Friday, November 13, 2009

How the Scriptures Relate to the Issue of Homosexuality

In a recent guest post on Mormon Matters, I was asked to comment on my understanding of what the scriptures have to say about homosexuality. While the question was at least tangentially relevant to the topic of the post, I felt digressing into a full blown discussion of it would take us too far away from main purpose of the post, which was to discuss my feelings in reaction to the LDS Church's recent public backing of a Salt Lake City ordinance banning discrimination in housing and employment on the grounds of sexual orientation. I offered, however, to publish a separate post here exploring that topic, and inviting any who were interested to comment or discuss. I welcome challenging questions, and expression of views that are different from my own, but I'm not interested in contentious or disrespectful debate (which this topic has a tendency to attract).

I could write much more extensively on the subject of how the scriptures relate to the problem of homosexuality. But this is a summation of how I understand and approach this.

The Role of Scripture in the Christian Life

I feel first of all that it is necessary to discuss my understanding of the role the scriptures play in faith and in the teaching of the Church. Among some there is a tendency -- emanating from American Protestant fundamentalist culture -- to treat the scriptures as if they are a rule book. In this view, all behavior in life should be measured against whether or not the scriptures explicitly, specifically prohibit or encourage it. Folks who adhere to this point of view have a tendency to resort to heavy-handed "proof-texting," citing passages that they think support their point of view of whether something is acceptable behavior or not. I believe this use of scripture is false and idolatrous.

My understanding of scripture is based on the notion expressed in D&C section 68:
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (v. 4)

In this uniquely Latter-day Saint understanding, scripture is God's living revelation to people who are in relationship with God. Scripture may or may not be recorded in writing; it may be expressed and received in any setting where the Holy Spirit is present to inspire the speaker and carry the word into the hearts of the listener. Scripture and revelation are one and the same thing, and "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19: 10).

In this concept of "living" scripture, the actual words spoken or written provide only half of the picture. It is possible to hear or to read the words, and miss their full significance, because a true understanding of scripture is only possible with the translating power of the living Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can speak to us through the medium of written scriptural texts in many different ways, sometimes offering us one true understanding and later offering us a different true understanding of the same text. The gift of the Holy Spirit is essential to reading, understanding, and receiving scriptures properly. Every time I read the scriptures, I begin with a prayer, asking the Lord to grant that the Spirit can open to my mind and heart the hidden treasures contained in the scriptures, that I can access only with the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will enable us to "liken the scriptures unto us" (I Nephi 19: 23), often taking a story or a text from a situation that seems on the surface to be completely different from our own situation, and showing us how it is directly relevant to us.

This is why it is never enough simply to have once read a scriptural text. Once you have read all of the standard works cover to cover, your work with scripture is not done. Reading the scriptures daily is a necessary spiritual practice, no matter how many times we have read them, because it is only in daily reading, under the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit, that we receive the bread we need for our spiritual journeys every single day of our lives.

In this understanding of scripture, written texts are valuable because of the testimony they provide. The value of ancient scriptures is less in the cultural and historical specifics in which they were recorded, and more in their witness of an eternal God who has fostered a living relationship with his people throughout history, from ancient until modern times.

This is why using the scriptures as some sort of hide-bound rule book is dangerous. Anyone who is familiar with the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy knows this. It is not to say that regulations of the Pentateuch are irrelevant to us! Far from it! But their relevance to us is in their witness of God's relationship with the children of Israel, in their journey from slavery to nationhood. The rules themselves -- it seems evident to me -- were culturally specific. They were intended for a group of people and a culture who -- for the most part -- were still steeped in idolatry, violence, and hard-heartedness. We may have some things in common with the people of that time (and again, the Spirit can show us what we have in common). But we also have our own sins, our own cultural blind-spots, and our own weaknesses that require God's guiding, merciful hand in a very different way. Which is why for specific guidance, we need to look to what God is speaking to us here and now, in his living relationship with us today.

My own present relationship with scripture began in response to an invitation from the Spirit to begin reading the Book of Mormon. At that point, I was still feeling pretty alienated from the faith I had been raised in. I felt as if the only thing my faith community had to offer me was condemnation and intolerance. But the invitation of the Spirit was warm and incredibly loving and compassionate. The Spirit promised to teach me, to show me a way back to my Heavenly Father that was tailored to me and my specific needs as a gay man, who had once contemplated suicide, who was in a long-term, same-sex relationship, who was excommunicated from the Church, and who was in a lot of pain. None of those specifics of my situation mattered so much as that my Heavenly Father loved me and wanted me to turn to him. The Spirit could show me how -- in my specific situation, with my specific needs -- I could begin and stay on the journey. But I had to pick the book up, I had to pray and ask for help, and I had to read it. And, accepting the Spirit's invitation, I did, with a hunger and a desire to learn and to know what God had to teach me through scripture.

That journey, continued daily, one day at a time, began almost four years ago. And it has been one of the most powerful journeys of my life. I do not find hate, judgment, or condemnation in the scriptures. Always, the scriptures show me a way forward, teach me exactly what I need to do in the many very challenging situations I find myself in. How to handle situations with my spouse, with our son, my relationships with family, co-workers, members of my ward. How to deal with discouragement, doubt, pain and sadness. How to deal with discrimination, hate and homophobia. The scriptures have something to say about all of these things to me, because I am in a living relationship with my living Heavenly Father, who has sent the living Holy Spirit to teach and guide me, and help me liken the scriptures to myself. None of us need ever have fear of the scriptures, or believe that because of who we are that they are somehow unaccessible to us.

The Weightier Matters of the Law

There is a narrative within scripture about the nature of Law and the role of the Law in the life of the faithful. There are greater and lesser principles of the Law. All laws (lower case) are subsumed under the "Great Commandment" to love God, and to love one's neighbor as oneself. Jesus Christ came as the perfect exemplar of this law of love. Paul, in his teachings (see I Corinthians 13), pointed out that there were three great Christian virtues, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these was love. The highest, most perfect expression of that love was exemplified in the greatest act ever performed in human history: the Atonement. Christ gave his life for us, that we might live.

On a number of occasions, Christ made public demonstrations calculated to show that when lesser aspects of the law come into conflict with "the weightier matters of the law," the weightier matters always take precedence. Christ performed a number of healings on the Sabbath, for instance, and encouraged his disciples to gather food on the Sabbath, offending those who preferred a stricter interpretation of those laws. Christ prevented the implementation of the Law in the case of the adulteress who would have been stoned to death.

Later, through revelation to Peter (described in Acts 10), the Church was eventually led to abandon the old Levitical prescriptions and ordinances. This was a period of trauma and conflict in the Church, as conservative "Judaizers" resisted, resenting the influx of Gentile members who did not observe (and did not even know) the old Levitical law. The nature of this conflict, and the theological difficulties it presented are best documented in the epistles of Paul. The Pauline theology encouraged the faithful to see how the law of "rules and ordinances" was a "schoolmaster" to prepare us to live the higher law of love that was most perfectly revealed in Christ.

Modern-day revelation has deepened our understanding of the nature of this higher law. D&C section 121 is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful expressions of this law, demonstrating that perfect love and service are demonstrated through gentleness, meekness, kindness and persuasion, never domination or coercion.

Applications of the Law

Christ showed that when lesser aspects of the law come in conflict with the weightier matters, the weightier matters always take precedence. But there are numerous other examples in scripture that demonstrate the contingency of law. I am intrigued, for instance, by the great mystery of Adam and Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden. This act of law-breaking is rightly viewed as a paradox, especially given perspectives available only in Latter-day scripture. Nephi explained it best:

If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2: 22-25)

This act of disobedience was actually necessary in order for God's entire plan for humanity to unfold. My own theory about this is that God's plan required us to leave his presence, to learn and grow on our own. But eternal law dictates that we can leave God's presence only through disobedience. This is speculation on my part, but can anyone else explain this mystery to me? This would also explain why Christ's Atonement was a necessary enabling part of the plan established from before the foundation of the world...

But there are other stories in scripture where we are struck with the paradox of disobedience to one law required in order for God's plan to move forward: Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac; Nephi's murder of Laban.

The point is that obedience to God's law frequently requires difficult ethical choices. It requires us to discern between weightier and lesser matters of the law, and between specific demands of particular, historical contingencies, and the general demands of revealed commandments. To make this all the more complicated, another great governing principle providing the framework for making these ethical choices is the principle of free agency. God frequently leaves us on our own to wrestle with and come up with answers to problems by ourselves. God will assist us in our decision-making process, if we ask, but frequently God demands that we do our own footwork first (see D&C 9:7!). I believe God wants us to wrestle, to agonize, and to struggle with our ethical choices, because it is the only way we will grow!

Homosexuality in the Law

OK, so finally I can talk about what the scriptures have to say about homosexuality. Frankly, we don't have a lot to go on:

*Genesis 19 - the Sodom and Gomorrah story, in which the men of Sodom attempted to rape two angels

*Leviticus 18 - the Levitical prohibition against a man lying with a man as with a woman

*Romans 1 - in which Paul describes sexuality that is against nature, and that is the consequence of idolatry

There are a few other less clear passages that are sometimes added to the list -- depending whose list you read. For example, there's Jude's comment about going after "strange flesh" in Sodom. (Raping angels?) There are Paul's comments about effeminacy and sexual perversion, particularly in I Corinthians 6 and I Timothy 1. If you look up homosexuality in the topical guide in the LDS standard works, it lists a few Old Testament passages where the Kings of Israel are described rooting out the "qadesh," or male ritual fertility prostitutes (rendered in the King James Bible as "sodomites" by translators who had no idea what "qadesh" were).

The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are silent on the subject of homosexuality.

How we read what texts are available is heavily influenced by our cultural norms, mores, and expectations. Western European culture -- particularly Hellenistic Greek culture -- was generally positive toward homosexuality up until about the 3rd century B.C. or so, after which denigration of homosexuality became increasingly prevalent. Historians have documented, however, that in the late Middle Ages homosexuals were literally demonized. Many of our attitudes toward homosexuality were inherited from the age that invented witch-burning. We need to take this cultural accretion into account when we consider whether our reading of particular scriptures are being applied correctly to the real-life situations of the gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in our midst.

I'm not here going to insist that I have "the correct" way of reading the handful of Biblical texts that seem to relate to homosexuality. To do so would be incompatible with the way I read scripture, and with my beliefs about the role that scripture should play in the life of faith. Suffice it to say that I read these scriptures (as I read all scripture) with the Holy Spirit as my guide, with attention to the weightier matters of the law, with an awareness of the specific, real-life circumstances of real individuals in the real world, and with an awareness that loving action in the world often requires complex ethical judgments.

Modern Day Revelation

I come full circle in this discussion to where I began: the principle of modern-day revelation.

As Latter-day Saints, we rely on modern-day prophets and apostles to lead and guide the Church. They provide the rules and precepts by which the Church is governed, not the book of Leviticus.

We know, through modern-day revelation, particularly D&C section 132, about the centrality of marriage and family in the plan of salvation.

The Priesthood Manual, used by bishops and stake leaders to govern the Church, provides the specific framework of ecclesiastical law through which homosexual activity and behavior is handled.

Given present understandings about the nature of family, and given the present framework of rules established by modern-day prophets and apostles to govern and guide the Church, homosexual activity is proscribed. Those engaging in it will be disciplined according to the judgment and discretion of those who are called as judges in Israel, often (usually?) with excommunication.

Still, someone in a situation such as the one that I face, and that is faced by so many other gay men and lesbians, must wrestle with perplexing realities. Those realities include the fact that the way homosexuality is typically characterized by Church leaders seems to bear no resemblance to what we actually experience. Much of the rhetoric was once dominated by extremely negative characterizations that included words like "abomination" and "monstrosity." Most Church leaders simply do not seem to understand the concept of sexual orientation, and what it means to those who are same-sex oriented.

The perplexities faced by gay and lesbian individuals are compounded by the ways in which Church policy on this issue has shifted in the last 20-30 years. Once we were counseled to "just get married." Now we are counseled to avoid marriage and "remain separately and singly" throughout our entire lives. Again, we wonder if Church leaders really understand the meaning and nature of same-sex attraction. A number, most prominently Gordon B. Hinckley in his famous Larry King interview of December 26, 2004, have admitted that they do not understand it.

We must make difficult ethical choices, often in situations where we have been totally abandoned by family, church, and friends. Like others, we yearn for companionship in our lives. We desire the joy that human beings were created for, a significant part of which comes through intimate relationships.

If we are wise, we will seek wisdom from God in making those choices, and we will rely on the scriptures to help us to see our way forward.

51 comments:

slp said...

I love your treatise on the scriptures and the important role they, ongoing and personal revelation play in your life. And, in my life. And in the lives of those who seek inspiration and guidance.

Thank you for your post over on "Mormon Matters". As always, you are a stellar writer who engages complexities with such insights and knowledge.

As I was reading this post just now, and others that you have written, I thought how grateful I am for you and your willingness to share your personal experiences, feelings, and your testified love of the Savior. I have learned so much from you and look forward to continuing to learn.

With love and great respect, slp

Beck said...

The scriptures are there to help us to "remember" who we are, our eternal nature, and our relationship with the Father and his plan. This is why it was so important for Nephi to obtain the Plates of Laban - so that they would "remember".

This remembering process is nothing more than personal revelation. It is the process where Father reminds me of his love for me, and that he knows me better than I know myself, even my homosexual self.

J G-W said...

slp - thank you for these kind words!

Beck - Amen! You've perfectly put into words one of the profoundest affirmations I received from the Spirit, shortly after I almost killed myself. God knows us, from our inmost selves. He created us and loves us...

Chedner said...

Thank you, John; what you've written here has been one of the Lord's tender mercies in my life right now as I've been pondering my spirituality.

Papa D said...

Thank you, John, for this post and the one on Mormon Matters. If nothing else, I hope they illustrate to my fellow believers that this is not a simple issue - and that we all need to be very careful of not taking communal proscriptions for membership in the LDS Church and extrapolating them into judgments upon those who are not members of the LDS Church.

As you said, each of us is responsible to read, ponder, pray, remember, receive and follow what each of us believes is being given to us from God - and if we want that privilege for ourselves, we must not proscribe it for others.

God bless you in your own personal journey. "May there be a road."

Ray

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks so much for this post and for your post at Mormon Matters. I've often believed that homosexuals in the Church such as yourself, who are true to the Church AND yourself and are able to weather the storm of living such a paradox, have been blessed with a special gift of insight, spirituality, perhaps even revelation, and dare I even say, in a way, prophecy. If only every member could appreciate your gifts and reap the positive fruits of love and peace that Mormons like you have to give. You are a huge inspiration to me and I thank you for sharing your insight with us.

J G-W said...

Chedner - I am glad you have found this helpful! As always, I'm thinking of you.

Papa D and Faithful Dissident - Thanks for the kind and encouraging words! Please keep me (us) in your prayers.

Anonymous said...

Keep weathering your faith through your tribulation. I applaud you in your efforts. I'm with President Hinckley in expressing humility in not completely understanding homosexuality. I think that the proscription against the kind of homosexuality we see in the bath houses and clubs is wrong - no question. I don't think we do a very good job at distinguishing the difference between this kind of behavior and the more monogamous behavior exhibited by a more traditional mindset in a homosexual orientation structure.

I also think that a little less presumption on the biological inevitability of "gayness" should be employed. Too much of politics has overtaken this discussion, and we need to be careful not be taken in as pawns of a larger scheme, just as with global warming and evolution. Science and politics and sexuality can be dangerous combinations.

Anonymous said...

The Hebrew scriptures do not oppose homosexuality at all anywhere. The passages traditionally used to do so are erroneously used. Please take a moment to look at my webpage on this subject and you will see that not all Hebrew scholars agree that homosexual acts are prohibited in the texts. My article on HOMOSEXUALITY can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~ecorebbe/id18.html

J G-W said...

Anonymous -- Thank you! This is a great resource.

For those of you who are interested, follow the link to Homosexuality and the Hebrew Bible here, for a very interesting Jewish perspective on the Old Testament references to homosexuality.

Steven B said...

It has been quite a while since I read the piece you published in Sunstone, so I don't remember if you touched on these issues there. But what you have written here is a good candidate for another Sunstone article. This really puts everything into perspective. Thank you.

J G-W said...

Steven B - My Dialogue article addressed scriptural issues very tangentially and briefly (in a footnote!). I pointed out (correctly, I think) that while the scriptural issues are important for Latter-day Saints, they are not central (as they are for Protestants).

Since Protestants derive all authority from the Bible, they must address these issues. Latter-day Saints rely on modern-day revelation, so the scriptures provide the grounding and framework for wrestling with these issues, but not necessarily the ultimate answers.

I've actually finished work on a book manuscript (tentatively titled "Trial of Faith") that digs into the scriptural issues in greater depth, and from a similar perspective to what's been shared here.

Martin said...

JG-W

Thanks for posting both here and at Mormon Matters. I appreciate your perspective, and I wish you well. You seem to be at peace, and am very glad for that.

Anonymous said...

Don't kid yourself. Sexual sin is deadly, physically and spiritually. The scriptures and the prophets all have preached against it. There is no justification. Addiction to gay sex is as bad as any other. The human body is not designed for sex with
1. It's own/same gender
2. Animals
3. Children
You are in a bad situation because you have been given the law and yet you choose to go against it. Heed those warnings in your dreams. This will keep you from your Heavenly Father. Satan makes sin seem beautiful and right. It is his goal to keep you from your Heavenly Father.

J G-W said...

Dear Anonymous -

Who are you? I use my real name on my blog. If you are really concerned about the welfare of my soul, please have the decency (and the courage of your convictions) to communicate with me "face to face." You can feel free to contact me via the public email posted on my blog profile. But if I am to take your comments seriously, I should know who you are, and know that you are willing to be public about your views.

As it is, I'm not sure your comments indicate either that you are really very well acquainted with my blog, nor that you have enough respect for me to read and try to understand what I've shared of my journey through life. I have an excellent idea of where I stand with God, because I speak to him and am spoken to by him daily.

Whoever you are, I wish you well.

Peace,

John

Anonymous said...

If you don't want people to blog anonymously, take away the option. Duh!!!!
Right now you offer 4 choices
Google Account
Open ID
Name/URL
Anonymous
Why did the last blogger bother you so much?

Openfacedsandwich said...

SLP
John is a big boy and he knows that there are opposing views out there. If it were not so, why would you put yourself out there on a blog?

J G-W said...

I'm perfectly content to leave all commenting options available, and let blog readers decide for themselves whether a commenter's views have validity or not.

My policy on this blog has been to delete comments only if they were spam (before I enabled the word verification feature), or if a commenter asked me to delete a comment for them.

Anonymous commenters should just be aware that if they are unwilling to identify themselves and stand up publicly for what they believe in, I (and most other readers) may not take what they have to say as seriously.

And again, I'll reiterate, calling people to repentance has much more validity in the context of a relationship. So if you're really concerned about the welfare of my soul, let's talk face to face. If you're unwilling to do so, so be it. We'll just have to be content to "let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds."

playasinmar said...

Fantastic article, J G-W.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Playa!

Winifred said...

John:
Anonymous's post is right on the money. This is exactly what the church teaches. The spirit will not testify to one person that sin is okay and to the other person it's not. Satan is having a heydey with you.

Winifred said...

Correction:
Heyday

J G-W said...

Winifred - Satan was having a heyday with me... And then I almost died. Thanks be to God, I am free from his grasp.

I don't know how to judge a tree but by its fruit. From the one tree, there was despair, shame, secrecy, fear, alienation, self-destructive behavior, and suicide. From the other tree, there is love, openness, truth, joy, family, connection, faith, hope, patience, and compassion. I choose the latter...

Winifred said...

John:
You're wrong. Sexual sin is wrong for anybody. Humans do not have the power to waive penalties for sin or act like penalties will not not come upon them because they don't think they will. Alma spoke to his son very strongly againt sexual sin. I am glad you did not commit suicide. I am glad you are alive. But by continuing in sexual sin, you are digging your hole deeper and deeper.

J G-W said...

Winifred, I have to go with what I know. But I thank you for commenting on my blog, and I wish you well.

Fatma said...

How The Scriptures Relate to the Issue of Homosexuality is posted on the Mormon Matters Website. Makes it sound so authoritative when it's nothing more than it's author trying to make gay marriage and gay sex not seem sinful.

J G-W said...

Fatma - the reason I posted the article on my personal blog is because a Mormon Matters commenter asked me to explain my understanding of how the scriptures relate to the issue of homosexuality, and I invited him (and others) to come read what I had to say in my personal forum (not on Mormon Matters, a community forum that I was asked to guest post on).

This essay -- posted on my personal blog -- does not pretend to be anything but my own personal wrestling with this subject.

If you're offended that the Mormon Matters blog has provided a link to my personal blog, perhaps you can raise your concerns with the Mormon Matters blog hosts.

Jon said...

John:
It seems as though you are using every excuse in the book to have gay sex. Prophets and scriptures anciently and in modern times have always warned against sexual sin. The Holy Ghost cannot possibly give his approval to sexual sin. I hope you re-examine what you are doing.

playasinmar said...

What book? What is this excuse-filled book everyone is always talking about?

And doesn't this article reek of reflection and self-analysis?

You may not agree with JG-W's analysis, Crabby Blogger, but rest assured with the knowledge that he has re-examined his position many times over.

Jon said...

When you play with fire, you are going to get burned. Sexual sin is a fire that burns white hot. Humans do not have the power to waive consequences for sin. Consequences will come upon you. You are free to choose but not free to choose the consequences.

J G-W said...

Jon - I've actually been debating whether to respond to your comments at all, because they seem to indicate belief on your part in my complete lack of integrity. I'm not sure any sort of real dialog is possible under those circumstances, because no matter what I say, you will simply assume that I am either deluded or lying.

As I have blogged elsewhere, gay folks are frequently the victims of these kinds of "dialogs" in which "friends" claiming to sincerely desire to help simply unload their anxieties and theological misconceptions on the unwary.

Your comments come across as fearful and judgmental. I ultimately decided to respond, partly to preempt further defensive responses from friends like Playa...

You may mean well. Even if you don't, I wish you well.

If you actually wish to comment on the content of my post, I'll be happy to converse with you further.

Kenesha said...

John:
Some of these bloggers have the balls to tell you how it really is. A man was coming down a mountain. He came upon a rattlesnake. The rattlesnake said it was very cold and asked the man to put him inside his jacket. The man said no that the rattlesnake would bite him. The rattlesnake assured the man that he would not bite him so the man put him inside his jacket and took him down the mountain. Then rattlesnake bit him and the man angrily threw him down and asked him why he had bitten him when he had promised he wouldn't. The rattlesnake said. You knew what I was when you picked me up.

J G-W said...

Kenesha - maybe you all can get to know me a bit better before you judge me. Then maybe we can actually talk, instead of taking pot shots at each other.... Then maybe if I need as much recognizing rattlesnakes as you seem to think I do, you can actually help...

Kenesha said...

John"
All I am saying is that it is not possible to pretend that sexual sin is okay. You do not have that power and neither do I. You preached the gospel, didn't you? It's the gospel of repentance and not if it feels good do it.

Sarah Larsen said...

We all go thru trials in our life that brings us to that brink of dispair where we wonder if we can go on. That is when Satan is working THE hardest on us. You say you now have love and acceptance and all that....but don't confuse the blessings you think you are receiving with the absence of Satan's fury, doing all he can to try and influence you to make the wrong decision. Now that you have made that decision, he no longer needs to attack you the way he did. I know if you made the decision to change your lifestyle you would feel his fury again until you mades it thru to the other side. We all have the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, but you have to know that choosing to live the way you have chosen, you have given up the blessing of having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion in your life. It is sad that you have felt judgement and hatred. That is wrong also and saddens me that people can be so cruel....

J G-W said...

Kenesha (and Sarah) - At no point have I said that sexual sin is OK. Nor do I have the sense that Satan isn't working on me/doesn't work on me. Believe it or not, I have temptations that I must face and resist every day. That is a part of my journey through life, just as it is for every other mortal.

I have suffered defeats, and I have experienced victories. I know what it means to have to repent (it's something I have to do almost every day). I have struggles and I have joy. There are moments when I feel like I can't go on another day. There are moments when I realize it's all worthwhile, every bit of it.

Again, whether you choose to believe it or not, I have the Spirit in my life. I felt it most powerfully yesterday when I attended Sacrament Meeting with my sister, who accepted my invitation to go to church with me, after she has been inactive for almost three decades. I felt the Spirit this morning in prayer. I ask for and receive guidance in my efforts to be a good husband and a good father.

You can choose to believe that I am deluded or lying... But then we are at an impasse and have no more common ground for discussion than Job had with his "friends." The only purpose our interaction on my blog could serve would be for you to indulge in judging somebody about whom you know little or nothing, or for me to do the same in relation to you. I'm not really interested in judging you or being judged by you. I'd really rather close comments on this post than start arguing with folks.

Folks who know me and care for me are there to help me... To offer comfort and encouragement in the struggles and temptations I must face, and to rejoice with me in my joys and triumphs. What a precious thing friendship is...!

If we enter into the judging game, what have we gained? Nothing but bitterness. I'm not so interested in that.

playasinmar said...

Well... this certainly isn't the conversation we wanted, is it?

But beggars can't be choosers.

Philly B. said...

Don't close comments on this post just yet. I've got something I'd like to say, but don't have time to reply just now.

J G-W said...

Playa - :-)

Sometimes life is a conversation we wish we didn't have to have..!

Philly B - Don't worry, I have no intention of closing comments on this post. I just said I would rather close comments than argue. That's just my way of saying, if you want to argue or be judgmental, please find another blog that welcomes that sort of behavior...

This applies as much to folks who agree with what I have to say as folks who disagree.

playasinmar said...

My blog welcomes that kind of behavior.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Playa. Now folks know where to go...

Sarah Larsen said...

I am in no way judging you, so I am hoping you don't think I am. The way you choose to live your life is your own choice and is non of my buisness. And I would not like you less (if we ever met) because you are gay. I am on the end of being judged alot for NOT fitting the typical Mormon mom norm among other things.
We all have different trials, and my temptation is completely different from what yours will be. In the end the only judgement we need to worry about is The Lord's, right? This life is all about the choices we make and we will have to answer for those choices...Of course you will feel The Spirit in church. And so awesome your sister went too! And when you pray.... but it just can't be a constant... like if I chose to go to a bar I will not feel the spirit there. We only have it as a constant if we are living worthily to have it or are in a place where The Spirit can dwell. :)

J G-W said...

Sarah, actually you did kind of tell me that Satan had won me (and therefore didn't need to work on me any more) and that the choices I've made don't entitle me to have the Spirit in my life.

Maybe you don't feel that's judgmental... At the very least you made a lot of assumptions about me just based on the fact that I am gay and in a same-sex relationship, without really knowing much more about me -- without knowing anything else about the nature of my relationship with my husband, with my son, with my family, with the Church, or with God.

I guess I take your last comment (especially the part acknowledging that people make a lot of unfair assumptions about you just based on the fact you're a Mormon mom) as some sort of acknowledgment that you prefer people not make those kinds of snap judgments, about you or anyone. If that is an apology, I accept.

As for what you have to say about having the Spirit in our lives, I can't say I disagree with anything you said... Which is why I go to Church, why I study the scriptures, why I pray, why I live as many of the commandments as I can, and why I apply the principles of chastity in my relationship with my husband.

For what it's worth, I have received specific guidance from the Spirit to help strengthen my relationship with my husband, to help me be more faithful to him, and to help me nurture and strengthen him as a human being and as a child of God. As far as I can tell, the fact of being in a relationship with him has not cut me off from the Spirit. In fact, I have received frequent, very powerful assurances from the Spirit that as regards this relationship I am OK and my relationship with my husband should be honored -- especially in situations where people have behaved unkindly or judgmentally toward me in regards to my relationship.

I understand that this seems to conflict with official Church teaching. I don't feel it appropriate to argue with the Church (or with anyone) about this. I don't claim to be an authority of any sort. I just know what I know for myself, and do what I need to do to take care of myself and my family.

I posted this essay on "How the Scriptures Relate," because somebody over at Mormon Matters accused me of not knowing the scriptures or not caring what the scriptures say, and challenged me to explain how I understand what the scriptures have to say on this issue. From the beginning, the purpose of this post was for mutual understanding -- not to argue, not to convert, and certainly not to judge.

If you like what I have to say... cool. If you don't like what I have to say... cool.

But if you want to talk to me about it, I have to feel that there's at least some level of respect there, or there's not much basis for a conversation.

Philly B. said...

I don't know John, and I don't personally know any gay people (at least none that are 'out' to me). I cannot imagine what John has gone through in his life trying to reconcile his love and allegiance to his church with his true identity (not his "lifestyle choice").

I used to have the same opinions as some of the ignorant/arrogant/judgmental commenters to this article. I equated homosexuality with mental disorders that developed from a young age. I rationalized a lot of my thinking by telling myself that I was still an accepting and open minded person that didn't hate or judge. I was as much an expert on homosexuality as Winifred or Fatma or Jon or Gordon B. or Anonymous. I didn't need to walk a mile in a gay person's shoes or do ANY KIND of studying/research because I had scriptures and prophets to tell me things I would merely accept and never question EVER. I "knew with every fiber of my being" that gay people were an abomination and believed they should not be allowed to have children. Now I will say, I never believed that they would "make their children gay". And I thought it was rediculous when people would say that gay kids in schools are actively recruiting others to be gay.

I am ashamed of the things I used to believe because of my religion. I am ashamed of things I have said and I will spend the rest of my life making those things right. It hurts to read some of the comments to this article, just as it hurts to read stories of great young LDS kids from exceptional families committing suicide - mostly because they REALLY DO come to believe that they are nothing in the sight of God and cannot go on any longer. What would these 'haters' have gay people do? Pray away the gay? Give me a break.

John - excellent article and very tasteful replies to comments. I would encourage you to free yourself from a church that half shuns you and half expects you to be without a partner for the rest of your life. I know you're not going to...yet. Just know that I admire someone that can put themselves out there as you have.

Anonymous said...

Philly B
Yet another voice encouraging sexual sin. There is nothing beautiful or ight about sexual sin. The author of this post knows this.

Anonymous said...

You should no more act on urges to have gay sex than on pedophilia or bestiality. These urges may be real but it's so important not to act on them. No one gets a free pass to sin. This moral law cannot be argued or reasoned away.

playasinmar said...

If it can't be reasoned with or argued away, could it be discarded? Left ignored or thought of as foolish and shortsighted and the product of insular thinking and NOT Heavenly edict?

Curse of Cain, anyone?

Kenesha said...

You have to do a real big examination of your life and try to reconcile yourself to God in every respect, including same sex attraction. Someone has mentioned on this blod about people committing suicide about this issue. This still gives no one a free pass to do whatever feels good. Straight people who never marry are expected to be celibate. So are people who struggle with SSA. Do you have any idea what it must be like to die in your sins? The scriptures describe it as terrifying. In the Mountain of the Lord, the prophets wife dies and he says something beautiful about rising up in the next life to meet God. Satan's goal is to keep us from our Heavenly Father. Having gay sex will keep you from the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Sara said...

http://www.walkingstick.org/Pumbedissa.html#homos

J G-W said...

Sara - thanks for this additional link!

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