Being “born that way” is meaningless

January 9, 2004 | 63 comments
By

In his attempt to overcome the ‘secularist’ charge and to prove he understands religion, Howard Dean said this week, “[f]rom a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.”

Let me start by noting that if this statement is typical of the quality of Dean’s thinking “from a religious point of view,” it’s not hard to figure out why Dean isn’t religious.

Even if he isn’t religious, he’s not an idiot, either, so his argument must have made sense according to his secular worldview. (Andrew Sullivan seems to think it’s compelling, too.)

By religious and secular standards, this argument is foolish, no matter that many otherwise-intelligent people have been hoodwinked by it. Too many people think that if they can only prove their behavior is biologically based, due to factors beyond their control, true to their innate identity, or “natural”, then their behavior is justified. But being “born that way” tells us nothing about whether a behavior is right or wrong.

For Christians, man’s nature has been contrary to God’s commandments since The Fall. The purpose of religion, by this view, is to redeem man from this fallen and degraded state.

For secularists, science has given no assurances that the evil acts of men do not stem from their natures. Indeed, the more we’ve studied genetics, the more we’ve realized that we enter the world with predispositions in every facet of life.

Dean and Sullivan believe homosexuals are innately predisposed to a point on the hetero-homosexuality continuum (though Sullivan, like most gay advocates, refuses to acknowledge the sexuality spectrum, preferring the rhetorical force of a simpler binary sexuality). I believe they’re right: there is probably a genetic component to sexual preference. But this fact doesn’t resolve the question of homosexuality’s morality. If it could, then Dean and Sullivan would have to either (1) believe that people do not have, and science will not find, innate predispositions toward behaviors Dean and Sullivan condemn, such as aggression, alcohol abuse, pedophilia, pederasty and incest; or (2) embrace those negative behaviors once they’re shown to be genetically based: once science shows that Ted Bundy was genetically predisposed to kill women, we’ll know that God doesn’t think killing women is a sin because He created Bundy and his predisposition.

People are born with predispositions toward all kinds of behaviors, both positive and negative; sexual preference is but one. Science sheds more light on this every year. But learning that our behaviors are natural tells us nothing about their morality. As society’s done for millenia, we must continue to demand that people refrain from acting on their negative predispositions.

Tags:

63 Responses to Being “born that way” is meaningless

  1. Kaimi on January 9, 2004 at 11:52 am

    Matt,

    I haven’t read all of Dean’s statements on this subject, so I can’t claim any expertise. However, it seems to me that “born that way” has more content than you want to give it.

    One of the repeated criticisms of gay behavior is that it goes against nature. When Dean or others say that homosexual behavior is permissible because people were born that way, it could reasonably be read as a shorthand for the following reasoning:

    (1) Rejection of other critiques of gay behavior (such as Old Testament scriptures) for independent reasons.
    (2) Belief that other reasons (perhaps New Testament verses) require acceptance of gays
    (3) Recognition that the “against nature” argument is rhetorically powerful, and
    (4) Public refutation of that powerful argument by stating that gays were born that way.

    It might not be a chain of reasoning you agree with, but it is not logically unsupportable.

  2. Russell Arben Fox on January 9, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    “For Christians, man’s nature has been contrary to God’s commandments since The Fall. The purpose of religion, by this view, is to redeem man from this fallen and degraded state.”

    Which is one of the reasons–but only one of them–that I don’t like natural law reasoning, as I discussed at great length in an eariler post (here: http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000069.html). “Born that way,” “the natural family,” etc.–I’m not comfortable with the easy attribution of normativity which people on both sides of these moral disputes make to such positions. (Necessary caveat: as Kaimi notes, arguments from “nature” are powerful, if only rhetorically. I’ve used them myself, and I don’t think they are necessarily all hokum. But ultimately, I just don’t put much stock in that kind of reasoning, whether in defense of homosexuality or the “traditional” family or much anything else.

  3. Logan on January 9, 2004 at 12:23 pm

    Like Kaimi, I acknowledge that I’m not an expert on Howard Dean’s position of homosexuality. From this particular quote that Matt gives, however, I think Kaimi may give Dean more credit that he deserves.

    Where Dean gets into trouble here is by making a doctrinal statement asserting that homosexuality is not a “sin.” As Matt says, the existence of gays has no bearing on its morality. Had Dean made a comment advocating tolerance along New Testament lines, his argument would be much stronger, but he doesn’t seem to do that with this statement. Obviously, sins and crimes are not always the same (and this is probably necessary), and if people do legal things that we consider “sins,” we should allow that. I don’t see that this is quite what Dean is saying here.

  4. Taylor on January 9, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    An interesting consequence of Matt’s argument is that he cannot argue for natural heterosexuality either. This puts him on the same side of the debate as many Queer Theorists. I have often wondered if LDS theology could work successfully from this assumption. Thoughts?

  5. Adam Greenwood on January 9, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    I’m not sure if I agree with you, Taylor. Eden and then the Millennium both suggest that there may be natural states that are good. So, one probably can’t argue that the currext existence of heterosexuality is enough to show that it is good. But neither can one argue that the current existence of heterosexuality rules out it being part of an ideal natural order.

  6. Hugh on January 9, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Of course Andrew Sullivan agrees… He’s politically conservative and morally liberal.

  7. Taylor on January 9, 2004 at 2:18 pm

    Adam, on closer reading of Matt’s post I think he was making a slightly different argument that what I originally assumed. He seems to be in fact conceding that homosexuality is natural, but not allowing people to make normative claims on the basis of its “naturalness.” This seems to be a very anti-natural law argument to me.
    I absolutely agree with you that appeals to the morality of heterosexuality cannot be based on empirical acknowlegments of its existence, the history of its practice, etc.
    I think I disagree with the way that you are using the term natural when you describe the “ideal natural order.” Perhaps this is the source of much of the confusion on this topic by both parties. When Matt and Dean use the term, they seem to refer to a innate characteristic of human beings. When you use the term, you describe an external ideal to which one must conform. While I (think I) agree with with you that there is such an ideal, I am not sure that “natural” is the best term to describe it. My original question remains about whether such a theological postition is viable, i.e., there is only a external ideal to which we either conform on not (either divine, according to Mormonism, or social, according to Queer Theory).

  8. Brent on January 9, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    As with so many discussions, one’s viewpoint turns on how one defines certain terms. For instance, take the term “nature” or “natural.” Such terms could involve what each individual feels, his or her personal inclinations, whereever derived are thus “natural” to that person. We could also say that what is “natural” is what is the sexual inclinations of most people. Thus, what is “natural” reflects what might be deemed “normal.” I think, however, that another meaning might be found in physiology. Take away individual inclinations and sexual predilictions and look at what physiology tells us. The sex act generally is the coupling of the male and female of the species. Following our physiological makeup requires that sex be confined as between only men and women. Any other sexual behavior would be considered “unnatural” as a variance from one’s sexual physiological makeup.

    Furthermore, let me first add that while I think “traditional” or conservative arguments on this matter outside of the religious context (or at least Christian religions) are better and more persuasive, within the context of religion, there is no valid basis to take the position that Dean or Gene Robinson or others attempt to take. If Dean’s basic premis is correct that someone “being born that way” means that something cannot be a sin, then there can be no commandments or gospel upon which to rely. There is no need then for religion in the first place, and certainly no need for a Savior. Everyone could argue that they are “born that way.” I may have a heated temper. God must have made me that way, so there can be no sin in losing control and beating up my next door neighbor. Other examples can be given as well. If one accepts that there is a God, and that He does declare certain behaviors and attitudes to be sinful, it cannot be reasonably argued that one’s prediliction toward certain behaviors and attitudes removes the sinfulness of such things. In making such a statement Dean shows that he lacks both and understanding of religion in the first place and the inability to appreciate the irrationality of his statements. To think that such an individual will likely garner the nomination of one of our nation’s two largest political parties is frightening.

  9. clark goble on January 9, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    “One of the repeated criticisms of gay behavior is that it goes against nature.”

    The problem is that “against nature” is I think in reference to old ideas of natural law. They are just hopelessly muddled. Without going into all forms of natural law, I’d just say that the Stoics were one of the big sources for the idea. And they explicitly felt that many things didn’t work right. Indeed the whole point of Stoic ethics was to work according to natural law.

    Clearly something can’t be against nature if nature creates it. And clearly even ignoring homosexuals there are all sorts of cases where children can’t clearly be discerned as male or female and doctors simply make them female. That can’t help but cause problems.

    Biological systems aren’t that far removed from machines. If we get sick and malfunction in various ways then we ought to recognize that is natural. The error is to assume that malfunction should be accepted. The other error is to assume we know what constitutes a malfunction, which was the homosexual argument against old psychological positions up through the 1970’s as many recall.

  10. Matt Evans on January 9, 2004 at 7:53 pm

    Brent — excellent point. I wish I’d realized earlier that Dean’s position completely empties religion of all moral imperatives. If everything God creates is without sin, and God created everything, then there are no sins of any kind!

    With one week of practice, this Deano guy has caught the religious vision!

    But what if God creates a church with property rights near a lake that a smug yuppie wants to preserve as a bike-path?

    And what if God creates a cowboy who wants to shoot up the middle east?

    I think I’m warming to this Deano Religion thing.

  11. Kristine on January 9, 2004 at 9:41 pm

    Hey, look at all the Democrats not using this forum as a place for gratuitous political cheap shots!

  12. Kristine on January 9, 2004 at 9:57 pm

    Actually, Dean’s statement (though not the hyperbolic generalizations here derived from it) accords well with official Church practice which (now–this was not the case until the 1989? Handbook) distinguishes between homosexuality, which is not regarded as sinful per se, and homosexual behavior, which is. Elder Oaks acknowledged (Ensign, October 1995 or so) that there may be a genetic component to the orientation.

    I personally find it strange that a Church whose doctrine otherwise embraces physicality and rejects celibacy and asceticism as contravening God’s plan for His children to experience fulfillment and joy in this life is able to maintain that celibacy is the only appropriate choice for some fraction of the population.

    Nonetheless, it seems pretty clear that Church policy is founded on the premise that homosexuality is not itself sinful.

  13. Clark Goble on January 9, 2004 at 10:36 pm

    I seem to recall Elder Oaks saying something along the lines that homosexual *acts* are sins the same way extra-marital heterosexual *acts* are. In this case, however, there are some problems for those who adopt the Catholic or Protestant attacks on homosexuality. They are wrong the same way pre-marital sex is wrong. Yet we don’t attack young singles in their 20’s who are sleeping with each other the way we do homosexuals.

    That’s the place I tend to get troubled in that homosexual acts are somehow treated as horrible while there is a wink – wink – nudge – nudge to non-Mormons fornicating.

  14. Brent on January 10, 2004 at 12:22 am

    “I personally find it strange that a Church whose doctrine otherwise embraces physicality and rejects celibacy and asceticism as contravening God’s plan for His children to experience fulfillment and joy in this life is able to maintain that celibacy is the only appropriate choice for some fraction of the population.”

    Speaking of contravening God’s plan for His children–that is exactly what homosexuality does. God’s plan is for all of us to be sealed to a member of the opposite sex for time AND ALL ETERNITY. It is the most important saving ordinance, and God’s hope for all. With that comes all our Father in Heaven has for us. The church does not maintain that celibacy is the only appropriate choice for anyone. All are encouraged to marry and enjoy all that life (both this and the next) has to offer. Are you suggesting that homosexuals can only “experience joy and fulfillment” by engaging in sinful and deviant practices? Alma taught Corianton that “wickedness never was happiness.” Such is the clearly the case among the homosexual population, at least according to most studies. Joy and fulfillment comes from living righteously.

    Dean’s statement doesn’t come close to church policy, because he isn’t just speaking about “being homosexual.” The clear implication of his statement is that the homosexual lifestyle is not sinful. That is simply wishful thinking on his and many other’s part.

    I don’t think anyone attacks homosexuals. Homosexuals are more “in your face” about their agenda and lifestyle, so conservatives are forced to adopt a defensive posture. I don’t believe there is a wink-wink nudge-nudge to non-Mormons fornicating (excellent Monty Python reference by the way). Or there shouldn’t be.

  15. Clark Goble on January 10, 2004 at 4:01 am

    I think there definitely are conservatives who dislike homosexuals and there are many homosexuals who aren’t “in your face.” (Although the ones who are definitely are annoying)

    Having said that though celibacy is what is required for anyone who doesn’t find a member of the opposite sex they wish to marry. The fact is that there are many people who are single and who would love to be non-single. To simply say that homosexuals are somehow alone in this is quite an egregious error, although one commonly made. The difference between these singles and homosexuals often is only that homosexuals simply know people they’d like to be with but which is inappropriate.

  16. Kristine on January 10, 2004 at 9:35 am

    Brent: The official church publication on helping “people with homosexual problems” says specifically that those individuals should not be encouraged to marry.

    Clark: there is a large difference between being told “not now, but if you’re righteous, someday” and “not now, not ever, you cannot be righteous.”

  17. Matt Evans on January 10, 2004 at 10:48 am

    Kristine:

    I completely agree that we have to welcome and protect gays and lesbians. We have to remind the members that gays are children of God, as Hinckley said in his conference statement explaining the church’s involvement in the California gay-marriage debate.

    The church’s position toward homosexuals is the same as it is for other singles: “if you’re righteous, someday”. Granted, that someday may not be until the resurrection. (But of course many singles’ “someday” is postponed until the resurrection as well.)

    At the resurrection, everyone who’s worthy will be able to reproduce, so whether a person’s inability to reproduce in mortality was due to a genetic problem that left them without sexual organs, or a genetic problem that left them sexually incompatible with the opposite sex, the problem will be overcome.

    There are many people with sexual desires that are contrary to the law of happiness, homosexual behavior isn’t singled out for condemnation by the church. Homosexuals, polyamorists, polygamists, pedophiles, pederasts, fornicators and those with sexual desires for their children or siblings are only subject to discipline if they _act_ on their desires, not for having deviant sexual desires.

  18. Clark Goble on January 10, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    “Clark: there is a large difference between being told “not now, but if you’re righteous, someday” and “not now, not ever, you cannot be righteous.”

    Well I think the latter comment is wrong and not in accordance with church doctrine. But regarding *marriage* there isn’t a difference unless you think homosexuality exists in the next life. So if a bishop tells a single person they may marry in the next life that seems to be the same regardless of sex. Of course speaking as someone who married later than most, I can attest that such attempts at comforting are amazingly annoying and patronizing and I’d wish people wouldn’t say them.

    But no one in the formal doctrine area is saying homosexuals can’t be righteous. Various ignorant people do, of course. But that is once again the influence of Protestantism on Mormonism I feel.

  19. Kristine on January 10, 2004 at 3:39 pm

    Matt says: “The church’s position toward homosexuals is the same as it is for other singles: “if you’re righteous, someday”. Granted, that someday may not be until the resurrection. (But of course many singles’ “someday” is postponed until the resurrection as well.)”

    It *isn’t* the same (unless you’re meaning to suggest that post-resurrection homosexual activity will be licit). For heterosexuals the church’s position means “someday the desires which you experience as deeply part of who you are will be fulfilled.” For gays the only possible comfort is that a huge part of what they experience as personal identity will go away. I wouldn’t find that particularly reassuring. I also think it doesn’t work well with the Mormon doctrinal commitment to the physical body (and, presumably, the desires engendered by physical mechanisms) being so closely linked to the spirit of an individual. I’m not (at least not right now) saying that the official position is wrong, only that I find it deeply puzzling. The “born that way” argument is a significant problem for Mormon theology, despite your easy dismissal. It would be easier if we believed in corruption being inherent in physicality.

  20. Clark Goble on January 10, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    Kristine I’m about to go skiing and don’t have time to write much. But I’m intrigued by your comment, “for gays the only possible comfort is that a huge part of what they experience as personal identity will go away.” Exactly why do you think that is somehow unique to homosexuals? Do you think that for the rest of us that is somehow not true?

    If our biology is a huge massive part of our personality – especially the sexual parts of that biology – then isn’t the same true of us as we await resurrection? And do you honestly think that the biological changes in the resurrection, especially concerning that ambiguous “natural man” won’t also massively change our personal identity.

    I’m rather curious as to why you think homosexuals are somehow unique in this.

  21. Kristine on January 10, 2004 at 4:20 pm

    Clark, it’s a good question. I think I have to confess that I haven’t thought about it that way. But I think that when most of us imagine what we’ll be like after the resurrection, we think that we’ll be much like ourselves, only better, with the natural man being easier to subdue than during mortality, with what we viewed as physical flaws being removed (maybe I’ll get a nice nose!). I can’t really imagine waking up to find my deepest longings for intimacy redirected to women. Perhaps this is just a failure of imagination on my part, but there are things like “that same sociality which now exists…” and Section 138 which suggest that we will recognize each other and ourselves. Given how central marriage is in Mormon doctrine, and ideas about eternal increase, etc., it seems plausible to posit sexuality as an essential characteristic, so that changing it would require more violence to the self/spirit than I normally imagine to be part of the resurrection.

  22. Michelle on January 10, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    I think the whole discussion assumes too much, because we know so little about genetics. What is the eternal nature of genetic code? How will our “pre-dispositions” affect our behaviors after mortality? Are genetics just something we need to overcome? Or are genes merely the physiological means for life on this earth. Have we missed the mark in our studies of them?

    I sincerely doubt that homosexuality is genetic.

  23. Clark Goble on January 10, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    ” But I think that when most of us imagine what we’ll be like after the resurrection, we think that we’ll be much like ourselves, only better, with the natural man being easier to subdue than during mortality, with what we viewed as physical flaws being removed (maybe I’ll get a nice nose!).”

    But that seems rather difficult to accept. At a bear minimum the consequences of having the veil removed will be huge. I don’t know of any support for that assumption and considerable reason to think it false.

    Sexuality certainly will be in the heavenly realm, Kristine, for the reasons you outline. But you assume it will be the same sexuality we have here, which seems much more controversial.

    Michelle, while I doubt all people who engage in homosexual *acts* do so for genetic reasons I’m reasonably certain that a large portion of people do so for biological reasons. Consider how you viewed sex prior to adolescence and after. Clearly something physiologically changed. If it wasn’t biological then your sexual drive was learned. But the evidence is overwhelming that a large component of sex is instinct that cuts in around the ages of 12 – 14. Now if that is true and it is biological then there is absolutely not reason why the proteins involved and the built up structures couldn’t work in a manner not in accordance to the normal manifestation.

    I think we tend to have a lot of assumptions that require the acceptance of a “blank slate” that is hard to reconcile to the science. That isn’t to go to the other extreme which suggests we’re totally determined by our DNA. Far from it. But to discount the DNA as many do seems difficult to accept.

  24. Kristine on January 10, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    Why is it controversial to assume that we’ll have sexuality that is similar to what we now have?

    What effects do you suppose the removal of the veil might have? What reasons support your idea that things will be so radically different? I’ve always thought that having the veil removed will radically affect our perspective and our capacity to learn, but you seem to suggest that it will have physical effects. Please elaborate.

  25. Brent on January 10, 2004 at 10:24 pm

    Kristine, you seem to accept as fact that homosexuals are “born that way.” You also seem to buy into Dean’s argument that if they are born that way, they have no obligation to overcome their homosexuality in an attempt to become more like Christ. I don’t know that your belief that their “being homosexual” beyond the veil is controversial. In fact, there may be some scriptural support for that argument in Alma 34 where Amulek teaches that our same desires rise with us. But for that reason, he claims we must not procrastinate the day of our repentance. You seem to think that all an individual who has homosexual tendencies should do is accept those tendencies as part of his inner being, part of his spiritual being. Such tendencies may be part of his or her physical makeup (although this has yet to be proven) but if we are to put aside the natural man, to overcome our animal nature. As Elder Maxwell has stated so eloquently to place the animal in us upon the alter as a sacrifice to God.

  26. Brent on January 10, 2004 at 11:08 pm

    Also the church’s position is that individuals struggling with same-sex attraction should not be encouraged to marry as a means of dealing with their attraction. However, if such individuals overcome their attraction, then of course they would be encouraged to marry, and the church would encourage them to work with their priesthood leaders and others to overcome their same-sex attraction.

    You also say “Given how central marriage is in Mormon doctrine, and ideas about eternal increase, etc., it seems plausible to posit sexuality as an essential characteristic, so that changing it would require more violence to the self/spirit than I normally imagine to be part of the resurrection.” I don’t know that “sexuality” is an essential characteristic, although gender would be. What is essential for exaltation is eternal marriage. Eternal marriage is the union between man and woman. If a person’s self/spirit was incapable of marrying because of who he or she “was/is” then God’s plan is flawed. You have focused only on homosexuality. What if it could be proven that there was a murderer gene, or a thief gene, or any other number of physical justifications for sin could be offered? What then of your position? As I argued above, if your position is correct, then what is the purpose of the gospel and a Savior? Christ’s calls all to Him. He lovingly tells us to cast our burdens upon Him. He will change the homosexual and the heterosexual who also considers sex to define who he or she is. Christ changes hearts, minds, and bodies. To suggest that one cannot change even if he or she is born a certain way is to deny, at least in part, the efficacy of the Atonement. It is during this life, however, that we have the greatest access to the Atonement and to change ourselves. Again, that is the message of Alma 34. We do a great disservice to so-called homosexuals by treating them as both “born that way” and “stuck that way.”

  27. Jared on January 11, 2004 at 12:35 am

    I accept that there is a biological basis for homosexuality–I think its degree of influence probably varies between individuals. But I don’t think that social influence should be underestimated. I think that the social support system closes the door on change for more people than we may realize.

    The entertainment industry is often criticized for its unrealistic portrayal of women–making super-model looks the norm. This alledgedly makes many women feel bad about themselves, but also teaches men to have unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, different cultures have different ideas about what constitutes beauty.

    If culture can influence sexual tastes in heterosexuals, why can’t it have an influence on homosexuals too? I think that the support culture of the homosexual community plays an important role in magnifying whatever biological basis already exists.

    The winking at pre-marital heterosexual relations is somewhat of a double-standard. It probably arises from the difference in expectation of change.

    From a Church perspective, those who have been on missions are familiar with the scenerio of teaching an unmarried couple with kids that they need to get married in order to be baptized. Teaching a homosexual couple with kids would be a entirely different scenerio. The “family” would essentially have to break up. This is probably a major reason why the Church fights gay-marriage so much. Critics could ask, “Well, are you a family church or not?”

  28. brayden on January 11, 2004 at 1:31 am

    Following up on the biological/genetic basis of homosexuality – I believe that many researchers in this area claim that differences in sexuality are attributable to differences in hormonal levels of the mother during gestation. Doesn’t affect the course of this discussion much, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

  29. cooper on January 11, 2004 at 1:44 am

    “In steps cooper” with her typically simple view of the gospel. We could argue until doomsday and no one will convince me that homosexuality is not a sin. It is a factor in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Proclamation on the family states the nature of families. In order for us to be politically acceptable some think that we need to embrace the sin. Not so. Just the sinner. Homosexuality is a choice, just as is premarital sex by anyone, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, love of money, love of self and any other number of other negative behaviors. Relying on the old standby of “Iwas born this way” is a cop out. We chose to come to this earth to be tried and proven worhty to return to our Father. I am sorry some have harder tasks to complete. (Now there’s a philosophical discussion for Clark) But it doesn’t chang ethe fact that we are here to be proven. To begin the path to perfection. It is easy to stand for truth and righteousness wherever or whenever but stand we must. Truth doesn’t change. It is science that is ever changing. Now what is the definition of scientific theory?…someone’s best guess given the probabilities at the time.

  30. Kristine on January 11, 2004 at 11:09 am

    Brent (et al): Your arguments are eloquent, and, in principle I would like to accept them. You proceed (approximately) this way, as do most statements of church leaders on the topic: God loves his children and wants them to be happy. Marriage is the best way for them to be happy. Therefore, all of God’s children must be capable of heterosexual marriage. It wouldn’t make sense for God to create spirits who are inevitably attracted to sinful behavior and can’t change. Therefore, people who experience their own orientation as homosexual must either be making a sinful choice or must somehow be mistaken about what they perceive to be an immutable personal characteristic. Repentance works in this case as in others, and “homosexual” should be used as an adjective to describe temptation or behavior, but not as a noun to describe people.

    Nonetheless, we are confronted with the stubborn fact of people who, despite strenuous efforts at repentance, and even (though more rarely) despite lifelong celibacy or exclusively heterosexual behavior, experience themselves as homosexually oriented. Official counsel for such individuals has softened considerably over the last few decades, moving from a position something like cooper’s to a more nuanced view which seems to view homosexual orientation more as a disease along the lines of alcoholism. This is unconvincing to me for many reasons, among them the fact that people who have never drunk alcohol do not report an alcoholic self-perception, and also because the best psychologists/psychiatrists in and out of the church have been unsuccessful at finding a therapeutic model that works consistently (indeed, there’s scant evidence of any therapeutic model working *at all* to actually change orientation, though many individuals achieve behavioral control and some lessening of homosexual desire.)

    In short, I fear that our current approaches to the problem of homosexuality may be too close to asking “who hath sinned, this man or his parents…”

  31. Clark Goble on January 11, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    Kristine, perhaps controversial wouldn’t be the best word since I expect many Mormons just assume life will be as now. Let us instead perhaps use the phrase, difficult to support.

    The reason is that sexuality, as manifest and experienced, is a complex interplay between ones body and ones environment. For instance while I think ones sexual drives are primarily biological, clearly the way they express themselves are not. Why, when single, was I attracted to the types of women I was? Why did something appear sexually exciting to me rather than others?

    Yet those aspects to my sexuality surely are a part of who I am as much as the others. Yet those change dramatically over time. The way I experienced sexual drives when 14 was very different from 21 which is very different from now at 36. You are attempting to reduce sexuality in a manner than it simply can’t be reduced. If sexuality is that variable, how can we say that in heaven it is like *now*. Put more succinctly, what is the “now” of which we speak?

    Secondly there is the big issue of telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. To say that we’ll have the same society and use that to imply the same sexuality is impossible. Take those men with low testosterone. Will they also have low testosterone in heaven? Is there testosterone in heaven? Will those particular hormones make sense in a resurrected body, with their sometimes irrational drives for competition or violence? What about with women. Consider those women who experience hormones greater than others with the accompanying emotional consequences. Those are a fundamental part of our sexual makeup. Yet are they in heaven? Can they be in heaven?

  32. Brent on January 11, 2004 at 6:09 pm

    Kristine, you all but admit that most statements of church leaders on the topic are contrary to your position and belief. I just wonder why such statements are insufficient to guide your thinking on this, especially when their statements are consistent with all revealed scripture?

    It is no wonder that there is no psychological model for “treating” homosexuality and that so many allegedly fail in their quest to abandon their homosexuality. For more than thirty years, homosexuality has not been viewed as needing treatment or as a psychological disorder. Homosexuality has been celebrated in the media. Nearly every movie and television program promotes a homosexual agenda. There is a tremendous amount of societal pressure against classifying homosexuality as something that needs treatment. Furthermore, far too many, even absent any scientific proof, treat it as an immutable characteristic. Can you imagine having to deal with such a problem under the current set of societal circumstances? Some can and do change, however. Are you aware of Spitzer’s most recent study? He found that motivated individuals can in fact change their orientation. Note, he is not a conservative activst. In fact, he is responsible for getting homosexuality removed from the list of disorders.

    What do you view as each person’s responsibility and purpose in this life? What are the absolute truths that we all must abide by and adhere to? How do pedophilia and other sinful proclivities that cannot adequately be treated or explained fit into your doctrinal model?

  33. chris g on January 11, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    I think the idea mentioned by Clark “The way I experienced sexual drives when 14 was very different from 21 which is very different from now at 36” is quite interesting. I think many of us assume that we will get to pick and choose what aspects of our biological being (hormone levels, appearance, etc) we will keep with us on resurrection. Perhaps we just need to focus on what we must be willing to give up for exaltation. I would assume that in order to get this glory, we would pretty much have to be willing to give up everything. If I assume that there is one part of my biological being, or even personality that is just too important for me to loose, chances are I am not ready for exaltation. I think we all have perceptions of deity that we would be hard pressed to give up.

    I guess I see the arguments up to this point being similar to my experience with schizophrenics, and severe ADD students. I think most of us assume that these disorders are related to hormone levels (of one kind or another). Medicated, many complain about not feeling “themselves”. Hence lapses in self medications. While most of this is probably due to side effects from the drugs, from my limited experience, some schizophrenics just prefer who they are when unmedicated to who they are when they are medicated (I tend to see this most clearly from those who can regulate their symptoms through diet). If we can theorize that resurrection (and the resetting of hormone levels) will not result in any adverse side effects, what happens to the people that choose to keep schizophrenia as part of who they are? Will they be an exalted schizophrenic? Or are there some aspects of who we are (hormonal levels and everything) that are not compatible with exaltation? Yes, we may be required to modify how we are to such an extent that we no longer feel like we are the same person, but if we look at Clark’s comments, at 80, we definitely are not the same person we are at 14.. Do we still have to be prepared to give up those things we find we can’t change. Yes, I think if we haven’t found a way to overcome a problem, we have to be able to rely on Christ’s grace to find a way to do this. If we rely entirely on grace to save us though, the changes may be so great that we can’t accept them. Thus, I see the importance of always getting used to giving up pre-conceptions and getting used to real changes.

  34. Kristine on January 11, 2004 at 9:09 pm

    Chris: I think schizophrenia and other delusional disorders also present huge challenges for a doctrine of resurrection that is as *physical* as the Mormon view. Even depression (the downside of my Scandinavian heritage) raises really difficult questions about what’s brain chemistry and what’s spirit. And while “all spirit is matter” is poetic, it is awfully hard to apply. Having to deal with a God and resurrected beings who have flesh and bones sure makes it tougher than it is for Protestants who can coast along in blissful Cartesian dualism.
    And I think I want to agree with you that we have to be ready to give up everything, but then I’ll feel guilty about digging in my heels to argue with Brent, which I still really want to do :)
    Are there schizophrenics who would want to keep that aspect of their personality?

  35. Clark Goble on January 11, 2004 at 10:03 pm

    Kristine I honestly don’t see why it would be harder for us than Protestants as it seems for us the notion of self is quite an emergent and dynamic thing. The Protestants largely retain a more Aquinas like view. (Moreland, who attacked the Mormon view in the New Mormon Challenge has a whole book on this called _Body & Soul_)

    I think the problem is only a problem if you think that we ought to have some fixed state that is *us*. Put simply you assume there must be some essential us that remains static through our life.

    I think if you reject that underlying premise that a lot of Mormon doctrine will make far more sense. If there is some underlying “monad” that is essential to us, it is so low level that it doesn’t really matter that much.

  36. Kristine on January 11, 2004 at 10:53 pm

    Clark: huh? low level monads? what about intelligences that are co-eternal/co-equal with God?

    And, um, yeah, I shouldn’t say things like “Cartesian dualism,” lest the differences between the philosopher kings and the mere lit. crit. poseurs (it would be too pretentious to write poseuses, right?) become too obvious.

  37. chris g on January 11, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    Kristine

    I would be interested to hear a bit more about how you view the physical aspects of the Mormon view of ressurection. I guess I never really worry too much about the dualist, monist view on things (kind of like Quantum Physics and Newtonian Physics, they are both useful when talking about certain things, and useless when applied universally). I figure that eventually we will have to learn the most effective way for the various aspects of our being to interact. I guess that means if hormone levels are involved, we will need to find out what levels are the most effective for us. I am sure that different personalities may need a different biological levels to be their most effective. Of course, I am not sure we get given the miracle formula. The way I see the world, we tend to work out our own salvation using the help of others, and following the example and atonement of Christ. Thus if we want to put issues like delusional disorders and sexual preference on the agenda, we will have to figure out how to reconcile these tendencies with the most effective way of getting in touch with the spirit. I figure that whatever we decide will control what we are able to do.

    I had one student at my school for just over a year. I was able to see him in the early stages of his schizophrenia until it started to get more severe (from what I know it tends to come on fairly quickly once it starts in adolescence, but I am sure there are others who are much more knowledgeable on this than I). We got to give him a lot of counseling concerning things. At this early stage, diet still controlled it fairly well, hence he and his parents were unsure of drug intervention. As many of his behaviours associated with the disease were being encountered for the first time, the choice of action was a little more clear. It was tough seeing him struggle with the decision to give into to one side of his personality or to fight an unwinable struggle. Drugs would help him keep the fight under control, but also at a price. As the problem developed more and more, he became more comfortable with the manic side of life. It solved a lot of problems for him (but also created a slew of others). Now he will learn a lot about life no matter what decision he chose. Thus I am hesitant to say whether one path or the other was the “right” one. I think it depends on what he wanted to learn from and get out of life. Of course the longer he stays in the manic side of his personality, the harder it will be for him to leave it. Perhaps mood congruency in learning may apply here. You remember things best when you recall them in the same mood in which you learned them. Perhaps the lessons we learn from life need to be continually shifted as we grow so that our experiences don’t becomes so separated from our current outlook that they become useless. And yes, I believe there will be lots of people who choose to live with a schizophrenic outlook than without. I also believe lots of people will choose to live with one hang up or another. I personally find that some of my foibles tend to define me more than anything else. Without them it becomes tough to figure out who I am, especially if lots of my experiences and understandings are tied up in the mix .

  38. Matt Evans on January 12, 2004 at 12:27 am

    Hi Kristine,

    I’m curious about your view that Mormonism exhibits a robust physicalism. My experience has been that Mormons think dualistically; they speak of those with Down syndrome as intelligent spirits trapped inside malformed bodies. They assume that in the resurrection those with Down syndrome will be like everyone else, no matter that their mortal existence and personality is completely shaped by the consequences of their missing chromosome.

    I’ve always imagined that my spirit could have been ‘assigned’ to a body with a serious, life-altering handicap like Downs. I would still be ‘me’, even though it would be harder for others to see the ‘real me’ by virtue of my handicap.

    Are those with Down syndrome eternally different from me?

  39. Clark Goble on January 12, 2004 at 1:59 am

    Kristine, “huh? low level monads? what about intelligences that are co-eternal/co-equal with God?”

    That’s why I said it that way. A lot of people seem to assume that an intelligence is like Leibniz’ monads. (Not the least of which Orson Pratt) Then some assume this “monad” like entity has our personality, becoming almost like a modern misreading of Descartes’ mind.

    It’s an interesting topic and is actually the main theme of my blog, although I’m still thinking through some issues before I start addressing it too much. I’d just say that if there is a fixed stable monad behind things (and I’m far from convinced that is what an intelligence is) it seems fundamentally a mistake to assume it consists of a personality like we have now. Far too much of what makes us “us” arises from our biology and happenstance here on this earth.

    Matt, Mormons have a dualism, but it isn’t a Cartesian dualism. It is more a dualism of physical minds. The spirit is, in some ways, a body like ours, albeit with far less capability. When merged with a biological body, but simultaneously *limited* in some fashion, we have us.

    There was a somewhat interesting discussion on this over at the Metaphysical Elders a few days back. I made a few comments and then two figures under the aliases of Scientist and Semiotician provided some biological and convoluted semiotic arguments. (The latter I disagreed with somewhat, but there you have it)

  40. Matt Evans on January 12, 2004 at 2:34 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Clark, I don’t know the various incarnations of dualism.

    I’d still like Kristine to respond to my question about the eternal nature of Down syndrome, as the issue tracks my “if the problem is due to your biology, there will be a biological solution at resurrection” answer that she disregarded as too easy.

  41. Clark Goble on January 12, 2004 at 2:34 am

    I got pulled away before I was done.

    The basic problem with Kristine’s argument is this: if intelligences are some fixed essence then clearly homosexuality isn’t essential to who we are. Thus it can be removed without significantly changing who we are. If intelligences aren’t some fixed essence, then change seems essential to our character and the change to becoming homosexuality ought to have no higher value than a change away from homosexuality. At best we can say that some people right now are biologically oriented towards homosexuality.

  42. lyle on January 12, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    and then again, maybe our ‘soul’/’intelligence’ is really located in our dna?

  43. Kristine on January 12, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Matt: I agree that many Mormons speak of spirits trapped in malfunctioning bodies, but I’m not sure that such a view is Mormon–our doctrine places too much value on the experiences gained by having a body to quite fit that model. Thus I would think that a spirit which experiences life in a body with Down’s Syndrome does become eternally different from you. My sense is that the resurrection would remove or alter those features of physicality that are impediments to eternal progression, and that the spirit that had experienced Down’s Syndrome would have developed faster in some areas than someone with a “normally” functioning brain and, say, a defect in compassion, or running fast, or whatever. But as Clark points out, there are some really complex issues in figuring out a Mormon view of mind/body/spirit/personality interactions (or even definitions of those casually tossed-around terms). I don’t have the philosophical training to talk about such things in a technically competent way, though I do appreciate being goaded into thinking more carefully about the questions!

    Clark: why can’t homosexuality be part of some fixed essence of who we are? If gender is an essential and eternal characteristic, why not sexuality (at least in some stripped-down (er, no pun intended) form)? Don’t you think that the reference to eternal gender in the Proclamation on the family was meant, at least in part, to say that people can’t possibly be gay or “gender-confused”?

  44. Brent on January 12, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    I would say that the reference to eternal gender DOES suggest that someone cannot “be” homosexual, from an eternal perspective. Homosexuality and “gender confusion” are part of our mortal and sinful terrestrial world.

  45. Kristine on January 12, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Brent: although the discussion has moved to more interesting themes, it seems rude not to answer the questions you posed directly to me. So:

    1) Why are the pronouncements of the Brethren not enough for me?
    Because I don’t believe in the infallibility of any of them, and because their official advice has varied significantly over the years. Since the official position is clearly still evolving, I see no reason not to speculate about problems with the current position and possibilities for new solutions.

    2) There are no therapeutic solutions because of cultural pressure–Maybe. But LDS, Catholic, and Evangelical psychologists and psychiatrists have been working for years, with precisely the opposite cultural pressures from the quarters they care about, namely their ecclesiastical superiors. The BYU Psych. department has conducted numerous (more and less distasteful) experimental therapies, beginning at least by the late 1960s, with no reportable success. And yes, I’m well aware of Spitzer’s identity and his recent claims. Also, I’m aware that his results have not been replicated or even verified by any peer review. It would be nice if he’s right, and would certainly make it easier to reconcile the church’s position with the facts on the ground, but I remain somewhat skeptical. (Incidentally, his claims are dramatically stronger than those made by LDS Social Services or the not-really-well-kinda-sorta-funded-sponsored-by-the-church treatment organization Evergreen, which, I would think, might be another reason to be suspicious).

    3) The questions in your last paragraph are rather broad, and the linkage of pedophilia and homosexuality just doesn’t deserve a response. As for my doctrinal model, I don’t believe I’ve advanced one. I’m merely pointing out what I see as a significant puzzle for the Mormon one.

  46. clark goble on January 12, 2004 at 3:42 pm

    Pedophilia or other sexual problems certainly are offensive and prejudicial and I completely understand why people don’t like to discuss it relative to homosexuality. However ignoring the politics for which it is typically appropriated, I think there is an interesting issue there.

    Consider what pedophilia is. The “what” of ones sexual desire is incorrectly targeted. There clearly is some instinct in us that makes us attracted to individuals over 14 and not under 14. This doesn’t appear to be learned in its significant development. (Which makes sense from an evolutionary point of view) But for some people that is screwed up and they find sexually attractive what the rest of us don’t.

    Now I’m reasonably sure that for some people that is genetic. It is a screw up in the subsystem of the brain that deals with the objects of attraction. Now how this is manifest is clearly tied to environment. Trauma can cause it – either psychological or even physical.

    So I think from a biological/psychological point of view there are many important parallels. The difference is that we now more or less find homosexuality acceptable enough that we don’t stigmatize it the way we did in even the 1960’s. In part that is for libertarian reasons. (What does homosexuality hurt? Pedophilia is quite different)

    A similar analysis could probably be done with many fetishes, although with those I suspect environment is far more significant.

    Anyway, while I understand why you find the question offensive, I think there are some serious issues relative to the discussion at hand. It seems we are intriniscally finding some psychological structures acceptable or desireable and therefore part of our makeup in heaven while other ones are assumed to be “fixed.” (i.e. a brain based component of pedophila, down’s syndrom, turret’s syndrom, etc.) Yet it seems that what we decide is or isn’t mental illness is often how far out of the social norms it varies. And that makes it typically very subjective.

    For instance a schitzophrenic may have been revered as a prophet or oracle in ancient Greece. Today they might be institutionalized or medicated.

    While I’m not a fan of his, I think Foucalt’s history of madness offers some very interesting questions in this regard.

  47. clark goble on January 12, 2004 at 3:47 pm

    One last thing. Most psychological manipulations/treatments are very primitive and ineffective right now. However given the way science and technology are progressing, we almost certainly will eventually understand the physical aspects of sexuality in their general manifestation. It’s just a matter of time. And once we understand that changing the brain will almost certainly follow: either by invasive surgery or chemical treatment.

    So if there is a biological component to homosexuality eventually there will be a treatment. So this issue isn’t just an issue of the resurrection. Eventually it will be an looming question in bio-ethics.

  48. Matt J on January 13, 2004 at 1:59 am

    One of the more interesting courses I took in college was a history of medicine course taught by a plastic surgeon. He took some time each lecture to talk about some of his more bizarre or amazing surgeries, many of which involved hermaphrodites at birth. I was not aware of the wide variety of expressions of gender characteristics. The doctor felt a great weight in trying to figure out what to do, sometimes it’s not obvious whether a baby with a penis and ovaries but no uterus or testicles is male or female. I think someone mentioned this higher up in the thread.

    Anyway, the point is to raise a question or two that I cannot answer. If gender is eternal, what is the significance of giving hermaphrodites the wrong external sexual characteristics (and therefore their accepted sexual behavior)? And depending on how much of a facter genes play in homosexual desires, is it possible that some homosexuals are really spirits with an eternal gender trapped in the wrong kind of body? Has any leader in the lds church made a comment on sex change operations?

    I don’t mean to suggest that if homosexuals can’t be ‘fixed’ through repentance or therapy or hormone treatment or whatever, then maybe they should try surgery. I had just never stopped to consider the ramifications of putting spirits with eternal genders into bodies like ours with imperfect biology.

  49. Clark Goble on January 13, 2004 at 3:05 am

    I think one error that we Mormons fall into is to assume everything has a purpose. There is this common view in Mormonism that every particular event is somehow indued with a *particular* purpose. I recall that a lot on my mission. I’ve never quite figured that one out and it seems hard to reconcile to freedom and other such matters.

    In any case, why do we assume that hermaphrodites are somehow some particular important occurrence? Why can’t they just be a natural effect of the way nature works. Therefore some people have to be born hermaphrodites, or siamese twins, or die as children. Perhaps the spirits in those can learn from some general class of experiences. But I don’t think we want to get into a situation where God ensured there was a hermaphrodite body for them.

    Sometimes I think we as Mormons assume a divine province is all things. I personally think that incorrect. Many things happen simply because this is a natural world.

  50. Mary on January 13, 2004 at 10:22 am

    Clark says, “But I don’t think we want to get into a situation where God ensured there was a hermaphrodite body for them.”

    And I agree. I think that hermaphroditism could just be a product of biology, like any other disorder or disease. There might not be a spiritual reason but I think the idea of confused gender identity or the reality of hermaphroditism is intriguing to the “born that way” debate. I have done some research on confused gender identy (especially in regards to female to male transsexuals) and hermaphrodites. It seems like because of genetics and biology and this earth-life’s corruption, a right gender could be put in a wrong body. Genetics and biology create all kinds of different bodies, there might not be a reason, but those differences can make life extremely hard for the person.

  51. Kristine on January 13, 2004 at 2:22 pm

    Matt J–yes, GAs have spoken about sex-change operations. An elective sex-change operation is grounds for excommunication.

    Which brings up a general question related to the (interesting!) direction this thread has taken–why are we OK with so many other kinds of variant biological influences on the spirit (we don’t think of depression as a sin anymore; we cheerfully medicate kids with ADHD instead of, or as well as lecturing them about reverence; we don’t try to cast demons out of schizophrenics, etc.) but we are still so unwilling to admit the effects of biology on sexual behavior. Is this just leftover Victorian squeamishness? Or is there something more doctrinal at work?

  52. clark goble on January 13, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    Regarding sex change operations. I suppose the problem is over the ambiguity of “elective.” If someone was assigned the improper sex by a doctor as a baby, then it would seem that fixing this isn’t elective. The problem is how to discern when this is fixing a problem. Add to this the relative ignorance of most people of these matters and certainly problems can occur.

    I think that the issue right now is typically framed because the public only hears of people with rather large emotional problems trying to get sex changes for more questionable reasons. I think that were there more medical standards for this that the issue would go away.

    As for the “why” of all this. I think I touched on it. We want to say that everything occurs for a purpose – specifically for a purpose of God. We don’t really like the idea of fallibilism or chance. That’s unfortunate because I thin our theology offers the best solutions to this. Over the past 8 years or so LDS-Phil has discussed the problem of evil from a Mormon perspective. It seems we have a very strong position relative to many religions because of our conception of a limited God. (Relative to one who can do anything logically consistent) Since intelligences are co-equal with God and free God seems bound by a universe in which things can disobey or fall from the good. Further we have our existence here on earth freely chosen, more or less meaning that we can’t ascribe its evil to God.

    Why then do so many Mormons wish to do this? I don’t understand myself. I think it is the LDS notion of a plan taken to horrible extents.

  53. Matt J on January 13, 2004 at 5:32 pm

    I’m not so much trying to figure out why God would allow hermaphrodites or other biological anomalies. I was more interested in the problems that may arise by putting gendered spirits into imperfect bodies.

    The case of hermaphrodites at least demonstrates that sexual biology is imprecise, so some spirits are put into bodies with ambiguous or even incorrect sexuality. Does this open the possibility that a body with well-defined sexuality could house a spirit of the opposite gender by mistake? Or would we say that God would never allow *that*. It seems like the Church’s position on elective sex-change operations implies that males and females are just “born that way” and shouldn’t try to change it.

    If that is possible, then is the sin of homosexual acts defined by going against the gender of the spirit or of the body? If such a person with homosexual desires spends their whole life trying to conform to heterosexuality, will they (and their spouse) be surprised to find out in the resurrection that they are not the gender they thought they were?

    It seems that in addition to the genes vs learned behavior debate about homosexuality, mormons can add their own twist with this whole eternal gender notion. To what degree does my male spirit contribute to my desire for females? Does my spirit contribute to my genes?

    I realize this is approaching ‘angels on the head of a pin’ status, except that there really are people who feel like their bodies are the wrong gender. This might be their own incorrect perception or a mistake of biology.

    It seems that the church’s position on elective sex-change operations implies that males and females are just “born that way” and they shouldn’t try to change themselves via surgery because that’s how God intended them to be.

  54. clark goble on January 13, 2004 at 5:45 pm

    Matt J, I’m not sure that’s a fair way to read the church’s position. I think it is all too easy to overanalyze such things. I rather doubt they were thinking through all the things we are now when making the policy. Further, as I mentioned, I don’t think one can separate out this issue from the other activities going on in our society.

    As for what my spirit contributes to “me” that is difficult to say. How would we test any assertion? We don’t even know what a spirit is. Some assert that spirits look like their bodies will look like, but I tend to be a little doubtful on that. The fact is that we have huge areas upon which we are ignorant.

  55. Brent on January 13, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    “I realize this is approaching ‘angels on the head of a pin’ status, except that there really are people who feel like their bodies are the wrong gender. This might be their own incorrect perception or a mistake of biology.”

    There are also people who believe that they are the wrong species. Some have even gone through various cosmetic surgeries to make themselves look more catlike or lizardlike. For those who view themselves as another gender, there is a psychological classification for their perception “Gender identity disorder.” The main disconnect between the two main lines of thought here are the legitimacy one gives to what homosexuals or others perceive. Some seem to place great weight on such self-perception as establishing certain “facts” or guiding the development of rules for dealing with homosexuality. Others, and my preferred view, is to take what we know from history and religion (including statements from modern prophets) and discounting self-perception.

  56. clark goble on January 13, 2004 at 8:12 pm

    Brent, I think those are extreme cases. However I would say that our sense of self-sex and what we are attracted to are not necessarily related. I suspect they occur in different parts of the brain. One could, for example, feel one is properly a woman but still be attracted to women.

    As you suggest, there is also the fact that these things can also be found in people suffering from dementia or mental trauma.

    I’d suggest, however, that the biological issues are more complex than some think. Further sorting out what is biological from what is preferential from what is perhaps more due to mental illness is difficult. (As is the very notion of mental illness, which as I mentioned is in many ways a socially determined category)

  57. clark goble on January 13, 2004 at 8:20 pm

    Two interesting articles at New Scientist. There was an article all about this topic I think a year ago. But I lost my password to the full archive and have to await my next issue to generate a new one.

    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns9999548

    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns9999688

    These sorts of situations do tend to complicate things. One should also point out that environmental pollution to the preganant woman can undoubtedly cause these sorts of changes. (Sexual differentiation problems in many animals are now being traced to the amount of estrogen in ground water due to birth control, for instance)

  58. lyle on January 31, 2004 at 6:27 am

    The best and most comprehensive current coverage of the science can be found in:
    “Getting it Strait: What the Research Shows about Homosexuality”
    available from the Family Research Council

  59. Benjamin on June 6, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    The argument that homosexuality is possibly genetic and even if it is genetic it is still “immoral” is not helpful to people who are sexually oriented differently than the majority. You have got to put yourself in their shoes to understand them.

    It’s one thing to say that a person is an alcoholic or a drug addict which is very detrimental to society but how does a person who happens to be attracted to his own gender harm society?

    There was a time (I still remember it well) when some Church leaders taught over the pulpet in General Conference that black people should not marry white people. This came from the concept of “purity of race” and also at that time blacks were not allowed into the priesthood. Of course now the Church sanctions interracial marriage between black and white opposite sex couples.

    Even after this kind of marriage between two very different races was sanctioned the vast majority of couples are not interracial. Most choose of their own accord to stay within their own race. That is the way it goes.

    The vast majority of people will always be heterosexual. That’s their natural inclination. If homosexually oriented people are allowed to marry and society does not ostracize them but supports them within monogamy is this worse than ostracizing them and telling them they are perverts and are evil, vile, unclean and thus they go their own way and separate from the majority of society and hate themselves thus using drugs, alcohol, sex and so forth to fill this black hole inside?

    I think that the Lord expects much better of us and I think that He requires that we love these people unconditionally and not create policies that ostracize or malign them. The Lord has His standard and that standard is love not judgemental hypocrisy.

    There are some Church leaders (unfortunately they are few in number) who are so incredibly gifted, so awesome in their ability to love the people that they have helped heal gay and lesbian members and non-members of the Church. It is amazing! They do not heal them of their sexual orientation but they love them and truly try to understand them.

    Alcoholism, drug addiction and also sexual addiction can be overcome and replaced with healthy boundaries, a desire to do good continually and to be new in Christ. My own father has been clean and sober for over 25 years. He has no disposition to go to alcohol anymore. There are hundreds of thousands of people like this. They have truly been blessed by their actions to steer away from addiction.

    Homosexual orientation is not addiction anymore than heterosexual orientation is. To somehow pair it with addictions such as alcoholism and so forth is not at all at all based in reality. It is based in fear and homophobia. It is based in an ignorance of understanding people who are attracted to their same gender and this attitude causes people who are homosexual to choose to either hide their own orientation and bury their feelings or to leave the Church altogether (the majority do) and is this what we want? Do we hate these people so much that we are willing to sacrifice the higher law for a lower and base one? Come on people, the Lord expects much more of us than this arkane way of thinking.

  60. Benjamin on June 6, 2004 at 6:54 pm

    The argument that homosexuality is possibly genetic and even if it is genetic it is still “immoral” is not helpful to people who are sexually oriented differently than the majority. You have got to put yourself in their shoes to understand them.

    It’s one thing to say that a person is an alcoholic or a drug addict which is very detrimental to society but how does a person who happens to be attracted to his own gender harm society?

    There was a time (I still remember it well) when some Church leaders taught over the pulpet in General Conference that black people should not marry white people. This came from the concept of “purity of race” and also at that time blacks were not allowed into the priesthood. Of course now the Church sanctions interracial marriage between black and white opposite sex couples.

    Even after this kind of marriage between two very different races was sanctioned the vast majority of couples are not interracial. Most choose of their own accord to stay within their own race. That is the way it goes.

    The vast majority of people will always be heterosexual. That’s their natural inclination. If homosexually oriented people are allowed to marry and society does not ostracize them but supports them within monogamy is this worse than ostracizing them and telling them they are perverts and are evil, vile, unclean and thus they go their own way and separate from the majority of society and hate themselves thus using drugs, alcohol, sex and so forth to fill this black hole inside?

    I think that the Lord expects much better of us and I think that He requires that we love these people unconditionally and not create policies that ostracize or malign them. The Lord has His standard and that standard is love not judgemental hypocrisy.

    There are some Church leaders (unfortunately they are few in number) who are so incredibly gifted, so awesome in their ability to love the people that they have helped heal gay and lesbian members and non-members of the Church. It is amazing! They do not heal them of their sexual orientation but they love them and truly try to understand them.

    Alcoholism, drug addiction and also sexual addiction can be overcome and replaced with healthy boundaries, a desire to do good continually and to be new in Christ. My own father has been clean and sober for over 25 years. He has no disposition to go to alcohol anymore. There are hundreds of thousands of people like this. They have truly been blessed by their actions to steer away from addiction.

    Homosexual orientation is not addiction anymore than heterosexual orientation is. To somehow pair it with addictions such as alcoholism and so forth is not at all at all based in reality. It is based in fear and homophobia. It is based in an ignorance of understanding people who are attracted to their same gender and this attitude causes people who are homosexual to choose to either hide their own orientation and bury their feelings or to leave the Church altogether (the majority do) and is this what we want? Do we hate these people so much that we are willing to sacrifice the higher law for a lower and base one? Come on people, the Lord expects much more of us than this arkane way of thinking.

  61. Benjamin on June 6, 2004 at 6:57 pm

    The argument that homosexuality is possibly genetic and even if it is genetic it is still “immoral” is not helpful to people who are sexually oriented differently than the majority. You have got to put yourself in their shoes to understand them.

    It’s one thing to say that a person is an alcoholic or a drug addict which is very detrimental to society but how does a person who happens to be attracted to his own gender harm society?

    There was a time (I still remember it well) when some Church leaders taught over the pulpet in General Conference that black people should not marry white people. This came from the concept of “purity of race” and also at that time blacks were not allowed into the priesthood. Of course now the Church sanctions interracial marriage between black and white opposite sex couples.

    Even after this kind of marriage between two very different races was sanctioned the vast majority of couples are not interracial. Most choose of their own accord to stay within their own race. That is the way it goes.

    The vast majority of people will always be heterosexual. That’s their natural inclination. If homosexually oriented people are allowed to marry and society does not ostracize them but supports them within monogamy is this worse than ostracizing them and telling them they are perverts and are evil, vile, unclean and thus they go their own way and separate from the majority of society and hate themselves thus using drugs, alcohol, sex and so forth to fill this black hole inside?

    I think that the Lord expects much better of us and I think that He requires that we love these people unconditionally and not create policies that ostracize or malign them. The Lord has His standard and that standard is love not judgemental hypocrisy.

    There are some Church leaders (unfortunately they are few in number) who are so incredibly gifted, so awesome in their ability to love the people that they have helped heal gay and lesbian members and non-members of the Church. It is amazing! They do not heal them of their sexual orientation but they love them and truly try to understand them.

    Alcoholism, drug addiction and also sexual addiction can be overcome and replaced with healthy boundaries, a desire to do good continually and to be new in Christ. My own father has been clean and sober for over 25 years. He has no disposition to go to alcohol anymore. There are hundreds of thousands of people like this. They have truly been blessed by their actions to steer away from addiction.

    Homosexual orientation, however, is not addiction anymore than heterosexual orientation is. To somehow pair it with addictions such as alcoholism and so forth is not at all at all based in reality. It is based in fear and homophobia. It is based in an ignorance of understanding people who are attracted to their same gender and this attitude causes people who are homosexual to choose to either hide their own orientation and bury their feelings or to leave the Church altogether (the majority do) and is this what we want? Do we hate these people so much that we are willing to sacrifice the higher law for a lower and base one? Come on people, the Lord expects much more of us than this arkane way of thinking.

  62. Kingsley on June 7, 2004 at 2:11 pm

    Benjamin: Which “higher” law are we sacrificing by teaching that homosexuality is a sin? (“Do we hate these people so much” seems a little overblown.) Which “lower and base” law are we following by teaching that homosexuality is a sin?

  63. Matt Evans on January 9, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Kaimi,

    If Dean was rebutting the argument that homosexual behavior is a “sin against nature”, then his position would make sense, but he made the *affirmative* claim that the fact that God creates gays proves that gay behavior isn’t immoral.