Bridging the Homosexuality Divide- An LDS Perspective

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Homosexuality and the church has again entered the public eye.

I’m hoping I can throw some compassion on this polarizing topic here by reminding LDS people to be loving, civil non-dogmatic, understanding and not so quick to make up excuses or use self righteous language.  It might help us in this aim to remember that similar polarized arguments accompanied the 1870’s cultural issues of Mormon polygamy, slavery abolition, and the 1960’s issues of African American intermarriage and civil equality and later priesthood equality.

We should remember that because polygamy unwittingly legitimizes lesbian acts among plural wives, Mormon’s were actually the first religious and political group in America to legally sanction the redefinition of marriage to include a type of same sex couples.

And let’s always keep in mind this aspect of our history…

LDS first presidency letter and policy concerning blacks and the priesthood.

LDS first presidency letter and policy concerning blacks and the priesthood.

 

Compare this to even just the first paragraph of the Church’s new Gospel Topics essay on Race and the Priesthood, and you can see that Church policy & doctrine changes according to the needs of the times enough that we need not be dogmatic in our explanations. It’s not always readily apparent to ecclesiastical leaders what the Spirit has in store for the world or a given culture. Not that I’m advocating ignoring or opposing LDS leaders. But it does mean LDS members and leaders should be careful being too dogmatic or self righteous in our discussions about the inspiration behind church policy. It takes time for EVERYONE to find and implement the highest light. We should be careful about making up our own justifications and excuses or using “the prophet is always right” or “God said so” language. We should remember that similar policies have officially changed and been disavowed in the past–and others haven’t, and we simply don’t know what will come of this issue. So instead of being upset about it just civilly voice your favor or disfavor (and be patient with church leaders as they go through the process of figuring out whats right – something that sometimes takes decades).

Lets remember Christ’s Sermon on the Mound instead of making appeals to divisive and self-righteous scriptures like “the wheat and the tares”, the “division in the last days”, Christ came to “bring a sword” or other scriptures that are constantly used to justify and defend mean-spirited behavior.

Lets remember D&C 121:41–42 where we are instructed that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness and pure knowledge…”  That means using persuasion through christ-like attributes instead of appealing to religious priesthood authority such as saying “follow the church leaders because their inspired positions”, or “I know we’re right because we have a prophet!”.  Such arguments only come across as self-righteous and consequently breed division and apostasy (such as the above brash quote by the First Presidency suggesting Church policy on Blacks and the Priesthood would never change).

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Instead, we can use gentleness and love to start by apologizing to those who are hurt, and acknowledging any part we might play in that hurt.  We can use reason to explain that church policies change according to what the church seems to need or is ready for at the moment, so society and members should be patient with each other as we feel our way through these new issues of civil rights.

Regardless of what happens we should be empathetic and understanding. We should remember the advice of Scott H. Swofford and fellow LDS researchers in starting the “I’m a Mormon Campaign who found that to dispel cultural bigotry against Mormons,

“that the most powerful myth-dispelling force was personal exposure to the lives of members”. They learned that “people need five to 10 exceptions in their lives before they will adjust their misconceptions…“.

In light of empathy, I think it is extremely helpful to watch the life stories of 5 to 10 homosexual individuals before deciding how best to respond to arguments surrounding the issue. Look at them as if they were your son/daughter or brother/sister (since it might someday be).

Then, and only then can we be in a position to have a Christlike discussion on how to

1- Best promote marriages which produce offspring, without demeaning or belittling those with same-sex attraction or other sterile unions.
2-How to best fulfill religion’s role to polarize those who straddle the fence or middle ground of the Kinsey Hetero-homosexual rating scale without unfairly relegating those who decidedly occupy the ends of that spectrum.
3-How to fairly give some types of special privilege (or “divine sanctity” in religious terms) to childbearing unions, without demeaning or making homosexuals feel persecuted, belittled or restricted.

I believe we could find real consensus on this issue, if we could just learn to speak to each other more respectfully “without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:42) .

Given our history of Polygamy and that Brigham Young went as far as to say in 1855 that non-polygamous marriages “were damned”; and that before 1978 apostles taught African Americans could not enter the temple, be sealed, endowed or be “celestially” married in Mormonism—and that leaders led an electric shock program at BYU to attempt to “change” sexual orientation (which failed miserably)—- I think we should always consider our current leaders words in the light of the advice in Acts 5:34–39. Remembering that God wants every member to speak in his name (D&C 1:20; Num 11:29). That every member is worthy revelation just as our leaders (D&C 68:3–5), and that it is possible that the Lord’s inspiration given to our leaders might be more a reflection of what members are willing to receive, than what the Heavenly Church is actually wanting to give (Jacob 4:14, Alma 29:4) .

Even if leaders or members feel strongly that Heaven requires a divine distinction be maintained between unions which produce offspring and homosexual unions, we can still end the self-righteousness and dogma and approach this topic from a place of complete respect empathy and love. One which makes both sides feel like they have the rights, love and acceptance they deserve.

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A few glimpses into the lives of fellow LGBT LDS members. Please watch!

This should make us all a bit sorry…

see also http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/03/31/what-c-s-lewis-marriage-can-tell-us-about-the-gay-marriage-controversy/31512