Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Conference Controversy Follow-up

A more thoughtful consideration of the matter at hand.  Still a bit rough as I’m under the weather:

I've been considering for some time the best angle to examine the Boyd K. Packer talk.  As I don't see much change around the corner, it's convenient to just play it off as same ol', same ol'.  I only hope to offer some commentary and context that might otherwise go unnoticed.

boyd k packer

First of all, the majority of us can agree that Elder Packer's comments were anything but unexpected.  For years, his three main threats to faith have been presented as: the gay rights movement, feminism, and "so-called intellectuals."  In each case, an aspect of individualism somehow threatens the doctrine.  In the case of intellectualism, dependence on scientific evidence threatens the leaps of faith made by members.  Feminism and homosexuality, however, threaten the patriarchal male-female role definitions fused into the Church’s doctrine.  For instance, a man can be sealed (married for time and all eternity through LDS religious authority) to several women, whereas a woman can only be sealed to one man.  Women who challenge these ideas such as Sonia Johnson find themselves excommunicated along with proponents of same-sex marriage.

An profile at  The Mormon Curtain examines Packer's conservative record.  Those of you outside of the LDS Church or relatively younger are likely less familiar with some of the history associated with all of this.  In 1976, Packer oversaw the publication of the anti-masturbation pamphlet “To Young Men Only.”  In 1977, he counseled members to only marry their own race, emphasizing that differences in race threaten success.  Issues of race and sexuality aside, I take issue with the emphasis on “pure faith.”

grumpy_phariseeIn this, Packer's brand of Mormonism is Pharisaical.  One of his more cited quotes, esp. in regard to 19 year-old missionaries, is that “a testimony is found in the bearing of it.”  The implication here is subtle, though worrisome. 

In my own journey, I’ve found that this philosophy (I hesitate terming it doctrine) has strengthened many people in following what they believe.  Herein lays the hostility toward intellectualism.  One is supposed to rely more upon what one is told than experienced via reason and in some cases one’s own five senses.  As a missionary, I taught people to depend upon both and find a balance.  “Read the Book of Mormon.  See what it makes you feel.  Don’t act upon convenience.” 

I find myself in a similar position as those I taught.  I look for the good in people and ideas.  I have a testimony of equality, that the love of two people who can procreate is no greater than that of two people who cannot, and that the happiness and righteousness of one person should not be the destruction of another.  My testimony of these things comes from probing these ideas and living them rather than having them fed to me. 


At least within the Mormon tradition, Pharisees have been characterized as those following the Law of Moses to an excessive degree and emphasizing the outward aspects of worship such as being publicly perceived as obedient.  They also attempted to legislate morality, bringing laws from the Torah (and in many cases from tradition associated with scripture) into everyday life.  The most obvious and problematic correlation here is the Proposition 8/Gay Marriage debate. 

As some of the more hopeful gay Mormon bloggers have brought up, the question of “Why would our Heavenly Father make someone gay?” is the antecedent to the entire gay marriage debate and a question which has not been addressed in the past.  Regardless of the theological implications of the responses to that particular question, another supersedes it:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt alove the Lord thy God with all thy bheart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy cmind
38 This is the first and great acommandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt alove thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the alaw and the prophets (Matthew 22).

Unfortunately, this passage exemplifies the doctrinal ambiguity LGBT Mormons face on a daily basis.  On the one hand, our brothers and sisters are to devote their love to the Lord and on the other to their neighbors (A of F 1, 11). 

So it seems that these two commandments stand in conflict with one another.  If homosexuality is a trait acquired through a sinful life and that one is able to overcome such as Packer clearly states, then protecting gays and lesbians from themselves through legislation on the morality of consenting adults fits.  This stance, however, hangs on these last strings of doctrine. 

As science continues to prove homosexuality an innate trait in humans and as mothers and fathers raise their children under optimum spiritual conditions only to come to terms with their children’s homosexuality later in life, the intellectual, experiential evidence, again, stands to threaten Elder Packer’s worldview. 

Pride CenterAs his health declines and the old guard is replaced by the new, I tend to think that the rhetoric will be more measured and that the good done by so many different LGBT groups will even be recognized here in Utah—work to help the homeless, work to prevent discrimination, and work to treat all men and women as equals. 

For now, though, Elder Packer’s rhetoric should be treated as what it is: a hostile remnant of a bygone era similar to calls for racial purity and superiority that slowed to a trickle a generation ago.  These attitudes are a generational watershed of hate that trickle down to our youth.  As we cling to the idea that homosexuality can be cured, we teach a new generation not to love one another, but rather to hate ourselves—hate ourselves for being weak, for letting ourselves be influenced by Satan, for not being good enough parents, for letting our children slip away, and for letting ourselves accept our feelings and what our experiences tell us.  These attitudes result in the trauma that has fallen so many.  

Spirit Day

Should this continue, the leap of faith that so many youth will take will be nothing more than a fall into depression and suicide.  Take a moment now to remember that everyone is valued and that happiness comes from valuing others regardless of their beliefs and allowing them to find peace with themselves. 


Mister Curie said...

Thanks, GMB! A great analysis.

Carla Schmidt Holloway said...

With the evidence that the more homophobic a person is, the more likely they are to be gay themselves, what kind of perspective does this add to Packer's talk? Isn't it possible Packer is in the closet?

robert said...

You make me really proud. That was a profound and righteous analysis far beyond my quivering expectations.

I think Carla may well be on to something with the internalized homophobia; it occurred to me before. If I could be in the same room with him, I might have a much better sense of the possibility.

I hope your post is as widely read and linked as it should be.

robert said...

PS If this is what you produce when you are under the weather, watch out for some serious leadership roles in your future. Feel better.

Steevo said...

Very well put!

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