Friday, March 31, 2006

Homosexuality and Mormonism

As I look over what I've written on my blog since I launched it in late February, I see that I have never explicity stated my views on homosexuality even though I think my point of view has come through clearly in my blog posts and comments on other gay Mormon blogs. Because Mormonism has been such an important part of my life and has deeply impacted how I view the world and God, I think it makes sense for me to outline these views in a comparative way.

I'll start with where the LDS Church stands.

The Church posits that homosexuality is a challenge: a test or trial to be endured or a cross to bear. Homosexual inclinations or tendencies may not be chosen by those who experience them, but they should never be acted on. Homosexuality has no role in the Plan of Salvation except to frustrate it and efforts to normalize homosexuality and homosexual relations should be resisted at all levels--personal, societal, spiritual, and theological.

This approach finds expression in the language the church uses, even when it comes to the words used to describe the issue at hand. The euphemistic "same-sex attraction" or "same-gender attraction" are the preferred terms. "Gay" and "lesbian" and "homosexual" are never to be used as nouns and should not be the linguistic basis around which to build an identity.

The most authoritative direct statement on homosexuality comes in the form of an article by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, published in 1995. The most authoritative indirect statement is the Proclamation on the Family, issued in 1995 as well in part as a response to gay marriage initiatives in Hawaii and Alaska. Homosexuality is seen as a threat to the institution and doctrines of the family.

The Church tacitly supports organizations such as Evergreen International, which encourages (mostly) gay men to work to curb, control and overcome their same-sex attraction and is supportive of reparative therapy. Though the Church concedes that sexual orientation may never be overcome "in this life" (making it clear that it is an imperfection which will likely be corrected in the next), it also does not close the door on the possibility of change. This can be found in the statements of various church leaders, including in Elder Oaks's 1995 article, and in Church-published or Church-approved literature (including books such as Born That Way? and In Quiet Desperation. The message frequently delivered in Church statements and media is that to deny the possibility of change is to deny the power of the Atonement.

Theologically, there is no place for homosexuals in the Mormon conception of heaven--at least not at the highest level. A recent discussion on Times & Seasons illuminated the theological obstacles to accepting homosexuality as anything other than, at best, defective. The underlying assumption in Mormon thought is that homosexual behavior (i.e., sex) is always sinful and that even homosexual thoughts and desires, while not chosen, should be controlled and resisted.

Mormon thinking on homosexuality has evolved over the years. In one of his most famous books, The Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer W. Kimball compares homosexuality to bestiality and describes it as a sin against nature, almost as severe as murder. Homosexuality was assumed to be a chosen behavior rather than an innate orientation. Homosexual men were often encouraged to marry as a way to "cure" their homosexual inclinations. These are no longer features of the Church's official posture on the issue, though remnants of these ideas linger in Mormon culture. Mormons tend to reduce the question of homosexuality to sexual desire.

I take a different view and reject most of this.

I believe that homosexual orientation is innate, unchosen, immutable and morally neutral.

Because I believe that orientation is immutable, I am largely unconcerned about its causes. That said, I think there is ample evidence that orientation has deep roots in biology and genetics.

Homosexuality is a minority expression of normal, healthy human sexuality. Homosexuals are most likely to find genuine and lasting happiness and mental health by embracing and accepting their sexuality and integrating it fully into their personal identities. This includes opening oneself to the possibility of giving and receiving love--emotional and sexual--to another of the same sex. Resisting one's homosexual orientation is largely an unhealthy exercise in futility and can be emotionally damaging. The American Psychiatric Association suggests that reparative therapy is ineffective and can be detrimental to the patient.

I believe that committed homosexual relationships are the moral equivalent of committed heterosexual relationships. Promiscuity, infidelity and deception are always sinful, whether indulged in in heterosexual or homosexual relationships. I do not believe that homosexuality need be a barrier to deep religious faith or a connection to God. To the contrary, my own experience tells me that denying one's homosexuality can in fact alienate one from God.

As it is currently understood and articulated by those in authority in the Mormon Church, I cannot reconcile with LDS doctrine a view of homosexuality as morally neutral and homosexual relationships as valid and righteous--at least not as it pertains to exaltation. I suggest that the gap that exists, however, is a manifestation of a deficiency in LDS theology resulting from a deep societal and cultural bias against homosexuality, particularly among men of the generation that lead the Church.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
howller said...

Three cheers. Beautifully written and articulated. Thank you.

Dave Walter said...

Hurricane, that really is an excellent post. Thanks for writing it and for providing all the links.

Elbow said...

I think your post is brilliant.
I feel the same way that you do.
I understand what you are saying and I respect you for living your life in a way that you feel best represents your views. I am trying to do that.
Thank you for being so accessible. Your example to me is worth so much to me.

-L- said...

Loved this, hurc. Loved it.

Of course, I have plenty I want to add, but I'll try to do it in the form of a post of my own rather than hijacking your comments. :) Boy am I behind on my blogging!

BJB said...

No wish to derail, but it is often posited that sexuality is immutable, innate, et cetera. This appears to be true in the case of every gay person I know, but I remain skeptical of such claims as standing propositions. Perhaps this is the libertarian in me speaking, but must it be taken as an absolute that one could not choose to be gay?

As a corollary, must an effeminate man or a masculine woman be gay?

I'm aware of the marginalizing dangers that come from such questions---once the notion of choice enters the picture, even as a possibility, it theoretically denigrates the biological/inherent nature of the gayness most homosexuals experience---but my experience with binaries such as the gay/straight divide is that they are rarely accurate. And that part of me concerned with individual liberty worries that people fitting (or not fitting) stereotypes are forced by this kind of belief into roles and behaviors that they would not otherwise choose---in a way not unlike the "forcing" that has been thrust upon biological homosexuals for millenia.

My personal belief is that the dominance of the biological homosexuality narrative is informed largely by the oppressive culture in which we operate: since the culture erects so many emotional and social barriers to entry, such as we may call them (no pun intended), it is no wonder that by and large, only those with the strongest of biological imperatives will overcome those barriers. Remove those barriers, and perhaps gayness as as choice becomes a viable option.

I guess what I'm asking is, do we believe Kinsey? Or is this just a semantics problem? Is Hurricane merely positing that gayness as experienced by those who "are" gay is innate, but that he will not begrudge someone elsewhere on the Kinsey spectruem who chooses gayness (or straightness), for whatever reason?

Also, as to the Mormonism piece, I borrow from the rhetoric of a friend of mine to say the True and Living Church of Mormonism does not agree with the institutional LDS Church on these issues.

Chris said...

Perhaps this is the libertarian in me speaking, but must it be taken as an absolute that one could not choose to be gay?

You raise an interesting point, bjb.

I have a friend who has argued that choice really shouldn't matter. If a man chooses to partner with another man, he should have that right, regardless of the biological imperative or whether or not the state of his sexual orientation is fixed or fluid.

I actually am sympathetic to this argument. And I think there are people (mostly female, it seems) who reside somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey scale. Such people should be as free to choose with whom they will partner every bit as much as those who reside on the far ends of the scale.

Thanks for joining the conversation, friend.

-L- said...

So, I posted a comment on my blog. I hope you aren't averse to this method of response, hurc. Thanks for the post!

http://ardentmormon.blogspot.com/2006/04/long-comment.html

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that trying to ask the Lord is never brought up in these gay Mormon blogs. Has anyone tried to ask the Lord what the Lord says, rather than what the Church says, or what countless volumes of literature says?

"Do what you feel" is repeated over and over. "Do what feels good, even though it doesn't jive with the core doctrine you know to be true." Yet, isn't that what Satan wants for us? To do what is easy and carnal? I know I'm not changing anyone's mind. I used to have homosexual inclinations, but I chose to put off the natural man. I love the Lord most of all. And I want to do everything He wants me to do. The Lord knows best, and He is my teammate.

Chris said...

anonymous,

First, I have written here about how I feel the affirmation of God in choosing a new path. You either haven't read that, or you are conveniently ignoring it.

Second, I don't delete comments that present opposite viewpoints on my blog. You are welcome to post here and engage in conversation. You'll get a lot further with me, however, if you bring your presumptuous self righteousness down several notches.