Monday, January 26, 2009

Does Being in a Gay Relationship Make One Happy? Does Gay Love Qualify as Love?

I just finished reading Ty Mansfield's essay in the North Star newsletter, "Happiness and the Art of Loving." I encourage all to read it. Gay or straight, Mormon or not, there's much there to think about and be blessed by.

It's odd because just this morning, after my alarm clock went off and as I was shaking sleep out of my head in preparation for a new day, a scriptural text was jangling around in my brain: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy." Coincidentally or not, I was still pondering how I might use this Book of Mormon text (from 2 Nephi 2:25) to illustrate to my American Religious History students a fundamental difference between Mormon theology and Nicene Christian theology, when I happened upon Ty's essay, which is essentially his own wrestling with the implications of this text for gay Mormons.

Ty is right that there are plenty of cultural counterfeits of happiness and love. America will sell you for any price all kinds of shiny junk -- from toothpaste to automobiles to psychic readings to cures for baldness to weight loss plans to "e-Harmony" matches -- which it claims will make you happy, but in fact mostly only leave you feeling cheated. And nobody with a reasonable amount of sense can deny the existence of abundant Hollywood-inspired confusion of sex and love. At the same time, it should be pointed out that most of the quotes Ty amassed to suggest that true happiness and love are not for those in same-sex committed relationships, were written by straight people to people for whom straight relationships were taken for granted.

In other words, a straight person can fall into the trap of seeking happiness in urge fulfillment and love in sex in the context of a straight relationship. In other words, isn't it possible that the Gospel calls all of us -- gay and straight -- into a deeper understanding of just what "joy" and "love" are without assuming that celibacy is necessary in order to obtain either? I hasten to add, if celibacy is not necessary to obtain joy and love, neither is intimate relationship necessary. But intimate relationship is an important framework -- if not the only framework! -- within which ordinary human beings wrestle with the painful (and joyful!) life lessons that help us sort out exactly what true joy and true love are.

This has certainly been the case in my relationship with Göran, and it has been vividly illustrated to me again and again in connection with raising a teenage son. A teenage boy is just coming into a full experience of the million hungers that tug at the human creature; and the million temptations in a society where counterfeit moralities are a dime a dozen. Things that seem self-evident to me, a 45-year-old man with at least three decades of hindsight on the whole teenage-hood thing, seem crazy to our son. I find myself giving the same speeches my father gave me. Speeches on what does and does not make for joy; what is or is not true love. Things I have learned within the framework of a same-sex relationship!

The Mormon understanding of "joy" embroidered into that 2 Nephi text about the fall of Adam (and into so many other texts of the Restoration) is powerful precisely because it rejects the dominant Western Christian view of incarnation and embodiment as a kind of temporary prison from which the Christian should seek to escape. Joy in this Mormon understanding is not found apart from that perfect union of spirit and body; a joy in which physical joy is not at odds with but a fundamental component of perfect spiritual joy.

So Ty's argument boils down to the contention that homosexuality is a violation of God's commandments. Ergo, a gay relationship can only offer counterfeits of joy and love. The Moho blogging community expends much more energy than it should bickering over that contention, and it's not my intention here to bicker with Ty. One way to look at our lives as gay Mormons is to see them as various attempts to test the truth or falsehood of that contention, from differing perspectives. Some of us test it in mixed orientation marriages; some of us test it in celibacy; some of us test it in the always risky attempt to find some sort of lasting same-sex love.

This essay -- and other essays I've read in the Moho blogging world lately on the subject of "happiness" -- seem to be a wrestling with the evidence of these experiments. If "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10), what do we make of the seeming happiness of gay-ly married couples? Of the seeming unhappiness of straight couples?

Though I've been celibate for a good part of my life, I've never been married to a woman, so I can't compare the joy of hetero-marriage to the joy of my homo-marriage. I can't be in somebody else's skin, I can't really walk in someone else's moccasins for a mile, much less one footstep. So is L's happiness in marriage better than mine? I'm not sure I can ever know unless eternity holds the possibility of a different kind of communion than is available to us here in this life. But part of me is not sure that kind of communion will ever be possible. Part of me is not sure that my happiness is for anybody but me to know; that L's happiness is for anybody but him to know.

What I do know is that yesterday, my husband and my son attended church with me in my ward for the first time ever, and their presence there was blessed with an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit. Last night and this morning again, I found myself on my knees weeping for pure joy. With King Benjamin, I found myself confessing once again to my Heavenly Father that I am hopelessly, utterly dependent on him, unable ever to say I stand on my own two feet apart from him, because every time I try to thank him with more obedience, he over-blesses me again. Again and again, I encounter new days where the joy seems like it could never be surpassed, until more comes along.

That ever-increasing perfection of joy has come in large part because I have listened to the Spirit and obeyed its admonitions to walk in a path of faith and repentance with the Church -- even as the Church seems unable to embrace me or to know what to make of me. It has come in acknowledging the demands of the spirit (and the Spirit) as well as the flesh.

What does that mean to anybody else but me? I don't know. But I wish you joy and love in the journey.

12 comments:

Ty Ray said...

John, thank you for your comments here. I especially appreciate that you took them (I perceive) for the general message I intended.

I wrestled a lot as I wrote this, and did a lot of revising, as I had you specifically in mind. You know I love you and honor you for the person you are (I hope). And I don't doubt for a second that the love you share with Göran is real or that the impressions you've felt to be where you are, are real. It's you and your example that gives me pause as I continue to work through this stuff within a broader framework.

I likely could have articulated this a lot better in my essay, but it was not my intention to give an impression that straight=authentic and gay=counterfeit. I would suggest that a great number of both are counterfeit and based on an emotion that isn't love born of the Spirit.

When I speak of the "gay cultural myth", I mean particularly this perceived perpetual message that a same-sex attracted person is not being real or authentic unless he or she embraces and celebrates a gay or lesbian identity and pursues romantic partnership. I was once at a conference where a gay Mormon guy asked me where I was at with this issue. All I said in response was that I plan to remain committed to the Church. He nearly jumped at me, stating passionately, "How can you say it's wrong to love??!" I said nothing of the sort. I said my plan is to live my life within the framework of Church teachings. Period. The rest was his projection.

The broader cultural message that I think is dangerous, irregardless of orientation, is that love isn't love--at least of the kind that engenders true life and passion--unless it's sexual or romantic. I reject that. And I sense that many of those who say insist this have no concept of what Love really is. Sexual or romantic love, as I see it, are only a *tiny tiny* piece of the Love that God calls us to--and yet the world is obsessed with ONE kind.

I believe there is great opportunity in the proscriptions of Church teaching for SSA men and women to reenthrone the broader expressions of universal love and intimacy the transcend the sexual and romantic, particularly for those of the same sex. And that's not to say they do so with a commitment to lifetime celibacy, for there are many who have successful and meaningful heterosexual marriages. As far as same-sex love and intimacy goes, there is much need and opportunity for transformation in our culture, which is pretty messed up in what it allows and honors--speaking of love and intimacy in its fullest spiritual and emotional expression, not merely the romantic. I believe that broader expression is not just allowed within the gospel, but is required by it--and many don't seem to feel that.

As a matter of faith in how I understand LDS thought, I do believe that eventually there is one type of romantic love that can be eternal in nature, but that doesn't mean I would deny in any way the reality or authenticity of the love you feel in your relationship or the divine capacities engendered in the loving service you offer Göran. I see how you may have read differently from my essay, but I chalk that to not being very articulate in trying to express the nuance of what I feel around this issue. (I probably still haven't done a very good job here.) Hence, the final paragraph: we need one another, in our complete authenticity and vulnerability in order to be made perfect and to become the Zion people God calls us to become.

J G-W said...

I agreed with most of what you had to say in your original essay.

My answer to the question at the title of this essay: "Does being in a gay relationship make one happy?" is No. However, being in any committed relationship provides a framework within which happiness can be found.

But... "Does gay love qualify as love?" My answer is: Yes, without question. I know from experience that my love for Göran has the same transformative qualities I've observed among other couples (like my parents).

I agree that "romantic love" (eros) looks in significant ways more like hunger or selfishness than love. Nevertheless, romantic love draws us into relationship. It pulls people together in powerful ways. It creates the context within which a deeper, more selfless kind of love has a chance to develop.

The larger, unconditional love to which disciples of Christ are called, the pure love of Christ (charity or agape), is hard work. While romantic love draws people into intense relationships, those relationships can't possibly last very long without the development of that larger love.

If there is no mutual commitment between two people in an intimate relationship to make that relationship work, no matter what, a larger kind of love does not have a chance. That is because that larger love grows only as we overcome trouble and conflict together, which forces us to submit ourselves to the other, and to God.

An intimate relationship is a crucible for developing this larger kind of love in a way that almost no other relationship can be. That is because you can't keep your distance from the "other" in an intimate relationship. You're stuck together. You have to work things out. (This is why missionary companionships are so effective at developing this kind of love!)

I see romantic love and divine love as complimentary forces in this sense. Romantic love -- attraction -- can be a kind of centripetal force that keeps us coming back together, that motivates us to work things out. It creates powerful bonds and beautiful memories that motivate individuals to stick together, to keep working at their problems.

That's why I believe romantic love not only plays an important role in our lives, but it is God-given. Like many good things in life, it opens us up and brings us into contact with larger possibilities.

This is also why it can be so difficult for partners in an MOM. The forces of attraction are very weak under those circumstances. This is why the partners in those circumstances often just end up giving up. When things get tough and you just can't feel that higher, larger, divine love, there's no other glue there to keep things from falling apart.

But romantic love is more than just a stepping stone to a larger kind of love, and this is what I was alluding to in my essay in reference to the text in 2 Nephi. Latter-day Saints understand that physical existence is not just a phase we will outgrow and discard in favor of some "higher" more "spiritual" existence. In the union of the physical and the spiritual we experience "fullness of joy." "The spirit and the body are the soul of man." Our eternal selves will be embodied, physical selves, just as we believe God has a body "as tangible as man's."

In light of that understanding, we can also view romantic love as a physical aspect of spiritual love. It is part and parcel of the whole thing. It is part of our eternal soul.

Here's what I'm wrestling with -- and what, I think, ultimately, all gay Mormons who take the light of the Restoration seriously have to wrestle with. How do we fit into that scheme?

Is the kind of attraction we feel a God-given or eternal part of us? Is the church's teaching on this nothing but a cultural artifact of the church's having grown up in a homophobic culture, influenced by the anti-body, anti-sex views of western Christianity? If we ignore or suppress this attraction, are we missing out on the possibility of receiving the kind of "fullness of joy" that is possible in the union of body and spirit?

Or is the attraction we feel a kind of physical defect, one of the many rampant "thorns" that has proliferated in a fallen world that has mutated away from the harmony and beauty intended in God's original creation? Is the church's teaching on this subject a beacon to help us stay in harmony with the world as it will be restored in the next life?

Answering this question has been complicated by the fact of the church's virulent homophobia; homophobia that, if we believe the historians, worsened significantly after the turn of the last century, but seems to be attenuating at the turn of this century.

Given the difficulty of the choices and of the discernment process before each of us, I think kindness and patience are in order; more love, inclusion, and dialogue; more listening, less condemnation; more embraces, less fear.

Ty Ray said...

I agree with what you've said here about the power that eros can have to draw us into relationship where agape can be developed. I believe, though, and I think you would agree, that agape can be developed in multiple contexts. As you said, relationships don't "make" us happy, whether gay or straight. That's where the cultural myths about love are so deceptive--and Fromm's words so profound (to me), regarding much of the sudden bursts of "love" and intimacy in relation being more a byproduct of preceding loneliness and starvation for genuine intimacy than of anything close to authentic love. And, as you pointed out, Fromm speaks of this in a heterosexual context.

I don't know how much Christ or the other apostles spoke specifically of eros, since I haven't researched the Greek on this, but I would suspect the bulk of His teaching was with regard to agape, and it seems to me that most of that teaching was outside of the context of marital partnership, particularly Jesus' teaching.

So, given what you said, I agree that eros can be a powerful force to draw us into relationship where we can develop agape, but I also believe that is only one small context for that development, even if not insignificant in its own right.

Can single people still have opportunity to develop agape? Of course. Agape is the first and foremost of any kind of love, and doesn't require romantic partnership for its development. I would even suggest that the more we've cultivated the power of agape in our lives, the more wise and discerning we will be in our choice of romantic partner, less subject to fleeting emotion or the power of power of hormone. If Jesus did marry in mortality, he had agape first, and that would set a meaningful example for how we should seek the cultivation of love. Eros may be a choice expression of love, but if not powered by agape, can it leave us anything but physically (and perhaps to a lesser degree, emotionally) satisfied and spiritually empty?

My submission is that while those in MOMs may not have as powerful of eros to draw them together, the power of agape, if developed to a sufficient degree beforehand, will be the binding force, and that force is Eternal.

Concerning same-sex sexuality, I would hold to your second proposal: I believe the church's teaching is a beacon to help us stay in harmony with the world as it will be restored to its celestial expression--if not to some (even significant) degree in this life. As one woman who had a lengthy NDE experience described, this world as compared to that world is like the "dark negative" of a beautiful and brilliant color photograph. I believe there is much about this world that we can and should expect to be significantly transformed to some celestial expression. And I believe the Church's teachings around sexuality generally, and homosexuality in particular, are to help us love for that expression, even if conditions natural to this world make those choices difficult. The promise of Atonement and reconciliation in Christ is not from "gay" to "non-gay" but from human to divine--and all that is human in our experience (ie, unique to a fallen, telestial world) will be transformed.

Much of my feeling around this is more than feeble attempt at theologizing (though I do plenty of that), but has to do with a spiritual experience I had about four and half years ago in which I had a vision of sorts, a vision of feeling, of how I would feel when my feelings had been transformed to their celestial expression. The love was intense, and the desire I felt to be with a woman in eternal union was unlike anything I've ever experienced. It made even most heterosexual relationship expression in modern media feel entirely cheap and counterfeit. The "vision" (I don't know what else to call it, because it was significant, but it was of feeling rather than sight) lasted about two hours, and then the feeling was gone. The only message I felt outside of the feeling was "Stay with Me, because this is how you will eventually feel if you do." It was enough for me to make whatever hard choices I've had to make since then, and will likely have to continue to make, to have that expression is realized.

J G-W said...

Ty - You won't get any argument from me about single people's ability to learn agape. In fact, I share with you a feeling that in the Church in general we put FAR too much emphasis on marital relationships, leaving folks who are pre-marriage, post-marriage or never-married feeling as if the Gospel somehow isn't for them. I'm the last to want to contribute to that problem, thus my stress on primary/romantic relationships as "a" framework, not "the" framework.

I also agree that not only do the recorded, canonical sayings of Jesus contain nothing about eros, but very little about marriage. The sparsity and contradictory nature of New Testament commentary on marriage explains in large part why the vast majority of Nicene Christians tend to see marriage as something only for this life or even -- in a Roman Catholic context -- as a concession to human lust which is best abstained from if possible, and must be abstained from if one is to hold the priesthood. The necessity to understand the role eros plays in some larger plan of salvation comes mainly from Latter-day Saint revelation elevating both marriage and the body.

My perception is that the MOM's that succeed are the ones that manage to get a lot of mileage out of that third kind of love, "philia," or "friendship." Of course, all three kinds of love are important in most marriages...

I pretty much knew which of the two views of homosexuality you hold to. ;-)

I also find very moving the spiritual experience you've shared here (and elsewhere) confirming you in your present course. I believe your experience to be a real one, and I have taken it seriously in my own discernment around this issue. In fact, I have a continuing hope that people on different sides of this discussion could actually have real, meaningful community where we share and learn from each others' experiences, not a bifurcated community where we shout at each other over the wall of our disagreements.

I have also had powerful spiritual experiences, some of which I have shared in part, and some of which I consider too sacred to share in a public forum, that have assured me the love I share with Göran is divinely blessed, that my obligations to him are sacred, and that we have an eternal destiny as a family (though it is not yet clear to me exactly how that works/will work within the framework of current LDS teaching about the family). My experience of the Spirit's guidance and presence has grown exponentially as my commitment to Göran has deepened, and I'm not sure how that could be possible if our relationship had no significance in the eternal scheme of things.

Some of the most powerful experiences, by the way, were experiences leading me to seek to get married legally in CA, during our marriage, and since our marriage.

My experience of the Spirit's presence has also grown exponentially as I continue to search my life, and seek ways to live faithfully as a member of the LDS community (if not a member of the LDS Church!). For instance, some of the most powerful spiritual experiences I have had have been when members of the Church have behaved in an exclusive or offensive way, and when I have -- rather than arguing or challenging -- have simply forgiven them in my heart and not allowed it to interfere with my commitment to attend worship and/or live the principles of the gospel in every other way to the best of my ability.

These two things have been central for me: my relationship with Göran (and our parental relationship to Glen) and my relationship with the Church. I can't ignore either my family or the Church and remain in harmony with the Spirit...

To me, it is almost as if the Spirit is driving me to bring them together, to find the intersection between the two, even though everything both in the social life of the Church and in the world would seem to drive them apart...

That's why, when Göran and Glen attended Church with me for the first time last Sunday it was so powerful for me.

Beck said...

This is amazing stuff! I love the dialogue between the two of you and feel a bit intimidated by both of you, and I'm afraid I'm an intruder and shouldn't even be here.

However, as one who has been in a MOM for over 27 years, I am sorting through the changes that have taken place in our relationship from romantic love in the beginning to definitely a friendship love and charity love that have overtaken the sexual attraction shortcomings and concluding that if we didn't have friendship and an overarching charity for each other, doing their double-duty workload, and relied on the attraction aspect pulling its full share, the marriage would have crumbled years ago. Does the love I share with my wife qualify as love? Without that attraction fulfilling its role, are we able to still be in love?

That said, I most certainly have a romantic view of the relationship you have with Goran, but knowing the two of you personally, I would answer that your love for each other certainly qualifies as love and I've witnessed the joy that you share together.

And knowing that all three of you were in church together makes me feel nothing but joy for you!

As to the eternities, I can worry about what will happen to these and those and who will go here and who will go there, and it won't mean anything - for ultimately it is a personal matter between us and the Lord as individuals. What does matter here and now is that you are feeling, listening, and following the promptings of the Spirit. With the Holy Spirit in tow, the eternities will take care of themselves.

MoHoHawaii said...

John,

As often happens I found myself mulling over one of your posts for several days. Dang it!

This latest post made me relive some episodes in my own LDS upbringing. It's an issue that I haven't thought about in a long time, but at the same time is as familiar to me as the smell of the old wooden chapel from my childhood.

Mormonism's hostility toward the erotic is one of its central conflicts. This shows itself in the familiar eros/agape debate (a false dichotomy that you very effectively debunk) as well as in LDS attitudes toward adolescent sexuality (it doesn't exist), female sexuality (dangerous), same-sex desire (a thorn of the flesh to be healed in the afterlife) and durable homosexual love (a myth promoted by gay activists).

It has taken me a number of years and many life experiences to realize, as you have, that the actual experience of forming a lasting pair bond with a person of the gender that fits one's sexual orientation is a profoundly satisfying and fulfilling part of the human experience. It unlocks parts of your soul that otherwise lie dormant. It expands you into a fully mature adult.

In my life I have been celibate. I have been in a mixed-orientation marriage. I currently share my life with a man I love. I know all three of these life situations very well. The kind of personal growth that you describe was only possible for me in the context of of a same-sex relationship. That's how I'm wired.

Balkanizing our passions and loves into warring factions is destructive. We are humans and as such possess the gifts of passion, laughter, devotion, desire, tenderness and profound erotic expression. These are truly gifts and are manifestations of a unified human essence. The entirety of human passion is sacred and life giving.

J G-W said...

Beck - As always, I am grateful for your thoughts, and thankful for your affirmations. Obviously, one of the things folks in an MOM have to deal with is the tendency of our culture to tell them that their relationships are somehow "incomplete" or "defective." I have had the experience of discussing your situation with friends of mine, and getting from them the knee-jerk response, "Oh, well he needs to get a divorce." Ty is quite right to criticize the way our culture has put such a high value on sexual fulfillment, that it cannot countenance life without it.

I also agree with Ty's tendency to look at relationships in terms of values and choices. I would also stress the importance of valuing people's right to their own discernment process.

Mohohawaii -- It's interesting, because my writing partner, a "recovering fundamentalist," grew up in Arizona where he had frequent contact with Mormons. He has described to me his childhood impression of Mormons as being remarkably comfortable in their skins, much more body positive than the fundamentalists he grew up with.

Armand Mauss has argued that with in influx of Bible-belt conversions since the 1960s, there's been some "fundamentalization" of the Mormon Church. That's possible... As I said in my discussion with Ty, I do think there is the larger question of how a revelation that I think is fundamentally body-positive is potentially undermined or attenuated when all of its converts are coming from a historically body-negative culture...

GeckoMan said...

John,

You and Goran are one of the demonstrations I would point to in affirming the reality of love and happiness within the context of mature Gay Love. I simply don't buy the rhetoric that such love is false, defective or counterfeit to the 'real thing.' Certainly I could point to aspects of my own 'real thing' marriage and complain at times that I have neither love or happiness. But that would be overly harsh and unforgiving of our roles in the matter, and a condemnation of my loyal wife who tries in most ways to support and sustain. I think all relationships are imperfect and generate varying degrees of both pain and happiness. Love is a spectrum of results, a response to life's diverse situations and embodies our personal determination to overcome obstacles by practicing pleasure as well as kindness. Orientation has little to do with it.

J G-W said...

Geckoman: Thank you! Yes, it's important to stress that no relationship is "perfect," in the sense of being without struggles. In large part, it is within or through the struggles that we find our happiness and that we express our love.

Göran and I certainly have had (and have) our share of struggles. There have been moments in our relationship when the pain and struggle loomed large, sometimes seeming to eclipse whatever happiness we thought we were in it for. But this year we will be celebrating our 17th anniversary. And I can honestly say looking back that every year has been better; the blessings have far outweighed the struggle; the love grows deeper and we are ever more perfectly woven together.

I've continued, however, to reflect on Ty's original essay, and on our conversation here in this post. There is a very real sense, I think, in which the truest kind of love and happiness in any relationship is predicated on a commitment to something (someone) larger than ourselves.

When Göran and I held our wedding ceremony in 1995, we wrote our own vows, and deliberately included in them an asking of God's blessings, and a commitment to the idea that our marriage was to serve a larger purpose than merely our own happiness. We saw our marriage as an anchor that would permit us to serve our fellow human beings and our community more effectively. We reaffirmed our commitment to this understanding of our marriage when we chose to get married in a church by a Christian minister when we held our legal ceremony in California last summer.

I think I can honestly say that to the extent my commitment to God and to this larger conception of marriage has deepened and increased in recent years as a result of my renewal of faith, the happiness and love I have experienced in my relationship have grown and deepened exponentially...

Anonymous said...

You don't know me but I just wanted to thank you for your insight. I try to balance my spirituality and my sexuality, but it is a struggle sometimes. The lessons I taught so faithfully on my mission seem to help, yet hinder that process. Thank you for your words.

Marty said...

A. Ty and John, thank you so much for elevating the discussions I have been reading these last four plus years to a scholarly level - using your sharpened instruments of words, phrases and metaphor to really get at insight.

B. Ty, because we met four and a half years ago almost to the week, I would be curious about when you had your experience of feeling. To you I only ask WHY you are convinced that YOUR experience becomes a universal to all Saints, rather than to you alone? Is it possible that your "Stay with Me" experience was for you first and foremost? Because what I find strange about the religious traditions which I am associated (3) is that there is a tendency to universalize words from Divinity from one person to all - thus D and C's injunctions to Joseph automatically jump to ALL members. Care to comment on that?

C. John, because I have only heard of you, would you be able to create a taxonomy, a stage development, for couples to apply CS Lewis' Four Loves more carefully, whether in an SGA or an OGA relationship. This might really help compare and contrast the two for all.

D. I only have my own experiences to offer - and that I am awfully young in my own development of eros in relationship and its integration, even synthesis with the other loves. I find that the greatest stumbling block in my life has been my OWN insistence in the Pauline tradition of seeing spirituality and sexuality as towering giants fighting for superiority over my life's trajectory and therefore its happiness.

E. Let us remember that the 1850's LDS converts came from the midlands of England, the rural (rather than the lowlands, the urban) from ones whose ways of seeing the world were steeped in duality. But that there was the other great group of early converts coming from Scandinavia, whose philosophical underpinnings and ways of seeing the world have been less understood, and appear to be more sparsely represented at the top of church leadership. In the end, perhaps America is not the place to carefully dissect such nuanced reflections!

F. Coming from an Eastern European Jewish tradition (and thus, I would plead, not attached to either intellectual thread), I find Ty to articulate well this mid-19th century British tradition of the holy society first (recall Bradford's "city upon a hill"), whereas John represents well the Scandinavian tradition, the great progressive thrust that seeks to emphasize the improved person (Hubert Humphrey was my boyhood hero). That is, communal assumptions of individual improvement (carefully separating body over to shadow) as opposed to progressive streaks to be gleaned in broader integration of heart, might, mind and strength [body].

G. Is it possible that you two brothers are speaking the two great languages of Mormonism's very roots? Could it be that you have each built one of the two requisite towers for the intellectual suspension bridge to be completed ASAP? So that the Saints will all be able to fulfill the measure of each's creation? Just a thought.

J G-W said...

Anonymous - Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad this post (and dialogue) have been helpful to you. What you're talking about really has to do with discernment -- taking the time and energy to wrestle with what we've been given and figure out how it applies to us...

Marty - I'd have to think about whether there are "stages of development" implied by an understanding of the "four loves." (The only one not mentioned so far in this discussion -- for those not familiar with Lewis' book -- is storge or "affection"!)

I'm intrigued by your suggestion that Ty and I represent different poles of LDS experience. But I should say that I share a strong commitment to the idea of a "holy society." It's one reason I am committed to the Church, and feel it is very important for me to participate as fully in the life of the Church as I can. But given that my commitment to my partner excludes me from full participation in the Church, I am by default forced to focus on the "improved person" in much of my day-to-day spiritual work.