Monday, October 4, 2010

Why Would God Do This to Me?

I realize a lot of folks are angry or discouraged by Elder Packer's words in General Conference. But I'm not. I'm actually encouraged.

When Elder Packer denied that homosexuality could possibly be inborn, and rhetorically posed the question, "Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" he was asking the same question I and countless other gay folks have asked ourselves.

And the reason we asked ourselves such a question is because our experience of our sexual orientation as some fundamental, inherent aspect of our beings prompted us to ask it. Because our efforts to stamp this aspect of ourselves out, to deny it, to run away from it, or to "pray it away" simply and utterly failed, no matter how much faith we exercised and no matter how urgent our desire to be straight. Yes, this is an existential problem. It is very much about who we are, what our natures are. That is why the problem of gay suicide is very much connected to this issue. To be or not to be, that is the question. Gay suicide is the urgency of our desire to be something we are not crashing up against the reality of what we are. And out of the pain of the conflict, if we somehow survive it, comes that anguished question: "Why, God, would you do this to me?"

We can try to deny the data, but the data is there. The lives, the experiences, the struggles, the truth is all there, bigger than the denials.

So Elder Packer's speech is comforting to me. When he asks, "Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" he is asking the right question.


playasinmar said...

J G-w, I think you could find the silver lining of being chased by a T-Rex.

J G-W said...

Playa - It's funny you mention that, because as a small kid I did have a recurring nightmare of being chased by a T-Rex. Mom tells me I would wake them in the middle of the night and ask them to check under my bed and in my closet to make sure that the dinosaur on a rampage wasn't in there. I'm not sure what the silver lining of that was, but I rarely have nightmares any more, so I'm sure there's one in there some where.

Beck said...

Yes, he is asking the "right question", but is he seeking for the answer to that question? Is he really pondering that there are sons and daughters who have sincerely pondered this very question and come to a different conclusion? Does it even enter his mentality to consider that there may be another answer?

I've recently blogged on this. I feel there are those in authority who are asking this question. I hope that the church members at large will ask this question and seek the answer. I'm afraid, however, that many do not even feel the need to receive further light and knowledge as all that we need to know is known.

J G-W said...

Beck, I know, and it's frustrating as hell. But... though the heavens depart and the earth's fountains burst, Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst.

Fewer and fewer Saints -- in positions of high authority or elsewhere -- are finding they can put this question off or ignore/deny the data that makes this question necessary.

This will work for our good, just as Proposition 8 has and is working for our good.

MoHoHawaii said...

It was more meaningful to me that Elder Bruce Hafen, one of the harsher anti-gay voices among Church leadership, was released.

I saw Elder Packer's talk as a powerful symbol of generational change. It was almost whispered by an aged man so frail that he couldn't stand to utter the words. LDS young adults do not agree with Elder Packer on this issue. Change is in the works.

Another interesting point is that Elder Packer seemed to support criminalizing consensual sex between adults. I wonder what his opinion is on the proposed Ugandan legislation to make homosexuality punishable by death.

And finally, I thought it telling that the issue of suicide was not mentioned, especially in the wake of the well-publicized loss in September of a number of gay adolescents. In terms of priorities, Elder Packer cares much less that we lose hundreds of beautiful, precious gay young people every year to suicide than he does about making sure committed gay couples are not given the same legal protections that he and his wife have enjoyed all their lives.

So, I'm very glad that his talk was a symbol of imminent generational change. We all look for the silver lining wherever we can find it.

bale said...

Good Post.

People thought that the Church was becoming more accepting and understanding (e.g. "God Loveth His Children" pamphlet and giving support for anti-discrimination laws in SLC).

Here's a good article posted quickly after the talk aired:

My suggestion to any Mohos out there, read "No Man Knows My History" and/or "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins". The lies go deeper than you know and its time to GET OUT!

Ren said...

Packer may have asked the right question but he did ask it rhetorically and denied that it was even possible to be born a certain way. His talk was troubling because he spoke as though we are citizens of a theocracy. Very few LDS live in countries that actually are theocracies and none are ones run by LDS.

The number of talks demanding members to follow the current prophet and drilling down that point over and over tells me that rank and file members are questioning actions of the leadership and I can guess what the dominant issue is for that. So in a sense, I was happy to hear those talks because it tells me people are questioning (and many leaving) and change is slowly coming, as lethargically as it does on any issue.

Sean said...

as usual JG-W, you leave me wishing to be a better man. thanks :)

J G-W said...

MHH - That's another way to look at this. The issue of gay suicide has been very much on my mind, as it has been on the minds of anyone who's been following the news the last couple of weeks.

Ren - Even asking the question rhetorically is a form of recognition that the deeper existential questions are out there, that people are asking them.

Sean, thanks!

Kiley said...

You have got to be one of the most incredible people I have every "met". It was a question that I have asked a million times. You are right. It is the right question even if it was not presented in the right way.

Thank you for being a calm and rational voice.

Anonymous said...

No offense, JGW, but I think you missed the point. This man was not asking the question, but instead saying that there ARE no inherently gay people. That gay people are a product of nurture, not nature, and to be gay is therefore choosing to sin. He was not asking the question as a real or rhetorical question. His point was that no one is born gay...that God wouldn't do that.

Anonymous said...

From the limited experience that I've had with the LDS church, it seems to me they (the church) are only interested in financially successful families. The church paints a pretty picture on the outside, ie;Mormon Messages, but in reality the church is just the opposite of what it pretends to be. I have known a few gay Mormon Missionaries, and I feel sad for them having to
co-exist in a religion that basically tries to exterminate homosexuality.


J G-W said...

Anonymous - Sure, you can put a totally negative spin on this... The thing is, I don't think there's such a thing as going backwards, though people try, especially if they are threatened by change.

The fact that Elder Packer felt obliged to speak about the issue of whether a person can or cannot be gay in the way he did to me belies the incredible movement and growth we've seen on this issue in the Church just within the last five years.

So, no, though I'm saddened by some of what he said, I'm not going to hang my head in dejection or get discouraged or angry. These are the kinds of things you expect to see people say and do when change is taking place. And the change I see is very good.

J G-W said...

Andy - I guess I have to admit that based on a lot of behavior I've seen in the LDS Church, it is hard to deny that many members and leaders of the Church are only interested in proselytizing and keeping financially stable (heterosexual) families.

And based on the statements of many leaders (including this one), it seems that many in the Church are simply in denial about homosexuality, also true.

And, yes, given the reality of that behavior, ad campaigns like the "Mormon Messages" campaign do tend to leave a sour taste in one's mouth, don't they?

Yet, so many of my Mormon friends and family of the opposite of everything you describe -- loving people who deeply care about everyone, including the poor, regardless of race or gender or sexuality. My parents are deeply devout and faithful Mormons, and they always set an example for me, showing me how to love everyone. My ward is a place where I am embraced and loved... Sure there's struggle, but to me the good far outweighs the bad.

The Bible says there are "wheat and tares" in the Church... Some are faithful and loving and some are just there for show and for the advantage going to Church will give them... It's not our responsibility to judge, it's our responsibility to just do the best we can to spread the love and eschew pride and unkindness.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Kiley. Thanks to you too for being a steadying, positive voice.

MoHoHawaii said...

These are the kinds of things you expect to see people say and do when change is taking place. And the change I see is very good.

Amen to that!

*All* change is resisted. What we are seeing are growing pains. There's reason for quite a bit of optimism.

Anonymous said...

The only change that is good is leaving the LDS church. It's a bunch of bullshit anyways.

Anonymous said...

The never-ending why.I feel like God wants me to go this way and I shall be following him. I don't ask 'Why?', I ask for guidance.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I agree, I think that's the best way forward.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised he didn't just blame it on Satan messing with biology or the "natural man" being an enemy to God. He makes God look pernicious when he asks that question, which is why it was removed in the transcript.

J G-W said...

Well, actually I think it was intended as a denial that homosexuality could possibly be something innate.

But, yes, that's why those words come across as so devastating to those of us who clearly experience our homosexual orientation as something inherent in our physical/mental/social/spiritual make-ups.