the Book of Mormon does not address either homosexuality or same sex marriage. Neither is there anything about it in the Doctrine and Covenants, nor in any of the prolific speeches and writings of the prophet Joseph Smith
I haven't been able to find one single revelation from any of the latter-day prophets that would instruct us on the position we should take concerning the joining of one man to another in matrimony. There doesn't seem to be anything at all regarding same sex attraction. Is it possible this isn't one of the issues that concerns God as much as it seems to consume us? Given God's relative silence on the matter, we should at least consider that possibility.
We have no shortage of statements on the subject delivered in talks by general authorities, but none that I can find that claim to be revelations from God. Some members point to The Proclamation on the Family as an example of a latter-day revelation, but that is not a revelation. It's a position paper.
There are indeed a couple of instances where homosexuality is condemned in the old testament, but since when did we Mormons start taking our marching orders from a book which the prophet Nephi warned us would be a stumbling block in our day? A primary purpose for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, according to Nephi, Mormon, Moroni, and others, was as a corrective to the errors and misinterpretations which are present throughout the bible.
Many bible verses often used to prove God's condemnation of homosexuality do not hold up upon closer inspection. The King James Version of the bible is particularly rife with translations of words to which many have pegged inaccurate definitions. What should be of utmost concern, however, is that in none of these oft cited verses is the Lord himself being quoted. Since when did latter-day Saints start believing in the inerrancy of the bible? Others may declare that every word of the bible is the literal word of God, but we're expected to know better.
In many areas where the bible is in harmony with God's will, the Book of Mormon confirms those teachings. But it is an article of our faith that much of what has come down to us in the bible has been mistranslated and corrupted. A simple reading of Leviticus and Deuteronomy should convince anyone that much of what is contained therein is of no more value than the Code of Hammurabi. Why then are so many good latter-day Saints hung up on obscure bible verses, placing them front and center as though to define our creed?
For all I know, Gay marriage may be an egregious sin. But that's just the problem. I don't know. I have no way of knowing God's mind on this matter because God has not seen fit to reveal anything about it. So until he does, I think my wisest course is to continue to treat others the way I would wish to be treated. And that means abiding by the golden rule. Live and let live.
Recently on Facebook I shared a simple article by a writer who had decided his attitude toward homosexuals was less than Christlike, and wrote about his decision to stop being so condescending toward them. I was surprised by the firestorm of responses that resulted from my sharing that simple piece which I thought was fairly uncontroversial.
That thread triggered a lively discussion regarding what the bible actually has to say on the subject, and since most of the comments on both sides of the issue were intelligent, civil, and very informative, I would recommend those wanting a clearer understanding of what the bible has to say to check out that conversation here .
Of particular interest, I should think, are the bible verses that have become a stumbling block to us in our day, including the actual meanings of the words translated as "fornication," "effeminate," and the nearly indecipherable Greek phrase translated into English by the King James translators as "abusers of themselves with mankind." I still marvel that so many people who claim to revere the bible continue to believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the sin of homosexuality. Hasn't anyone read Ezekiel? He tells us plainly that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were the cruel way they treated their poor. Nephi reiterates the warning of Ezekiel concerning Sodom, and it is a warning many Mormons tend to ignore these days. We'd rather be searching around finding fault with others than looking to our own sins.
I Agree With The Duck Dynasty Guy
I don't know much about this guy Phil Robertson, also known as the Duck Commander, and I have not followed everything he has said. So I'm not endorsing everything he said recently that has caused such a row, but I do identify with this statement:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That's just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”That pretty much sums up my own point of view. Same sex attraction does not strike me as logical. You can mark me down as favoring the vagina.
In the words of the Duck Commander, that's just me.
But that's not everybody. As it happens, some men don't share my appreciation for lady parts. As difficult as it may be for people like me and the Duck Commander to grasp, to some men the vagina is a repulsive thing with no more appeal than the mouth of a squid. I know, because that's how I've had it described to me by a gay friend who was permanently scarred after looking at one up close. He reported it as being as horrifying to him as the creature from Alien.
By the way, if there are any children present, you might want to have them leave the room. At the very least, you should probably stop reading this to your children out loud.
How I Learned To Stop Hatin' On Homos
I certainly do not think all gays and lesbians are angels. Some of the most obnoxious and self-absorbed people I've known happen to have been homosexuals. But also some of the kindest, most accepting people I've known have been homosexuals, so go figure. A sizable number of obnoxious and self-absorbed people in my life happened to be heterosexuals, so it would appear that sexual orientation doesn't seem to have much to do with whether or not a person is a jerk. Acting like a jerk is what makes a person a jerk.
Connie and I have a handful of gay friends who we love in a way that would have seemed inconceivable to either of us just a few short years ago. One of them lives in Salt Lake City and we love her deeply. And when I say we love her, I mean either one of us would literally take a bullet for this girl. It would be impossible for us to find fault with her because the three of us have bonded spiritually. It would never occur to me to define our friend by her sexual orientation any more than she defines me by mine.
I was dismayed to hear how angrily some in the LGBT community demanded A&E cancel the Duck Dynasty show just because some guy said something they don't agree with. I'm just as opposed to that kind of bullying as I am when I see my fellow Saints invoking God's name as justification for treating others with disdain. Since when did we decide that when someone says something we don't like, that person should be forced to go away? Why not engage them in dialogue? That way if you can't persuade them, at least you'll better understand where they're coming from.
The biggest problem we now have between some Mormons and their gay nemeses is that neither side wants to recognize the divine in the other. Wouldn't it be better if we could have our differences and still respect the other person's right to their feelings? The Lord said to his people through Isaiah, "Come, and let us reason together." We don't have to adopt the other person's view, but we should respect his right to express it.
Like a great majority of Mormons, I used to believe wholeheartedly that homosexuality was a choice. That was the official position of my Church, and that's what I accepted as truth. (Note: this was the position of the Church, not the expressly revealed position of the Lord.)
I'll admit this business of same sex attraction is a mystery to me. I don't understand it; I can't fathom what makes some people "that way." But I'll tell you what I am now absolutely convinced of: homosexuality is not a choice. Those who are attracted to members of their own sex did not "choose" to have those awkward desires. Many would rather be dead than queer, and sadly too many young people have been so desperate to escape their own natures that they have unnecessarily taken their own lives. A gay man or woman can no more choose to turn heterosexual than you and I can suddenly "choose" to become gay, and only a fool would believe same sex attraction can be "cured" at will.
The way I came around to understanding, accepting, and respecting those with same sex attraction is the same way a lot of others have. I got to know a young man who was gay, and I learned to love and accept him in spite of his "difference."
Actually, I've known this kid for quite some time. I was present when my wife gave birth to him.
I'm not going to go into how agonizing it was for my son to come to terms with his own nature. Suffice to say that throughout his teen years he despised himself for what he was. He tried to change who and what he was, and desperately fought an internal battle to become "normal." Goodness knows girls found him attractive, so he would have had no trouble being straight if it were only possible to wish it so. Eventually Michael came to terms with who he is, and learned at long last that God did not hate him. God loves him. I'm convinced there is nothing "wrong" with my son. Not one thing.
That's why I am dismayed when I hear of otherwise good latter-day Saint parents turning their gay children out into the street to forage and starve. This is happening way too often. It's estimated that 40 percent of the five thousand homeless teenagers on the street in Utah are gay, and most of them are there only because their parents kicked them out for being gay. Somehow these parents allowed their perceived religious conditioning to convince them that abandoning their own children was what God would have them do.
If there is an opposite to being Christlike, that would define it, in my opinion. This is a tragedy. It is callowness of the worst kind. I fear for such people at the judgment.
The Right To Contract
Back when the LDS Church was actively encouraging its members to support California's Proposition 8 -the proposal to define marriage as between one man and one woman- I opened up my Sunday paper, the Sacramento Bee, and saw a prominent feature story about an LDS family that lived about 11 miles from me over in Folsom. What I read made my heart sink. The story told of the Patterson family's response to the call from their church to donate money to help pass prop 8, and how they had obediently turned over their entire life savings of $50,000 to the cause.
The Patterson family was not particularly well-off. They had a modest home and drove a 10 year old Honda. But by living frugally, they had managed to save enough money for their children's future missions and college educations. Now they heard the call from their Church to contribute regarding what they obviously thought was a call from the Lord, and just like that, their money was gone. Evaporated into nothing for a cause that anyone with a modicum of foresight could see would never succeed.
I sat there reading that article knowing that no amount of money would ever make a difference because ultimately the question of gay marriage is the same as traditional marriage. Marriage has nothing to do with obtaining permission from the government, from a church, or from anywhere else. It is about the right to contract, and no government has the right to impair a contract willingly entered into by any two competent adults. Proposition 8 could very well pass (and it did), but the rights of any two people to contract to cohabit would not be affected by its passage.
The Pattersons weren't thinking about this, of course. They had confused the opinions of some at Church headquarters with the immutable will of God, and firmly believed their life savings was going to have something to do with building up the kingdom and putting evil underfoot. Because the Church had asked this sacrifice of them, God was surely behind it. Their money would contribute to a victory for the powers of Heaven.
What the Pattersons failed to realize was that God had issued no revelation to the president of the Church instructing him on support for proposition 8 or predicting a political victory. There had been no revelation given to anyone commanding him to mobilize the Saints. This project was initiated by mere mortal men, the same men who set out without any instructions from God to use Church money to construct a multi-billion dollar shopping center in the heart of Salt Lake City during a time when most potential customers were experiencing financial hardship.
I wonder when the Saints will start asking the pertinent questions that should be asked of the Brethren every time something like this is proposed: "Where is the accompanying revelation? When did God authorize you to take this action or require this sacrifice from us?"
How will the Petersons survive without that nest egg they so carefully accumulated if Brother Peterson loses his job? They, along with countless other faithful members, were goaded into throwing away their inheritance by men who had received no instructions from God asking them to do so.
And now I read how many members of the Church in Utah are up in arms about the federal ruling which requires Utah to recognize same-sex marriages. They are in a revolutionary fervor, convinced that God will reward their efforts and lead them to victory. But I ask again: where is the revelation? How do they know God wants this battle fought?
Nullification Is To Be Used Against Tyranny
Doubtless you've heard of Trestin Meacham, the Utah man in the middle of a hunger strike until the state of Utah overturns the ruling recognizing gay marriage. He points to the doctrine of nullification as reason why Utah can stop gay marriages from being recognized in Utah.
But Trestin does not understand the doctrine. I am all for seeing states nullify federal law. I've been a vocal part of the nullification movement myself for some years. But the doctrine of nullification does not apply here. If the federal government had decreed that Trestin Meacham must marry another man, or even that he must marry a particular woman; if the federal government had stepped in and declared that gay marriages -or any marriages- would be prohibited, or that the LDS Church is hereafter required to perform gay marriages, then the people of Utah would have standing to rise up and nullify those laws, as they do any time the government oversteps its bounds.
But the government is not attempting to impose a law on Trestin Meacham or on anyone else. It is not restricting anyone's rights. It is merely declaring that the same right to contract which Trestin Meacham enjoys with his wife cannot be withheld from others. This ruling should be of no concern to Trestin Meacham because it does not affect Trestin Meacham. To quote Thomas Jefferson, such a law "neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
That particular federal ruling represented an expansion of rights, not a restriction of rights. If you want to see the proper and effective use of nullification, look no further than Colorado, Utah's next door neighbor. The federal government has declared the use and possession of marijuana to be a criminal offense. The people of Colorado passed a law that said, in effect, "We don't care what laws you pass. Our bodies belong to us. We nullify your silly decree and will do with our own bodies as we wish."
Some folks are concerned about Trestin Meacham's hunger strike and are worried that he could do permanent damage to himself if he continues. But I say Brother Meacham has every right to do with his body whatever he wants. Perhaps one day he'll learn that right belongs to everyone.
Update: As I write this I have just learned that the Supreme Court has issued a stay regarding issuing licenses for same sex marriages in Utah, and Trestin Meacham is now further abusing his body by gorging on pizza.
What Charity Means
Charity means much more than simply giving money to the poor. What it means is having a heart pure enough to recognize that every one of us is on our own perfect path. Charity means we allow others to find their own way. The Lord does not permit us to interfere with choices anyone else makes. No matter how repugnant and off-putting another's lifestyle may appear to us, we are required by the laws of heaven to let them be. Charity means we all get to live and let live.
Some of us Mormons tend to be overly concerned about the morality of others. If God had wanted us to get worked up about what other people are doing with their genitals, I think He would have given us those orders by now. In the entire bible, the few verses purporting to do with homosexuality don't even claim to be quoting God. So why are we hanging on them?
How To Take A Stand Against Gay Marriage
This may offend some people, but I'll say it anyway. I don't care for Homosexuality. It is not for me. So here's what I've decided to do about it: I make it a point to refrain from participating in homosexual acts. Every chance I get.
This is the method I have chosen that I feel would best protect the sanctity of my marriage. I'm happy to announce that my courageous stand has met with the approval of a grateful and relieved wife.
That is the limit to what God allows me to do. He does not permit me to interfere in the lives of others, regardless of how unsavory I might find their behavior. I am permitted to choose only what I will do with my own genitals. I am not charged with jurisdiction over yours.
Since the Restoration of the gospel began in 1820, God has had 194 years to tell us his thoughts about gay marriage. The fact that he hasn't said anything about it suggests to me this is not quite the issue with Him that some of us think it should be.
January 2014 Announcements!
Come Let Us Reason Together
I suspect this post will engender some vigorous discussion on both sides of this issue, so I ask only that you remain civil and try to keep your emotions in check. And please try to avoid posting as "Anonymous" because in no time the comment page will be crawling with people named Anonymous and it becomes impossible to know who is responding to who. Please use the drop-down box labeled "Name/Url" but if you must use Anonymous, please sign off with a user name in the body of the post to differentiate yourself from all the other people arguing under the same name.
And on the subject of arguments, Duke University is offering a free 12 week
course entitled "Think Again! How To Reason and Argue" beginning January 13th. I think a lot of latter-day Saints could benefit from learning to articulate their point of view. Getting a firm foundation in reason, logic, and common sense will also help protect you from government, media, and yes even religious figures who would try to manipulate your emotions for their own ends. Learn to spot the weaknesses and fallacies in your own arguments and become more persuasive when presenting your point of view. You can even earn a verified certificate from Duke University, and none of it will cost you a cent.
"The Ally Within" is a short talk presented at TED by John Dehlin, telling his story of conversion from a typical latter-day Saint with typical Mormon attitudes toward homosexuals, to one who came to understand Christ's lessons of charity toward all mankind. John Dehlin is the quintessential Mormon. If all latter-day Saints were like him, most of the problems the modern church is currently facing would disappear.
The Passing of a Favorite Scholar
I just learned of the death of Richard Price on New Years Day. Brother Price was the co-author with his wife of the two volume work, "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy,"a book that has had a profound impact on my own personal quest for truth. In spite of having suffered a stroke two years back, Brother Price continued to post additional chapters free online under volume II. Richard's wife will continue to post additional research which you can obtain for free online here.
Rock On The Radio
Last week I was the guest on K-Talk Radio's Paul Duane Show in Salt Lake City. You can access and download a podcast of that show by clicking here.