Mormons Softening Anti-Gay Position? Not So Much

It’s been reported in the last couple of weeks that the LDS (Mormon) church has softened its views on homosexuality. Last year, apostle Boyd Packer’s remarks to the church’s general conference were edited when he said that gays were not born with homosexual “tendencies.” Recently, a panel discussion was held at BYU in which LGBT students talked about their experiences and how they have been treated in the church, which was followed up with an “It Gets Better” video from BYU students.

My first thought when I saw the BYU reports was that it isn’t the church that is softening its attitude, but ordinary church members who are reaching out. I didn’t see much change in the church’s attitude towards gays, other than they’ve stopped promoting a book that referred to homosexuality as a “crime against nature” and that said that believing one was born gay is “blasphemy.” My impression was confirmed when another address from Boyd Packer was published in this month’s New Era, the LDS church’s official magazine for teens. He essentially said the same thing that he did last year in arguing that no one is born gay. This time, he was not edited:

A few of you may have felt or been told that you were born with troubling feelings and that you are not guilty if you act on those temptations. Doctrinally we know that if that were true, your agency would have been erased, and that cannot happen. You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live a morally pure and chaste life, one filled with virtue.

The difference is that this statement is in a magazine that very few people other than Mormons will read, whereas the earlier statements went out to a wider audience. The message is clear in his remarks: You were not born gay, and if you act on your feelings, you are guilty of sin. Being gay means you are not following the Holy Ghost and are not living a pure, chaste, and virtuous life. Doesn’t sound any softer to me.

The LDS church is really good with PR. They have people talking about changing teachings and attitudes towards the LGBT community. The reality, however, is the same stuff they’ve been preaching since the 1950s.


10 Responses to Mormons Softening Anti-Gay Position? Not So Much

  1. Chris Smith says:

    Hmmm…. The quote doesn’t appear to be denying a biological basis for SGA. Just that you always have the choice not to act on your feelings.

    • runtu says:

      I think it does say that. What he’s saying is that to say you were born with these “troubling feelings” is to say that God gave you these feelings, which would erase your agency. At least that’s how I read it.

      • GBSmith says:

        I agree with Chris Smith on this. There’s no denial of being born with SGA just a warning that you can’t use that as an excuse for behavior.

      • runtu says:

        Well, then we disagree. No big deal. And I am genuinely sorry for offending you. I was trying to do a little lighthearted humor at the expense of LDS culture. I did not mean it as ridiculing the church or its teachings.

  2. Chris Smith says:

    He goes on to quote Hinckley: “They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have [temptations] of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church.”

  3. Alex Haiken says:

    They’ll get there. It’s somewhat akin to the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. who lived during a time where for so long it had in essence been widely accepted that light-skinned people were superior to dark-skinned people. Yet he and others saw that the tide was slowly but surely changing, as it is today with the gay issue. And as with the race issue, when the tide started tuning, there will be “old-school” folks feel the need to dig their heels into the sand and desperately try to cling to what is inescapably and assuredly passing away, like a drowning person clinging with his or her fingers to the last remnants of a sinking boat. In King’s day, it was the white supremacists and Klansmen; in our day, its people like those in your denomination.

    But the fact remains the old is indeed passing away in our own lifetime and before our very eyes — which is precisely why they feel the need to dig their heels in and desperately try to cling on to the old.

    Be reminded of the story in Acts where the Pharisees desperately wanted to stop the disciples from spreading the good news of the Gospel. But then Gamaliel, “a teacher of the law who was honored by all the people” stood up in the Sanhedrin and in wisdom said to the group, “In this present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if, their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)

    I think that pretty well sums up what we’re looking at today. What was it that Martin Luther King, Jr., said? “Let us remember that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

    -Alex Haiken

  4. Looks like it was in the New Era magazine for teens, not the Ensign?

    I don’t think race and sexuality really compare all that much. Race is absolutely biological and fixed (unless you’re Michael Jackson). Sexual orientation can evolve over time in one person, and while it may have some biological factors in some cases, there are also many other contributing factors, including a person’s choices about how to respond to feelings/attractions.

  5. pollypinks says:

    They’ve got gay and lesbian shit happening on the ward level as well. Telling members it’s not a sin to be gay, only to act on that “gayness.” In other words, be a celibate gay, and all will be either treated normally, or forgiven. Two simple notations here, as this subject really has me pissed off. Analyzing Greek writings of both secular and Christian, arsenokoites probably refers to some kind of economic exploitation, probably by sexual means: rape or sex by economic coercion, prostitution, pimping, or something like that.. Victor Furnish notes the word sodomite is not used in the Hebrew text of the OT, not even to mean a resident of Sodom. It was introduced in English in a half dozen OT passages in the King James Version of the Bible in 1611. Nor does the word appear in the Greek text of the NT. We could go on and on and on, but it’s awfully clear that religious zealots don’t know their shit.

  6. Alex Haiken says:

    It seems you’re confusing orientation with behavior. Orientation indeed is about who you are attracted to. Both gay and straight people have no more of a choice in this they people do with the color of their skin. This is where the analogy holds true. Behavior, on the other hand, involves what you do with your orientation.

    One can buy into the notion that homosexuality is a sin and not act on it like the self-proclaiming “ex-gays”. But a change in behavior does not constitute a change in orientation. It is as absurd as an African American who uses skin bleaching and would say he or she is ex-African American. In any culture or place where we have seen a minority oppressed for who they are, people have tried to change. When Jews have been oppressed, many convert. In places today like the Dominican Republic we still see hair straightening and skin bleaching; it’s very prevalent. We also see it in a variety of other areas such as eye-rounding with Asians in areas where it is advantageous. This is no different. This is only the latest version of people trying to change to try to fit in to be accepted in society. But the Jews are still Jews. The African Americans are still African American. The Dominicans are still Dominican and the gays are still gay.
    -Alex Haiken

  7. runtu says:

    I don’t think it matters where orientation originates, though I do not believe anyone chooses their orientation, and once it is fixed, it is not going to change.

    And thanks, Chris, you were right: It was the New Era. Fixed it.

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