The Filmody of the Latter-Gays

March 12, 2004 | 55 comments
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Having bled dry the secular culture, filmmakers have had to find new wine to fill the old bottle of liberating oneself from convention. They’ve found a homegrown subculture juicy enough to do it. Transgressively moral Mormon, I present you to yourself. You’re the wine.

An alert reader ran across a film called Latter Days and suspected it might have something to do with, well, us. As this sympathetic article shows, it does.

The movie is about a Mormon missionary (in California, of course) who falls in love with a swinging bachelor. True love enables the missionary to overcome his commitments and his faith, while true love enables the bachelor to give up having multiple partners at a time. A romantic fantasy, if not mine, to be sure.

Apparently most theaters in Utah have decided not to show it. The director/screenwriter, an ex-Mormon, has expressed his suprise that the movie is controversial. In the natural course of things he will express his surprise all the way to the bank. Ah, well.

More disturbing, the article calls the general Utah unwillingness to see the film the equivalent of a censorship: Effectively, the writers says, “Latter Days” finds itself banned. Why banned? Because theaters in Utah, once they realized the content of the film, realized no one would come to see it. This is a bad distortion of free speech, of course, and no doubt one that skews left and skews secular, and it bodes ill. When a mainstream journalists start to accept that opting out of the secular left culture is a violation of free speech, then the sky is red in the morning. I won’t go say more than that. It worries me, but who knows, in God’s grace it may come to nothing.

I haven’t seen the movie. No, nor am I likely too. If it were a movie about coming out of Babylon, now . . .
but it’s just a movie about coming out. If I want to discover the joys of kicking off the traces and chasing every will o’ the wisp of happiness I can do fine on my own without a movie to show me.

Now a film about a gay man living out his celibacy in the face of a scornful
world and in obedience to a sometimes distant God, that would be a movie. Even this movie may have a message, in a way. Caricatures of this kind condemn us for what we are–committed, sexually restrained, obedient. Some few will not see it as a condemnation.

Update: The alert reader has put up her own post here.

Update II:
I realize that the idea that refusing to participate equals censorship is pretty nutty they way I’ve phrased it. It is nutty, but they’ve put an argument behind it.

Generally, the argument is that free speech is all about a robust debate with diverse ideas. If people refuse to consider the ideas or be exposed to them then they’re negating the purposes of free speech. Nate and Kaimi know more about it than I do, but I do know that the argument has been made in the school choice context. Here’s a link.

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55 Responses to The Filmody of the Latter-Gays

  1. Taylor on March 12, 2004 at 1:10 pm

    In my view, a much more interesting film about the subject of homosexuality and religious faith is “Trembling Before G-d”, a documentary about different responses to the question from the perspective of gay Hasidic Jews. You can read about here: http://www.tremblingbeforeg-d.com/about/index.html. The film features people who have chosen thier faith over their sexuality, which is ultimately more intriguing than a tired old love story genre: shy/conservative/geeky person meets wild/popular/attractive person; they fall in love and find that they never really were who they were pretending to be before. Isn’t that the plot of every teenage movie for the last 30 years?

  2. lyle on March 12, 2004 at 1:16 pm

    Yup…Taylor has got something here (as usual).

    I have many friends who have chosen a homosexual lifestyle…yet in all of the Media reports, why is there never any mention of the many individuals who face homosexual tendencies/temptation…yet abstain? Or better yet, actually overcome the tendency, get married and raise a beautiful family? Instead…we are subjected to increasing amounts of sexuality…everywhere…of everytype.

  3. Adam Greenwood on March 12, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    I’ll take your word for it, Taylor. I haven’t seen too many teenage movies in the last 30 years. :)
    The documentary does intrigue me, nevertheless.

  4. William Morris on March 12, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    LDS critic Eric D. Snider’s take on the film is interesting: http://www.ericdsnider.com/view.php?mrkey=1984

  5. Ryan S. on March 12, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    This movie was scheduled to make its Salt lake City debut last month during the Sundance Film Festival. My understanding is that the movie was not part of the festival, only that it would be shown here in SLC, and try to get some more attention becuase of the timing of its release. If I remember correctly, only one theater was going to screen the movie, but then after seeing the movie decided not to show it at all. According to the theatre the reason for not showing the film was not content, but quality. I remember the comment being made that they had no problem showing this type of movie in SLC- but that this movie just wasn’t any good. I think it is too bad that the movie maker can cry censorship and get national media attention, when in reality (if the theater is to be believed) it’s just a poor movie.

  6. Kaimi on March 12, 2004 at 2:54 pm

    Hmm,

    1. I have some doubts about the “It wasn’t a good movie” line. Theaters routinely screen horrible movies. They also pass on many bad movies, but not ones that are likely to attract an audience — and this seems likely to draw at least a few people.

    2. Eric Snider’s review was informative. That said, I disagreed with some of his Mormon-specific critiques. He says that one elder’s declaration that “God hates homos” is “completely wrong” as a depiction of missionaries. I’m not so sure. I know a lot of members who would make that statement. It may not be the mainstream, but at least 15 or 20% of the elders on my mission would have said that in a second.

    He also states that kissing a man would never have gotten a missionary sent home. Again, I disagree. In my experience and observation, it depends on a number of things, including the mission president, the mission culture, and the missionary’s attitude. It is certainly plausible that someone would _not_ be sent home for kissing another man, but it is equally plausible that they _would_ be sent home.

  7. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    Kaimi, “Latter Days” really is supposed to be pretty bad, and not just evil. The Village Voice killed it: see http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0404/halter.php (though it hated it b/c it was shlocky “gaysploitation”, not b/c of its shock value).

  8. Mathew Parke on March 12, 2004 at 3:11 pm

    Scott Tobias, who I assume is non-Mormon, wrote the following in his review of the lefty satire mag The Onion:

    “Banned in Salt Lake City!” scream the ads for Latter Days, trumpeting the film’s would-be provocative hook of a closeted Mormon getting deflowered by a well-toned L.A. gym rat. No doubt Madstone Theaters (the Salt Lake exhibitor that yanked the movie from its slate) bowed to community pressure, though it claims that the decision was entirely aesthetic. Perhaps the real reason lies somewhere in between: Why should a theater go to the mat for a film that’s just another generic hunk of Indiewood queer cinema? Moreover, why would Mormons want to see a movie that doesn’t pay their faith a shred of respect, instead painting them as repressed, hateful, criminally unfashionable polygamists? Writer-director C. Jay Cox and his distributor are crying censorship, but they’re really trying to have it both ways: They release a movie that belittles a community, and then express outrage when that community doesn’t want to show it.

    Do a google search for “latter days” and “the onion” if you want to read the entire review (note to self–don’t be so lazy about posting links).

    A different, and more interesting topic, is the editorial decisions that CNN made wih this story. It seems that they couldn’t decide if this was suposed to be serious journalism or a bit of entertainment fluff. This is supposed to be a news story about an enterainment event–so it makes sense to post it under the entertainment section which I guess can be either a forum for writers’ opinions or a source of “news-lite” (or rather “news-liter” since CNN itself qualifies as news lite. If CNN reported the Disney power struggle the way they reported on Latter Days, I would expect to see an article about the controversial Eiser in which the writer cites the opinions of Disney board members as a source of authority and a caricature of Roy Disney’s shareholder revolt as a form of censorship.

  9. Adam Greenwood on March 12, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    Maybe the people in SLC who’d go see a movie like this are also people with taste? Who knows.
    Anyway, I bet it gets a screening in SLC now.

  10. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Matt (Mat? proper spelling of the contraction, please?) is right — the CNN story is the most interesting part of this whole thing. I found it a little outrageous on the part of a ‘reputable’ news source. It’s like news-lite or some piece you’d see on a gay version of Extra!.

    When, O when, will there be a decent Mormon queer movie? When shall we have a “Queer as Folk” of our own!

    p.s. you straight mormons out there, don’t get in a knot, I was just kidding with the 2nd paragraph there.

  11. Kaimi on March 12, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    Steve,

    We already do. It’s called the Book of Mormon movie, and it uses the same actors.

  12. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Oh yeah — I forgot about that BoM movie! Hilarious! Someone should really do a paper on why we pick homosexuals to represent our scripture heroes. This reminds of the story (possibly apocryphal) I heard that the Joseph Smith from “Legacy” turned out to be super-gay. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least! My NORAD gay-dar was going nuts in that movie.

    Another gaydar moment is at the end of “Labor of Love” when the investigator that’s been listening to the missionary on the plane hands his business card, and flashes an extremely gay look. But I guess plenty of LDS films have that look… not to threadjack, but it would be fun to have a “most gay moments in church videos” thread!

    Is it just difficult to convey sharing of spiritual moments on film without them looking queer? Any film experts out there that can comment? Where’s Ian Puente when you need him?

  13. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    Adam,

    I was wondering when someone would get around to posting on this movie. Your point is very well taken that the “if you won’t come see this movie, your censoring” crowd is potential threat. I’ve seen this prowler at the window for some time, and I don’t think it’ll be too long before we find him hovering over bed. The simple fact is that Babylon simply doesn’t want freedom, she wants WORSHIP, and if as Latter-day Saints we refuse to bow the knee, she will first attempt to persuade, then ridicule, then threaten, then attack.

    We had better wake up and start realizing that the cultural war we’re seeing is real, and that it can get nasty. So, let’s say that we continue to refuse to go see such films, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Babylon to sell its wares at our theatres, or to get us to buy her magazines, books, music. Let’s even say that we stop watching commercial TV broadcasting as it becomes more and more unacceptable. Would we be safe? Hmmm… How long before the pro-homosexual and anti-abstinence education of New York City public schools comes to Logan, Orem, Mesa? Especially as part of a federal mandate? What do we do when the federal gov’t demands that churches cannot “discriminate” in the hiring of their paid employees? What happens when preaching the Law of Chastity from the pulpit becomes “hate speech”?

    I think the Great and Spacious Building is laying the groundwork for a property dispute with God, with our society and families as the prize, or am I the only one to notice in the BoM that every time the wicked amongst the Nephites reached a certain ratio of the population, they always wanted to use force against the Church?

  14. Adam Greenwood on March 12, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    Gary,
    Don’t give anyone any ideas. I hope to God you’re talking nonsense because if you’re not I don’t see what we can do about it other than resist as best we can and suffer through the storm.

  15. Aaron Brown on March 12, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    The most interesting question about “Latter Days” for me has been how it will or will not affect missionary work — specifically tracting — in the Hollywood Ward. The Los Angeles, California mission president has just upped the weekly tracting requirement/goal considerably. I spoke to the Hollywood elders a couple of weeks ago, who were already aware of the film. So far, they’ve experienced no fall-out, or interesting interactions with the locals, as a result. Keep your fingers crossed …

    What a fun time to be a missionary in Hollywood.

  16. lyle on March 12, 2004 at 4:04 pm

    Adam,

    I hate to support Gary on this [not cuz of Cooper...cuz Cooper is great] but…

    1. what happened when the asian countried refused to trade with the west in the early 20th/late 19th (do i have my time period right) centuries?
    2. if RICO can be applied to anti-abortion protestors…what about “refusal to deal” provisions in the anti-trust laws?
    3. this hits home…cuz if $/fame is what the bad guys want…and we refuse them their $$$ to continue progagating their lifestyle/philosophy, etc…i see force forthcoming also. heck…why have so many private companies bowed to PC’ness and already given same sex couples employment benefits?

  17. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 4:12 pm

    Adam,

    I’m not talking nonsense, that’s the picture the Scriptures paint. There are things we can do about this, but one problem we deal with as members (and devout Christians of other denominations notice this and shake their heads at us)is that we assume that 1) the relative good will we enjoy from the world (compared to earlier times) and the prosperity and freedoms we have will last forever, with very little effort on our part; and 2) because politics/law/government doesn’t seem very important to many of us, it must not be important to God or Satan. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The scriptural pattern seems to always run like this: We sit in our homes worshiping God, and God tells us to get up and help clean up our town. But we’re awfully busy, so we don’t do it, or don’t do very much. Then Satan comes to the door as a salesman, offering free samples of filth. We remember being warned about that, so we shut the door, even as we see him go to our neighbors’ doors, and don’t bother with it. The next week, we find out that Satan has a big store now, the prices are cheaper, and the filth is better quality (at least we’ve seen worse than this…). A week later, Satan gets elected to the city council, and convinces the city to subsidize his store. We were warned about that too by the Lord, but all we do is grumble. A little later Satan shows up on our door again, running for mayor, and offering a 30-day trial on his filth (which is now really excellent quality, if you just paw through the worst parts). We have a pleasant conversation, but don’t vote for him because we don’t like his platform. He gets elected, and starts demanding changes to our home, the church, our schools, etc. For the first time, we show up at a council meeting, and even find a few allies, but because we find most of the politicians distasteful, we never come again. (We don’t need to, Bro. So and So is on the council anyway.) Before long, all kinds of bureaucrats show up and start issuing fines to us for vilating the new regs, and now we’re really mad, but none of our neighbors will listen to us (we’re just now finding out their names), and one night Satan shows up with the police to evict us from our homes. Believing we “have our rights”, we argue, and get beaten up in the process, our daughters are raped, our property stolen, and when we run to the stake center we find it flames, with all the other members saying, “Oh, you too?”. We’re disturbed to find some members and former members riding around in a truck near the church with a mob of people, and the police with them, all glaring at us….

    Far-fetched? Read Helaman and 3rd Nephi again.

  18. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 4:12 pm

    Lyle, man, that post just made no sense to me at all. Are you trying to point out some sort of “whore of Babylon” conspiracy theory by three random ideas?

    That post reminded me of like a Cliff Notes version of the Da Vinci Code or something….

  19. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    Steve Evans,

    With all due respect, your comment to Lyle about him seeing a conspiracy theory proves my point. So, nothing to worry about, huh? The world’s going to pot but it’s okay, that can’t effect us, we’re the True Church! There were conspiracies in ancient times, but not today—we’re so much more enlightened! Heck, who needs the Millenium, Satan is bound already! We’re safe!! (Remember the phrase “I am no devil, for there is none”? Was that for our benefit today?)

  20. Renee on March 12, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    This isn’t the only off the beaten path LDS movie out there. LDS FILM (http://www.ldsfilm.com) has had a write up about this movie for months (maybe over a year?) as well as other movies involving assorted GLBT folks with a Mormon connection.

    (Lyle)why is there never any mention of the many individuals who face homosexual tendencies/temptation…yet abstain?

    For the same reason there’s never any mention of the many straight people who face temptation yet abstain. I don’t know that it would be all that “exciting” and as such, not much of a draw for an audience. Plus, people are reluctant to promote something that might tweak their conscience into recognizing their own selfish acts.

  21. lyle on March 12, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    Steve:

    Try reading the threads before mine; they might shed some additional light…as does Cooper’s above yours. :)

    In anycase, here is the annotated version…I’ll leave out the footnotes for now; but just ask. ;)

    1. When China/Japan etc. refused to trade with the West…we sent in Commodore Perry, etc. and forced them to open their markets to our goods.
    -So…I think Cooper is suggesting, and if not, I am, that “Babylon 5″ [pun intended] will use economic, social and political force to open up/maintain open markets for their products.
    2. Cooper refered to Federal force being used. I simply pointed out 1 federal law that has been used in like manner; and suggested another possible option.
    3. If private companies are afraid of the homosexual lobby; and don’t even wait for coercive government force, but cave into a minority that is from 1-5% (10% for all the super closeted out their, right?) of the population…if that, then…imagine what happens when the lobby and/or their new corporate friends demand a “sexual orientation” amendment to Title VII? I don’t know if you are a lawyer; but I would hope that you/anyone else wouldn’t take such a case if it was presented to you.

  22. Kaimi on March 12, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    Gary,

    Umm, Steve disagreeing with you doesn’t prove anything. Let’s follow this logic:

    “I think the world is a conspiracy! Do you agree or disagree?”

    Agree? “Great!”
    Disagree? “You must be part of the conspiracy! You’ve just proved my point that it’s a conspiracy.”

  23. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 4:29 pm

    Gary,

    That is just crazy talk. I believe LDS people have a responsibility to be active in their communities and to stand up for their beliefs, but “our daughters are raped, our property stolen, and when we run to the stake center we find it flames, with all the other members saying, “Oh, you too?” ” is crazy talk. Jon Krakauer was right about us!

    As for this being the pattern taught to us by the scriptures, you’re right and you’re wrong. Yes, similar (though not so nearly dramatic) patterns occur in the Book of Mormon. But I don’t think that the scriptures teach us to become paranoid conspiracy theorists. Saying, “read Helaman & 3rd Nephi again” won’t change me into a Branch Davidian – style member.

    As for your earlier comment regarding “the pro-homosexual and anti-abstinence education of New York City public schools,” I found it ignorant and insulting as a resident of NYC. Do they teach birth control? Yes. Logan, Provo, Mesa and any other LDS enclave should do so as well.

    Lyle, reiterating your prior post doesn’t make it any more logical.

  24. lyle on March 12, 2004 at 4:31 pm

    Renee:

    Not exciting? Hm…well, if being righteous and making choices that go “against the wind” of society [a fairly traditional theme in movies] is boring…I’m ready to sit down in front of a Romeo&Juliet story where they actually get to live together…no one is killed, and no one is sinning right and left. Boring? depends on your taste I guess.

    Reluctant to promote? interesting thought. Makes sense. Cognitive dissonance is a def. force…and I imagine spiritual dissonance is only worse; heck…i’m half ‘deaf’ already; so…hm. Still…no excuse; but a great explanation. Thanks! :)

  25. lyle on March 12, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    Steve: Good point. I thought you wanted me to fill-in the argument so that you could see the structure. Since you just want to disagree and poison the well with a “its not logical” well…I really can’t help with that. :)

    everyone: can we address each others arguments rather than just dismiss them/poke holes in them? I wouldn’t mind if Steve wanted to point out, in detail or in part, according to his style, why he finds my argument illogical. Perhaps some deductive logic/diagrams might help?

  26. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    To all,

    Nothing against cooper, but I am Gary Cooper. cooper is another person who writes in here, so to distinguish between us, I always put “Gary Cooper” on my threads. Sorry for the confusion. But hopefully, “cooper” agrees with me, in which case the Cooper name can be one… Okay, that’s nonsense. Anyway, “cooper” and “Gary Cooper” are two different people.

  27. Mathew Parke on March 12, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    The problem with saying the world is getting any worse than it ever has been it that history provides us with a litany of examples of evil that are hard to top. I too pine for the idyllic days of yore, but I’m not sure they really existed outside of Eden. That’s not to say that there isn’t evil in the world, but on balance it doesn’t strike me as any worse than what has gone before. True, some forms of evil are more accepted than they have been in the past, but others are less excepted–to the point of almost disappearing. Slavery, for example, isn’t near the scourge that it used to be. Europe seems to have figured out how to get along without killing one another (don’t bother pointing out exceptions to the rule–they are just that, exceptions) and genocide is not practiced on the scale it used to be and has no respectability in most countries. Satan is real, but he isn’t getting any more real.

  28. lyle on March 12, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    Matthew,

    Are you sure? Genocide is occuring today in the Sudan. Slavery occurs regularly in many african nations, and sex slavery is a fact of life in most asian nations. Maybe it doesn’t ‘strike you’ as any more evil. But it does me. Also, I refer you to these words which were recently spoken:

    “These are days of great spiritual danger for this people. The world is spiraling downward at an ever-quickening pace. I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.

    I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds the wickedness and depravity which surrounds us now.

    Satan uses every intrigue to disrupt the family. The sacred relationship between man and woman, husband and wife, through which mortal bodies are conceived and life is passed from one generation to the next generation, is being showered with filth.

    Profanity, vulgarity, blasphemy, and pornography are broadcast into the homes and minds of the innocent. Unspeakable wickedness, perversion, and abuse—not even little children—once hidden in dark places, now seeks protection from courts and judges.”

    [note...the recent CNN story re: PORN being seen by kids as they travel in cars while passing/being passed by other vehicles with tv screens watching porn]

  29. Aaron Brown on March 12, 2004 at 4:55 pm

    Lile asks:
    “why is there never any mention of the many individuals who face homosexual tendencies/temptation…yet abstain? Or better yet, actually overcome the tendency, get married…”

    Aaron responds:
    There certainly are movies about “ex-Gays” who have transitioned into a heterosexual, married lifestyle; those that I have seen usually involve ex-ex-Gays, that is, those who have then reverted back to homosexuality and offered testimony as to the futility of their supposed transition.

    As long as much of the anti-homosexual crowd in this country premises their agenda on the canard that homosexuality can be “repaired,” religiously or otherwise (as opposed to merely abstained from), the ridiculousness of this claim will remain center stage, eclipsing any discussion of homosexual celibacy/abstinence. My impression is that many thoughtful conservative LDS members (including many on T&S) do not spout the “reparative therapy” line anymore, and I think that can only be a good thing.

    Gary:

    Given your dire prognosis for the nation and the Church, I wonder if you are merely uttering a generic rallying call against complacency, or if you have a specific political program you’re advocating. If you do, I wonder if you’d tell us what it is with more specificity.

    Aaron B

  30. cooper on March 12, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    Well, I , cooper, agree with everything Gary has said. Not to confuse the issue here. I saw the advertising for this movie months ago, I think through a link at asfotanswer.com (?). It looked like drivvle then and it still does.

    Hear hear GaryCooper!

  31. cooper on March 12, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    Note to GaryCooper – *disclaimer* on this one we agree, but I’ve found I am usually a thorn here so that said we may not always agree in the future. ;-)

  32. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    “Perhaps some deductive logic/diagrams might help?”

    I’m not sure that they would, Lyle. You point out three things, none of which I consider to be entirely accurate, nor inter-related:

    1. ‘Babylon’ will use economic, social and political force to open up/maintain open markets for their products, based on Perry’s actions in China. What’s wrong with an open market, exactly? Doesn’t an open market lead to more freedom of choice? How is this insidious, exactly, assuming it to be true?

    2. if RICO can be applied to anti-abortion protestors…what about “refusal to deal” provisions in the anti-trust laws? Are you talking about abortion here? Or about Babylon suing mormons for not buying their goods? Or that mormons should use RICO and sue Babylon?? The thought here is too fragmented to tell. In any event, it’s not a correct analysis of RICO or of antitrust laws as currently applied.

    3. the “bad guys” using force to propogate their lifestyle. This was too vague to address; your example of somehow having a Title VII amendment forced down our throats I find unlikely, and ultimately not very threatening.

    Again, the logical connection between these three things is tenuous at best, except perhaps that they are three things that you’ve been thinking about, and that somehow gays/bad guys are involved.

    This is why I said that it reminded me of a short-form version of the Da Vinci Code: a bunch of random thoughts/occurrences that are meant to add up to some dark, foreboding whole. Except that they don’t add up. If I drew a logic diagram of the three thoughts, say perhaps a Venn diagram, it would be of three nonconnected circles. Now, I’m all for addressing people’s arguments instead of “punching holes” in them; but you don’t really make any arguments here. You state ideas and conclusions, but nothing in-between.

    I will address the idea that the world is getting worse: I agree with Mat/tt that it’s tough to say whether the world really is getting worse, because it’s always been horrible. It may just seem worse now simply because the sharing of information is so much more vast. Genocide, slavery, etc. are not new inventions. The level of evil in the world resists measurement, and therefore comparisons to prior times is impossible. All we can say is that the world around us seems horrible.

    Of course, I’m sitting in my comfortable office in the wealthiest, safest nation in the world as I write this. So how bad can the world be? Perhaps I should be more like Pangloss.

    I’m gettin’ all worked up over here — perhaps I need to take a break.

  33. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 5:10 pm

    Steve,

    I was merely addressing the fact that you seemed to be saying that one reason to dismiss what Lyle had said was merely BECAUSE it implied that worldly people might actually conspire to manipulate governmental power against people they don’t like, as if ANY conspiracy talk must automatically be wrong. Let me address directly, though, what I feel is an even more important point, one which so many of us who are American members of the church can’t seem to grasp.

    My wife is a naturalized citizen, who is from Peru. All through her formative years, her country was wracked by a civil war between the corrupt government on one hand, and a communist terrorist group called “Sendero Luminosa”. Many of her childhood friends were murdered–some by the army, some by Sendero, and some no one knows. Sendero regularly threatened the members of the church and the missionaries, beat them up, burned and blew up LDS meeting houses, and in 1985 killed two LDS missionaries in Bolivia (that was done by a Bolivian group in solidarity with Sendero, and both groups trumpeted how “great” ot was). Throughout this entire time, Sendero made it very clear that if they ever gained power they would kill any “gringo” or “gringo compatriot” that didn’t leave. Sendero literally butchered people–men, women, children. The war is over, but it’s still difficult for my wife to read the BoM passages about the Gadiantons because it directly relates to her own personal experiences. So, please, please don’t tell me that the idea of evil men gaining control of government, then murdering and raping people, etc. is nuts, because it isn’t, whether we talk about secular history or sacred history.

    My point is that if we read the Scriptures, and believe what we read, then we have to assume that Satan is not a pussycat, that he has always sought to find the worst people he can and then get political power into their hands. Why? To destroy the Church, stop the preaching of the Gospel, and corrupt or kill the faithful. I see nothing in the Scriptures or the words of living prophets to convince me that America is immune to all this, and that somehow God will look after us when I see no evidence our society deserves His protection.

    You are correct that we should not be “paranoid conspiracy freaks”, but does that mean I’m supposed to dismiss the idea of conspiracy altogether? or that satan might conspire to run numbers games and prostitution and dope rings, but that it wouldn’t occur to him to take over the biggest racket of all–Government? I supposed I could do that, but I’d have to ignore the Holocaust, the history of Communism, 9/11, and hundreds of other examples from history. I don’t think I’m being paranoid, I’m just being realistic. (By the way, the Branch Davidians were weird, but the evidence now shows they were not the ones who fired the first shots, and they didn’t kill their children. They all died with their children, because somebody in government didn’t like them–and much of what they were accused of, such as the weapons and drugs violations, proved false. I should think we should relate a little to them, since we were once falsely accused, and viewed as weirdos, and suffered for it, too.)

    As for the remarks about New York City, I apologize if that offended you, but I have spoken to people who have lived in both NYC and Utah, and had their kids in public schools in both areas, and there is a distinct difference between how both regions approach sex education. Can you imagine Provo establishing an all-homosexual high school? If not, why not? Surely the reason is cultural. Yet, your very allusion to birth control education in Utah proves my point; given the overwhelming LDS proportion of state legislators in Utah, why does the state do what the First Presidency has spoken out against?

  34. Mathew Parke on March 12, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    Lyle,

    Thanks for pointing out some exceptions to my comments–but I think they prove my point. There is a big metaphysical question lurking around here somewhere about the nature of evil and comparing apples to oranges–maybe other people will comment on it. If no one does then maybe I’ll have a go after work–although I’m sure I’ll be writing for an audience of one by that time.

    While at BYU Professor Gideon Burton once pointed out that some Mormons seemed to be titillated by talking about what was wrong with a particular book. I remember clearly a classmate objecting to what he considered a dirty book and then proved his point by reading an offending sentence to the class. I think we probably do a little of that here as well when we perseverate about gay mormon films etc. (check out your use of caps).

  35. cooper on March 12, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    Also with Adam’s beginning he leads you to a great site. MsMorality is one of my favorites reads. Her topic today on religion addresses this issue very well. Good and bad, right and wrong. Each exists and we have to know where we’re going to stand on an issue. The fence sitters are really the ones to worry about.

  36. Brent on March 12, 2004 at 5:24 pm

    Jumping it late, and following the current direction this thread has taken, let me just say that one need not be a wacky conspiracy theorist to identify disturbing trends in society, both here and around the world. Nor should we be “overly” concerned about such trends as ultimately righteousness will prevail. (I like to think of it in the terms we win, they lose.) That said, we should be cognizant of the wicked trends and try to counter them. President Benson pushed the Book of Mormon because it was written for our day. It was to provide a glimpse of how things will be before the second coming. That means secret combinations, wickedness, etc. Just look at the various lists in the scriptures and we see our day. With no disrespect to anyone, I think we see how successful Satan has been at influencing the world by the various defenses presented here from time to time for such things as homosexuality and abortion, both which prophets have indicated are immoral practices. One need not be a conspiracy theorist to point out that Satan’s influence is being powerfully wrought the world over. We need to, and we can counter that. In fact, ultimately it is the Church that will. The righteous the world over will turn to Zion as a refuge from the storm. We, however, must not turn a blind eye to what is going on. Nor must we be anything but optimistic and enthusiastic about righteousness ultimately prevailing.

  37. Adam Greenwood on March 12, 2004 at 5:25 pm

    M. Parke,
    You’re too confident by half. This has always been a fallen world, true, but that doesn’t explain your confidence that it won’t keep falling.

    In fact, the scriptures teach us that it falls. God takes the good things to himself–Zion is taken up out of the land–while the wicked things are left unmolested, checked only by their own penchant for destruction. This check of self-destruction isn’t enough to keep things stable. The parable of the olive trees culminates with all the trees giving bad fruit. This earth of ours culminates with a time of wickedness such that not a Saint would be left if the Savior didn’t come again.

    We live in a day, true, when many physical evils have been vanquished. War has been subdued in many places. Slavery, an evil tolerated by the scriptures but an evil nonetheless, has been largely eliminated. We have unprecedented freedom and ability. Because of that potential, more is expected of us and our failure to do great things is itself a soul-killing evil. Because of that potential, we also have more opportunity to do wrong. We’ve taken it. We accumulated all the perversions of the ages, invented one or two additional, and made an ideology of them. We kill millions of children for our convenience.

  38. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 5:28 pm

    Gary,

    Thanks for the reply. I guess, since I AM mormon after all, that I can’t entirely exclude the possibility of conspiracies or their influence. You seem to have invested more into them, perhaps, than mormons I typically encounter (hence my somewhat tacky reaction).

    Perhaps there is a healthy level of conspiracy theorism out there? Interesting….

    As for NYC/Provo, the reason there isn’t an all-homosexual high school in Provo is that the homosexual community in Provo isn’t large enough. Whether that community isn’t large b/c of cultural reasons, genetics or whatever is a totally different thread. In my opinion, though, your condemnation of NYC schools still isn’t justified b/c of conversations you’ve had with others.

    As for Utah legislators, you’ve got the advantage on me there — Utah politics is a topic that let go of long ago. But have Church leaders really spoken out against sex education/birth control education per se? I’m doubtful, but convince me otherwise!

  39. lyle on March 12, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    Matt:

    interesting points. if you want the full text of the address by Elder Packer that I quoted, it can be found at:

    http://lds.org/newsroom/voice/display/0,18255,5004-1-61,00.html

  40. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    Brent,

    Thanks. In making the statements I have here, I didn’t mean to be “gloom and doom”. Ultimately, God will prevail. The war between Good and Evil has already been decided, as far as we are concerned, thanks to two great battles, Gethsemane and Golgotha, where Christ stood and fought alone and triumphed. All that remains is for each of us to decide if we want to be on the winning side or not. My frustration is that, in recognizing this fact, many members fail to see that this does not mean that the wickedness around us is “nothing to worry about”. It still harms, kills, destroys, and leads men and women away from the Plan of Happiness. God expects us to combat evil so that we can defeat it wherever we can, thus winning souls and making the world better. Zion will be a place of refuge, but does that only mean stake centers and temples? Can’t it be possible for individual nations, like our own, to actually turn away from Satan, and actually turn to God, and escape His judgements? I can tell you that many members in Latin America think in these terms, and take the BoM seriously when it talks about a nation overthrowing secret combinations, repenting, changing their laws for good, etc. I think this was the point you were making too, and I appreciate your bringing a calmer thread to the discussion.

  41. Kaimi on March 12, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    Brent,

    You suggest that there have been “various defenses presented here from time to time for such things as homosexuality and abortion.” I’m curious — has anyone actually asserted here that homosexuality or abortion are good? Or is it merely the arguments against legal regulation of such practices that you’re talking about?

  42. Adam Greenwood on March 12, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    I don’t have the experience to say for sure, but I doubt that the case against overcoming orientation is so open and shut as to make it a canard. All wounds will eventually be healed. Why not some of them in this life?

  43. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 6:08 pm

    Kaimi,

    You make a good point. Unfortunately, some members assume that, because another member argues against regulating an evil practice, such as abortion on demand, that this must mean the member supports the practice itself. I have had good friends who have found themselves under this kind of false accusation, and it is wrong. I don’t know if Brent meant to imply what you are saying; he probably didn’t mean it that way, but let me make this point:

    If the Lord, through the First Presidency, states that a certain practice (homosexual acts, for example) should be regulated, and that this practice should not be given legal recognition, and that the activity is wrong and sinful, and that its recognition as something good is a symmptom of a sinful world, an then a member in good standing says, “No, we shouldn’t regulate it; yes, we should give it legal recognition (or least we shouldn’t care of it gains that), and here are the reasons I feel that way”, some of us have to ask ourselves: Does this person not see something amiss here? If we sustain the First Presidency as prophets, and we find an official pronouncement that is in conflict with our own beliefs, wouldn’t that atleast imply that we might be wrong, and the First Presidency is right? For myself, I could easily understand a person saying, “I have trouble with this, because it conflicts with my own understanding, can someone help me understand this?” Many of the posts and threads I see here do just that, and I respect that. However, sometimes (though considerably less here than at other LDS blogs that I have seen) I’ve seen some that almost seemed to be saying, at least subtlely, “The prophets are wrong, and I’m right.” I don’t think this is happening here at T&S a lot, but I’ve seen some threads where it appears that some people THINK that’s what someone else is saying, when they are not. I grew up in an environment where one could argue vehemently with someone one minute but still get along fine the next, but some people may not be used to that. Thanks for gently reminding us all that one of the main purposes of T&S is free discussion, so that all might be edified. For my own part, I’ll try to restrain my ex-Southern Baptist self and try to not write so hyperbolicly (but it’ll be tough, because I’m just a hyperbolic kind o’ guy!).

  44. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Steve,

    It’s not per se that there is a “healthy level of conspiracy theorism”, it’s just that, given what the BoM in particular has to say, it’s wise to always keep an eye out for Satan’s hand in this world, and he tends to always work in the dark through conspiracies. Ether chapter 8 in particular admonishes that when we “see these things come among” us, (which assumes we aree looking) we must awaken to our awful predicament.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on the NYC school issue, or maybe it’ll come up on a post in the future. However, the Utah sex education issue is interesting. I still have buried somewhere an old 1980′s Institute manual for the “Teachings of the Living Prophets” class, that has an appendix chaulk full of First Presidency statements on everything under the sun. Sure enough, there’s one opposing Sex Ed in public schools. I’m at work now, so I can’t quote the date, but I remember the reasoning. The FP statement says that that it is impossible to adequately teach about sex without involving religion, and that if you try to do so, its worse than teaching nothing at all. Only parents can properly teach about sex, and if they’re failing, then society is in trouble, and no school will be able to correct that. Given the skyrocketing level of teen sex, with all of its consequences, over the last 40 years, concurrent with more and more sex ed, one could at leastr argue that Sex Ed has not significantly made a dent in the problem, thus failing to live up to its promises (I would argue even farther than that). In any case, despite these clear warnings, Utah has sex ed. Not the first time the Lord has spoken, the members don’t listen, so the Lord lets them stew in their juices and shuts up! In fact, the whole history of public education in Utah since teritorial days illustrates this problem.

  45. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 7:14 pm

    Gary, the 1st paragraph of your last point is something I can agree with (at last!). But while it’s probably wise to keep our eyes open for Satan’s hand in things, I think it’s better for us and ultimately more healthy to keep our eyes open for the Lord’s hand in things.

    I don’t go looking for Satan, nor do I spend a lot of time pondering what that rascal’s up to. Perhaps I should think about it a little more. I just feel like the gospel, personal righteousness and seeking further light and knowledge are enough — I’m too busy to look for conspiracies…

  46. BDemosthenes on March 12, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    In re sex ed: I’d be interested to see the abovementioned FP quote. A quick search of “sex education” on lds.org only turns up this:

    http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,29-1-14-19,00.html

    which does quote Elder Mark E. Petersen (but from before the Ensign, and since ‘sex education’ is in the quote, I assume the full text of the talk is not on lds.org):

    “Sex education belongs in the home, where parents can teach chastity in a spiritual environment as they reveal the facts of life to their children. There, in all plainness, the youngsters can be taught that procreation is part of the creative work of God and that, therefore, the act of replenishing the earth must be kept on the high plane of personal purity that God provides, free from all form of perversion.

    “Unskilled parents can learn to teach their children properly. In fact, God commands it, and who are we to disobey?”

    This does not seem to equate to an official church stance against sex ed in schools; rather, it is counsel to parents to not leave the issue to the schools. There are plenty of other things (the basics of reading, for starters) which I think are best taught by parents; however, the failure of some parents to do so seems to justify having the schools fill a backup role.

  47. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    Steve,

    When I wrote that thread, I actually typed in that we should look for the Lord’s hand too, but I misspelled a word, and unfortunately I’ve noticed that it’s well nigh impossible to edit anything in the comments box once you’ve typed, other than back spacing and eracing almost everything, so I ended up blotting it out. I do look for the Lord’s hand in all things, and I am careful to not be obsessive about looking for Satan, too. I think we are enjoined to do both, and they are not mutually exclusive. As a student of history, I am quick to respond to evils in the political realm because they have the potential for the greatest harm to the greatest number of people. For me, living the Gospel cannot be separated from seeking what is best for others, not just ourselves, and that, to me, means protecting others as well. Needless to say, Captain Moroni is one of my heroes, and he was quick to respond to dangers when he saw them. This was also a characteristic of the Founding Fathers. Unlike the Framers, who reacted at the POTENTIAL for evil, our generation tends to wait until the evils have arrived, and we tend to react only when the evils become insufferable. I’m not certain that is healthy in a free republic. Anyway, I’m glad we agreeed on that first paragraph!

  48. Gary Cooper on March 12, 2004 at 7:44 pm

    BDemosthenes,

    I’ll have to go digging this weekend for that statement. Soon as I find it, I’ll put it here.

  49. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 8:26 pm

    Gary,

    Just when I was agreeing with you, you go and post again!! Just kidding (mostly).

    It’s not tough to guess that you’d like Captain Moroni. Quite a fellow. I don’t share your glowing admiration of the Founding Fathers (nor do I think they were reacting to the potential for evil), but so be it. You can’t have everything, I guess.

    Student of history? As in, you’re still in school, or are you a student of history the way I am a student of ROCK?

  50. Michelle on March 12, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    Sorry Steve, but I have to agree with Gary on the NYC public schools issue. I tutored a high school student in English and History, and therefore had first-hand experience with what the high schools are teaching these kids. It’s pretty nasty. Every reading assignment she brought home from her English class had to do with either homosexuality, sex, or abortion. Every assignment, no kidding. This is the “literature” that they’re studying.

    Kaimi,
    While I remember most of the discussion centering around regulation of aboriton and homosexuality, and therefore no one has said either is good, I do remember someone saying that they didn’t think the Proclamation on the Family was good because of how it defined men and women. That’s pretty dang close.

    cooper,

    Thanks for the compliment.

  51. Steve Evans on March 12, 2004 at 8:52 pm

    Michelle, your views are definitely tougher to reject than some/most. But I’ve got a little experience here too (probably not as much, but still)… I didn’t think it was as bad as you’ve indicated.

    It’s frustrating to disagree with someone whose views are based on experience. Thank goodness it happens so rarely around here.

  52. cooper on March 13, 2004 at 1:44 am

    I found the reference Gary. It is in the Teaching of the Prophets manual: Living Prophets for a Living Church, CES 1974. Page 127. Quotes by Mark E Peterson and Ezra Taft Benson.

    A portion by ET Benson: “Another threat, and he (Joseph F Smith) said it is the most serious of the three, would be sexual impurity. Today we have both of these threats combined in the growing and increasingly amoral program of sex education in the schools. At the last general Relief Society conference of the Church, Elder Harold B Lee quoted president J Reuben Clark Jr., in regard to this matter. Let us listen and learn from the following wise words of this seer, President Clark: “Many influences (more than ever before in my lifetime) are seeking to break down chastity with its divinely decalred sanctity… In schoolrooms the children are taught what is popularly called ‘the facts of life’. Instead of bringing about the alleged purpose of the teaching, that is, strengthening of the morals of youth, this teaching seems merely to have whetted curiosity and augmented appetite.” (RS Magazine Dec 1952, pg 793).

    It goes on, if you want more I’ll post it or youcan check it out yourselves.

    The quotes by Mark E. Peterson are more relavent to the times, he being quoted in 1969.

  53. lyle on March 13, 2004 at 3:33 am

    Ouch. And the entire T&S crew takes a body blow due to their lack of experience. Steve 1, T&S…um…???

  54. Gary Cooper on March 13, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    Cooper,

    Thanks for the research! Youy saved me having to dig through a bunch of boxes.So, it wasn’t official FP statement, but still quoted from general conference.

    Steve, I am a “student of history” in the since both that I majored in it years ago in college, and, more importantly, I have always loved the study of history (as my wife’s frustration with my ever-burdgeoning book collection can attest). P.S.: If you don’t think “responding to the POTENTIAL for evil” wasn’t a major theme of the Founding Father’s, you need to do a lot more reading. Gordon S. Wood’s books are a good start. Though I often disagree with his conclusions his research is impeccable.

  55. BDemosthenes on March 16, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    I’m afraid I still don’t see the quoted material as being a call for blanket opposition to sex ed in schools. The quotes seem to be against the ‘amorality’ of the sex ed being offered, not against the concept itself. While members obviously should focus on sex ed in the home, I don’t see an unqualified opposition to sex ed in schools in the quoted material, and find it curious that such a position doesn’t appear anywhere on lds.org if it really is an official position of the church binding upon its members.