Friday, August 18, 2006 "interview" on homosexuality

Because I know it won't be good for me, I'm not planning on commenting extensively on this interview-like interview that has been posted on the LDS Church's website. But since this is a blog that explores the gay Mormon experience, I feel some obligation to link to it.

Suffice it to say that as a gay man who feels alienated from the Church in part because of this issue, this interview has done nothing to draw me closer. Just the opposite.


Anonymous said...

just had time to read the first question in that interview, but i'm worried. trying to make us feel sorry for that anti-gay preacher doesn't work. when i read about anti-gay advocates being pistle-whipped and left to die or pushed to suicide, then i'll reconsider elder oaks argument. around 1970 the church issed a statement in response to growing public outcrys against its racist doctrine. the statement said something like this, 'we too know something of persecution...' to compare a few decades of persecution [most of it precipitated by illegal 'marriages'], with centuries of the enslavement of an entire population, was offensive then and remains offensive today in its current incorporation in the gay marriage debate.

-L- said...

Chris, you've totally stolen my thunder. I was planning to write more on that interview... [sigh]. :)

I think it's completely reasonable and compelling for the church to be concerned about violations of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. "Anti-gay" is a great term to get people worked up, but it's precisely this kind of imprecise language that misrepresents the church's actual position.

Chris said...

L: Who is using the term "anti-gay" here?

-L- said...

Uh... look one more time and you'll see santorio just did.

Chris said...

Missed that. But he's not talking about the LDS Church, is he?

And anyway, I think "anti-gay" is an accurate description of the institutional church, as given voice by Elders Oaks and Wickman.

-L- said...

Case in point... you want to make it all combative when all he's said is that a preacher was prohibited from preaching that gay sex is wrong. It wasn't hate speech, it wasn't promoting policy, it was merely talking about doctrine. Freedoms were taken away in that instance, and it's not inconsequential.

Whether in the mormon church or whatever institutional church you want to get worked about, equiovocating about it serves to rally the troops, not actually carefully note that there's a valid point being made.

Chris said...

Sorry, I had to go back and look at the first question and now I'm clear on who the "anti-gay" preacher is.

But, anyway, L--let's talk about that preacher. He's condemning gay sex and homosexuality. That seems to me to be the very definitiion of anti-gay. I don't think santorio was saying anything combative or provocative. I think he was stating the obvious and trying to make a point.

Plus, we have no real sense for what the reference being made to is and, frankly, I'm not willing to take just Elder Oaks's account of what really happened in this context. I don't know what the preacher said, and neither do you. If he said, "Tne Bible forbids gay sex" and that's it, then, whatever. If he said, "The Bible forbids gay sex and we ought to go exterminate the homos," that would be a different matter.

-L- said...

I wasn't saying santorio is combative (I'll save such frank criticisms until I know him better!:), I was referring to you. You skim over the details of the proposed scenario and then assume the worst about the minister(there was no mention of being anti-homosexual in the biological inclination sense) and the worst about Oaks (who has a valid point regardless of the historical specifics).

I mean, come on. Can't you try just a little harder to see someone else's point of view, even if it's mine, your blog cranky-pants?

Gay4Good said...

I believe that Mr. Oaks is refering to a pastor in Sweden, Ake Green, who was charged under a new hate speech law but was acquitted.

Here is a summary of the case:

And here is a translation of his sermon:

Green basically argues people choose to be gay; gays caused AIDS; and Sweden will be punished for allowing same-sex domestic partnerships...

I won't bother with the first 2 "arguments" however, regarding same-sex domestic parnerships, the facts are that in the 16 to 17 years that Sweden has had same-sex dp's, heterosexual marriage has increased in Sweden and the divorce rate has also declined.

"[I]t is important to address the 'slippery slope' argument, which contends that the recognition of same-sex marriage would start a dangerous movement towards legal recognition of socially unacceptable relationships. This has not happened in Scandinavia. Seventeen years of recognition of same-sex marriage rights has not led to any calls for recognition of polygamy, incestual marriage, marriage to animals or other types of relationships that are often tied to the 'slippery slope' argument."

This quote is from an article found here:

And the book that combs over the data from Sweden, "Gay Marriage: for Better or for Worse?: What We've Learned from the Evidence" can be found here:

Chris said...


I can see the other point of view. I have not accused Elder Oaks of homophobia. I have not attacked his logic. It is consistent with LDS teaching and practice. I think Elder Oaks is probably a very good man who thinks he has my best interests at heart. Fine. Good. Lovely. It doesn't change the fact that what he presents in this little Q&A is anti-gay. Mormon doctrine is anti-gay.

And I was not assuming the worst about the minister or Elder Oaks. I was merely stating the obvious--we don't really know much about what really happened in this example, do we? I could have been something less sinister than what Elder Oaks was suggesting. (Thanks to gay4good for posting the rest of the story.)

As for the charge of "skimming" over the scenario--I just didn't remember that part of the Q&A. Frankly, it just wasn't something that registered. I was more concerned about the suggestion from Elders Oaks and Wickman that we protect the kids and the family reputation by making sure that the gay son knows that his partner isn't welcome for the holidays or any family events. (Ok, now THAT was combative.)

Gay4Good said...

I think the most interesting part of Green's sermon is his opening statement:

"Is homosexuality genetic or an evil force that plays mind games with people? I am well aware that this subject is charged and controversial -- and it has become so even in Christian circles. I have not sought support for my thoughts from the Word of God. Rather, the Word of God has given me the thoughts I will present here today. I will bring up the subject of homosexuality, but also the relationship to Christian homosexuals."

What is key is that Green bases his sermon on what "the Word of God" has "given" him and not the actual historical and scientifically measurable facts about homosexuality.

In turn Mr. Oaks essentially makes the same statement at the beginning of his "Same-Gender Attraction" article. He is concerned that the LDS church could some day be forced to only acknowledge the facts about homosexuality instead of being able "to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach."

I'm all for freedom of speech and find what happened with Green in Sweden a distrubing case of the government over-reaching. At the same time my response to Mr. Oaks arguments is this:

"Yes, irrational religious ideas are controllable. Perhaps there is an inclination or susceptibility to truly believe such irrational ideas and this is a reality for some and not a reality for others. But out of such susceptibilities come feelings and beliefs and feelings and beliefs are controllable.

If we simply cater to these feelings and beliefs, they increase the power of these irrational, self-righteous temptations. If we yield to these temptations, we have committed egregiously irrational behavior, behavior that is not based on reality ant the truth.
And this behavior that could be egregiously harmful to individuals and society as a whole.

This pattern is the same for a person that covets someone else’s property and has a strong temptation to steal. It’s the same for a person that develops a taste for alcohol. It’s the same for a person that is born with a ‘short fuse,’ as we would say of a susceptibility to anger. If they let that susceptibility remain uncontrolled, it becomes a feeling of anger, and a feeling of anger can yield to behavior that is sinful, illegal or dangerous to the heatlth of individuals and to society.

When it comes to irrational religious beliefs we’re not talking about a unique challenge here. We’re talking about a common condition of mortality. We don’t understand exactly the ‘why,’ or the extent to which there are inclinations to be stubbornly irrational or why some people are more susceptible to be stubbornly irrational and so on. But what we do know is that irrational beliefs and feelings can be controlled and the behavior behind promoting these beliefs can be controlled. The line of sin is between the irrational feelings and promoting and acting on these irrational feelings/beliefs: the behavior of promoting these feelings/beliefs. The line of prudence is between the susceptibility and the feelings. We need to lay hold on the feelings and try to control them to keep us from getting into a circumstance that leads to sinful behavior that hurts individuals and society as a whole."

I think the real question and most interesting question to ask is why do people contiue to have irrational beliefs about homosexuality? Why can they not look at the facts? Why are some people more susceptible to believe what some "religious authority" has to say on the matter than what their own exprience is and what science and history has to say on the matter?

I think this is a truly profound and important question.

-L- said...

"Irrational, irrational, irrational." I'll keep repeating it over and over and over with my eyes closed and my fingers pressed securely against my temples until your PROFOUNDLY clever insights sink in.

Nope, still gay and Mormon. Still aware of the same information I was before. Still relatively well informed on the topics of homosexuality, religion, and logic. I don't know what exactly it is you think I'm missing.

Chris, we both know the sense in which the church is anti-gay, but I'm gay and it has no problem with me. So there's a sense that it's inaccurate. I can see how you (along with so many others) want to use the term for its divisiveness. But, that point was a minor one I probably shouldn't have even made, and quite far afield from what I appreciated about Oaks' point about religious freedoms.

Oh, wise and rational ones, what is the solution to my problem believing as I do that reproduction is the purpose of the reproductive system? Please emphasize for me the irrationality of my ways? Please tell me how science and history and experience have so emphatically denied this seemingly rational view.

Tell me more about how you're "all for" free speech... What about free religion? All for that, or should we throw the constitution out the window?

The problem here isn’t between the rational non-prejudiced pro-gay camp and the horribly backward religious fools. To the extent you feel it is, you’re not so smart. The issue is a genuinely difficult one with few easy answers. There are many "truly important questions" but most of them require us to ask them of ourselves and not others.

Anonymous said...

okay, i'll retract the phrase 'anti-gay preacher' and restate my point. elder oaks' answer used phrases such as 'unrelenting pressure... advocates quick to demand... silence them by applying labels... threatened with prison...' all of which make it appear that the church and its conservative religion allies are under attack by 'advocates of that lifestyle' [in the phrase favored by nauvoo posters, the gay agenda]. i doubt that the church pastor was threatened in prison--certainly not in sweden!--but it makes reader feel sorry for the poor pastor who was just doing his job.
it may be good pr to put yourself in the position of the persecuted, but as i said, in the historical context of gay persecution, this preacher just doesn't rank. my analogy with the race issue stands: the persecution suffered by the church, though tragic and extensive, cannot compare with that experienced through centuries of enslavement of a population. being called homophobic is not the same as being pistol-whipped. so my objection so far is not to his explanations or reasoning, it's to his methods. i wish he had take the higher road.

as the to the rest of the interview. overall i guess it is as good an explanation as i have seen from the church but i have three further comments:

1. its apples and oranges to compare a disabled daughter or a spinster aunt with non-mormon gays seeking civil unions. society is going to fall apart from war and environmental collapse not from gay unions.

2. the institution of marriage has not had the millenia of stability implied by elders oaks and wickman. i have a pioneer ancester who just started living with a widower she met on the trail to SLC. she already had children from a living husband who just missed the boat sailing out of liverpool [he was on the manifest but for unknown reasons just didn't show up]. they went on to have a number of other children together. and of course polygamy is the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge.

3. 'same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life' i think its a little early to speculate on sex in the afterlife. the mind boggles at the possibilities: the guy down the street who is obsessed with big breasts. whats he going to do if the resurrected body is small breasted?

Chris said...

What are you yelling at me for? I wasn't the one who posted all the stuff about irratonality...

And L, please, there is no threat to free exercise of religion with same-sex marriage. What happened in Sweden is so clearly against the first amendment.

As for "anti-gay" -- I'm not going to stop using the term just because you think it's divisive. The Church is anti-gay--and of course they have no problem with you. You are in no way visibly gay!

-L- said...

Sorry, Chris, for throwing a paragraph addressed to you right in the middle of the rest of that comment. Confusing.

Yeah, using the term "anti-gay" is divisive, but my wife frequently points out to me (because she knows I hate it) that it's only fair for gays to call the church things like prejudiced and anti-gay when the church calls their behavior "evil".

Santorio, I'll have to respond to several of your ideas in future posts, but I'll say briefly that I don't think the persecution church members have faced is inconsequential even when compared to other horrendous social injustices. I'm interested to hear more about the church and civil rights historically because I don't know much about it.

And Chris, there most certainly is a threat to freedom of religion. I've heard recent stories on NPR about civil rights case law trumping freedom or religion. Perhaps appropriately, I don't know. It's an interesting topic that I don't know much about, but you shouldn't be so dismissive.

KK said...

L said: we both know the sense in which the church is anti-gay, but I'm gay and it has no problem with me.

Elder Oaks said: homosexuality, which you’ve spoken of, is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.

It seems the church does have a problem with you-- you're not gay, you just have gay feelings.

Chris said...

L, your wife is cool. :)

Seriously, I think the use of the example from Sweden was fearmongering. But we'll disagree on that, so let's just be done with it.

Dave Walter said...

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: ... If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ ...

ELDER OAKS: ...I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ ...

I can't decide whether that's more surreal or ironic coming from a Christian church official.

Jay said...

Don't want to get in the middle of this argument ;) Just wanted to say that I am so thankful my parents do not treat me the way Elder Oaks counsels parents to treat their homosexual children.

Anonymous said...

let's put elder oaks' comments in a non-gay setting.
both of my children decided to live with their partners prior to marriage (both eventually married the same and are very happy). prior to marriage, when the couple came to visit, we would simply say, john, your old bed has fresh sheets on it and mary, let me take your suitcase into the spare bedroom here. we certainly did not discourage them from coming, nor did they get a lecture, but in my house there is no smoking, drugs, alcohol or premarital sex. if my son had brought home another guy, it would be more difficult given society's general failure to provide a means of legal union. but i hope i would have followed the same principle, separate bedrooms until there was some marker of a permanent relationship. what would jesus do? what did he do with the publicans, prostitutes, and lepers?

Scot said...

Ditto to that.

What I find funny is that my in-laws, very devout LDS, acted as Mr. Oaks imagines for the first couple weeks in our many years together. But today they stay at our home very often (and we stay at theirs), and I enjoy their visits; I’d not dare ask for a better set of grandparents for our children. We even “take [them] out and introduce [them] to our friends, [and] deal with [them] in a public situation that would imply our approval of [their] “partnership.”.”

Not once have I regretted it :-).

In fact they just left after living in our home two weeks, recovering from an accident. Why here instead of elsewhere in their large extended family? We had the most willing, able, and stable home, and we simply enjoy each other’s company. Hope this sort of condoning, family behavior isn’t a problem for their church leaders that they want to end, seeing as we’re not a happy “family unit” and all.

Scot said...

What strikes me as unbelievable (and also surreal and ironic) is Elder Oak’s inability to imagine why couples want to have legal marriage. Find any stay-at-home parent and let them count the ways, and not near the top of the list would be “I want a stamp of “legitimacy” for my marriage from a stranger”.

Just when you think you can let bygones be bygones you read something like this…

I shouldn’t have read that. Thanks a lot Chris!

Uncle D. said...

I usually stay out of these conversations, but I must admit here that I continue to be chagrined about the Brethren's opposition to gay marriage.

The Church/Brethren don't want gay people. Gay people don't want the Church (usually). This seems pretty win-win to me.

And yet, the Brethren continue to try and stop gay people who are outside the Church from marrying each other, from having certain 'rights' of adults to love and be loved and to cast their lots together.

Why? This is the one thing here that makes me a little angry.

Jed Eye Thunder said...

Elder Oaks said: Homosexuality, which you’ve spoken of, is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.

If this is true, then what is heterosexuality? Is it also not a noun? Is Elder Oaks saying that NOBODY has any innate sexual orientation? Is everything merely behavior?