Eat, drink and fling.

April 22, 2004 | 15 comments

Some of the plausible and specifically Christian arguments for socially sanctioned gay unions–I think Kaimi’s advanced it on this board–is that an irreducible core of the homosexually inclined simply do not have the choice to be chaste. Under the circumstances, the argument goes, perhaps its best that society encourage them to refrain from the sin of promiscuity even if they can’t be discouraged from the sin of homosex-uality.

Now Gordon has found a variant of the same argument: society should accept and discipline promiscuity into ‘polyamory,’ because some people simply do not have the choice to be faithful. I’m willing to grant that ‘because’. Certainly infidelity has a long, long pedigree and numerous practitioners. Some philanders really may not be able to help it.

Both arguments are in interesting parallel to arguments we made in defense of polygamy in the early days of the church–men are lustful creatures, we said, so a city can practice polygamy, in which second wives have a respected role entering into a sisterhood, or a city can practice degrading prostitution. That’s it. A good argument, I suppose. It must have annoyed the Gentiles intensely, which is why I’m inclined to think that this argument was more an attack aimed at exploiting Gentile thinking than it was a real justification for polygamy. At the time, many Gentiles thought that men just couldn’t help themselves, so a little mistressing, whoring, and sowing wild oats was no big deal, if a man did it.

We see some of that same Gentile thinking today. “A man has needs,” it starts, and goes on to justify a little p*rn, a little fling, a little fantasy, because it can’t be helped. Might as well get used to it. And you know, maybe it can’t be helped, but so what? Even if some philandering is unavoidable, I don’t think we have to welcome it (and the same is true for polyamory or gay unions too. Change the words in the following screed and I could be talking about any of them.) Here is why we don’t have to welcome it:

Let’s concede the point that some men just can’t help themselves. It’s probably true, even if only in rare cases. Men’s sexuality is more difficult to control than that of women, even when the social factors are filtered out. So I can see that some men, from biology or upbringing, might have a sexuality impossible to control. Fine. Here’s the problem. The majority of men can control their sexuality, though control might be difficult enough that they’d like to give in and claim it was impossible. And I can conceive of nothing more dangerous to the souls of this majority than occupying public space with messages of the inevitability, even acceptability, of their failure. A man tries because he thinks he can succeed. If society refuses to countenance the inevitability of failure, more will try and more will succeed. For the sake of the majority we need to act as if promiscuity were a choice and condemn it.

That’s the upside. Lets look at it from the other angle now. Some, from biology or upbringing, just can’t succeed, I’ve conceded that, and yes, I’m therefore conceding that some men might well go through life feeling like failures and suffering public condemnation, forced to do what they have no choice to do in furtiveness, shame, and sometimes scandal. Society will treat them as choosing their iniquity and will condemn them for it. There will be consequences. The majority will benefit from maintaining the norm and this minority will suffer and the groups won’t overlap. Can I really justify punishing the minority to benefit the majority? Where’s the justice? I can only say, and it sounds harsh to say it (but if God can let infants die I can say harsh things) that it is better for some men to die than that a nation dwindle and perish in unbelief. Better that some men suffer in promiscuity than many be feated for it.

I draw this consolation: I think of the resurrection day. I think of these miserable men, brought despite themselves to face the throne of Grace. I see the King there, asking them if they have any desire to end their sins. They turn their heads, thinking they are mocked. Of course they do! but its hopeless. He asks again. Some answer. And all in an instant the chains, the uncontrollable impulses they thought were as integral as bones, are lifted from them, they stand in wild surmise and freedom, can it be, can it be, and now for the first time they look up and see the tears in the Face. Their eyes are opened and they see a great concourse of Saints, of the holy and mighty ones, who are praising them and giving thanks, and they know that these Saints are those who were able to overcome the flesh while in the flesh, and they know in an instant that these Saints were saved because they, the chained ones, bore the burden of the sin on their own backs. Now the chains are broken. Now the backs are straight. Now they join the Saints.


15 Responses to Eat, drink and fling.

  1. Kristine on April 22, 2004 at 9:42 am

    OK, but you still didn’t answer my question, so here it is again:

    How do you square your vision (final paragraph) with believing that “all men will be punished for their own sins”? It seems to me that you have invoked some sort of collective guilt, where gay people, by accepting shame and censure, take on the sins of people so weak that they couldn’t resist sin if it were not so strongly taboo. Am I misreading you?

    Also, you’ve lumped homosexuality together with promiscuity, and I think that’s not fair. We’ve been over it before, and needn’t rehash that part of the debate, but I just want to note my objection for the record.

  2. Adam Greenwood on April 22, 2004 at 10:07 am

    I originally posted this as a comment in Gordon’s thread, below. Kristine also originally responded there.

  3. Adam Greenwood on April 22, 2004 at 10:43 am

    I’m talking about sexual impulses that aren’t controllable. If one believes that homosexual impulse is always controllable, then of course what I’m saying wouldn’t apply. For all I know, what I’m saying doesn’t apply to anyone. Maybe everyone everywhere always has at least some effective choice. Maybe the pedophile realizes that as long as he lives he cannot stop molesting, but has free will to shoot himself and knows it. It wouldn’t surprise me if everyone were at least a little bit accountable for everything they did.

    Even controlled impulses, of course, fit my model if they bring salvation to others and suffering to their controller. Let’s examine Kristine’s homosexual example: Suppose that some souls with homosexual tendencies choose to live celibate, naturally at the cost of considerable loneliness and self-limitation. Suppose that by so doing these souls tend to make heterosexual relations the default choice for those whose sexuality might otherwise waver and tend to rebuke and encourage those unmarried heterosexuals who are finding heterosexual celibacy difficult. They who take up the cross of homosexual celibacy are not those who are redeemed by it, at least not at first remove, but they will have their reward. Many such will dine at God’s high table.

    In short, it simply isn’t true that all men will be punished for their own sins. Christ will be punished for many of mine; it’s just that he won’t be held to account for them, just as I won’t be held to account for Adam’s transgression. In this, as in other things, we should take Christ as our model.

    I don’t believe that we can become saviors exactly as Christ is. We don’t have the power to forgive sins. I do think, however, that we have the power to bear burdens that make it easier for other people to escape the effects of sin, or to reject sin, or to not have to face the choice of certain sins until they’re prepared for it. Removing a temptation from a person who might succumb to it is not the same as taking on their sins, but it does make us a savior on Mount Zion to them.

    Taboos and norms take some choices away, or limit them, so that the true moral choices people face tend to be choices between good things and even better things. That way, even if people choose wrong, they’re left stranded higher up salvation’s beach. But taboos and norms have a price. Clarity is bridesmaid to imprecision. People that the norms don’t fit will suffer from them. People who can’t abide the norm will suffer from them.

    Sexual norms help people who might otherwise waver taste the good and be reinforced in it before they are challenged with a choice. Norms of accountability help people faced with difficult choices take responsibility for their acts and choose that which they might otherwise resign themselves to not being able to choose. I suggest that the sufferers from these norms–like the men I discussed who are abhorred for promiscuous behavior that they hypothetically can’t control–will either in this life or the next be brought to see the benefits to others that were part and parcel of the suffering to them. They will then be given the choice to accept that suffering as a cross. If they do, they will enter into Heaven on terms of high equality.

    Many things will be seen differently on that day.

  4. Gary Cooper on April 22, 2004 at 12:12 pm


    You’ve written a wonderful post, and your last thread is also good. I hadn’t thought much about the self-sacrificing principle of homosexuals who remain celibate. I hadn’t thought at all of any idea that those who don’t remain celibate are in fact engaging in some sort of sacrifice. I just don’t see that.

    I know many will disagree with me, but I simply do not believe that homosexuals “cannot help themselves” from engaging in actual sex relations with the same sex. At the very least, I don’t believe promiscuity “can’t be helped.” I am willing to agree that THOUGHTS and URGES may be unwanted and difficult to control. I simply personally know and am aware of too many homosexuals who have NEVER engaged in actual sex with others of the same sex. (I suppose they could all be lying, but I don’t believe so.) Your statement about self-sacrifice rings very true to me with regard to the celibate, particularly the religious celibate, homosexual, but not for those who fully give in to these urges.

    I am willing to be open to the idea, though, that a homosexual, without adequate religious experience and instruction, might be addicted, in a very real sense, to sexual relations and even promiscuity. (Many heterosexuals are addicted to fornication, pornography, masturbation, etc.) I’m not sure we know all there is to know about how powerful the sexual impulse can become when it is completely unchecked. Is it like alcoholism, where a person can literally reach a point of no return, where they cannot stop no matter how much they want to? When I think of my late mother’s own alcoholism (I can trace congenital alcoholism through seven generations on my mother’s side), I can;t help but wonder if sexuality (in any immoral form) can be similarly destructive and insidious.

    I seem to have come full circle here, so maybe I’d better state what I believe are truths, and which I believe the Scriptures and the words of living prophets back me up on:

    1. Mortality, by its very nature, is difficult. It has to be, and God tailors our experiences in such a way that each of us as individuals is suitably challenged in such a way that, if we choose, the experience thus gained can assist us to becoming as God.

    2. That choice, however, may not fully be available to most of the human race until beyond mortality. In other words, many people, maybe most suffer a great deal in mortality and will have very little if any opportunity to make sense of it all until they enter Paradise, and later the resurrection.

    3. God has given certain commandments to us, not only as reflections of His own character, which He wants us to emulate, but also to steer us away from the dangers that come from engaging in certain behaviors.

    4. God knows, however, that the nature of the world under the Fall is such that most will not even be aware of these commandments, and will suffer for it.

    5. Hence, the commandments serve really to benefit those few who are aware of them, and if those do in fact obey, they may be an example to others not so enlightened. (In other words, the sacrifice is both on the part of the enlightened, who shun the world and deny themselves ungodliness, and the unenlightened, who chose to follow God in pre-mortality, even though they were told much of what they would suffer through, sacrifice full happiness here so that they can be an incentive to the enlightened to reach out to others, while they themselves have the promise of salvation beyond mortality.)

    6. This brings me to where I can agree, at least somewhat, with your view of what most of the human race, not just homosexuals, will see at the resurrection (or really at least partially earlier, in the spirtit world, where they are first taught the truth).

    7. The Lord has set a standard, that in our day, in our particular time, marriage must consist of one man and one woman. We do homosexuals no favors by buckling to pressure and allowing marriage to mean something else other than what God has established it to be. Saying that, well, they can’t help themselves from engaging in homosexual acts, so let’s tell them it’s alright to do so if they “get married”, so they’ll feel better. I fail to see how this is any different, in any substantive way, from telling a healthy married man whose wife is deathly ill that it’s okay to masturbate (since his wife and he can’t have relations), or telling teenagers that it’s okay to engage in fornication provided they use condoms and don’t do so promiscuously (as many Protestant churches actually preach), etc.

    8. Wickedness, whether it be engaged in knowingly or ignorantly, can never be happiness. You can’t sugar coat it. You can’t make people addicted to it happy by giving them false hopes. In short, the Restored Gospel makes clear that we are all compelled to live in a kind of existentialist predicament, where all of us, either in this life or the next, have to reconcile ourselves to our Divine Parents, and to our Divine natures, and to our own personal responsibility for that which we can be responsible for.

    As I have stated before on other posts here, I personally believe that homosexuality is a form of mental illness, so the urges and thoughts homosexuals must wrestle with may be uncontrollable to some extent (at least today, with what we know), and I can be willing to grant that many homosexuals, and others, can become addicted to sexual immorality, but whatever these people are going through, a testimony of the Atonement compels me to understand that that Atonement can overcome this, if not in mortality then certainly later, and that homosexuals will recieve an opportunity to be released from this burden and become Christlike and be able to marry for eternity to one of the opposite sex and become as God. A testimony of God’s Church and His guidance of it informs me that the Church’s standard of marriage, and its stance on homosexuality, is correct. I cannot accept that homosexuals will remain so for eternity, or that we shoudl advocate policies that are opposed to what the Lord through His prophets has stated.

    It just seems to be that here at T&S we keep coming back again and again to homosexuality because I suspect that there are some who contribute here who think that the Church is wrong, and that homosexuals were ordained to be homosexuals forever. Well, okay, but we’re reaching a point now where it appears that nothing very new is being said. Adam brings up an interesting point, but I’m not seeing anything new from the opposite side. It just seems that the other side of this debate is stuck with the nagging suspicion that somehow the Church is wrong and homosexuals are getting a raw deal. If that’s correct, I don’t know if that’s ever going to get resolved here in these posts. I feel I have benefited by reading and participating in the various posts on this topic here, as I’ve been compelled to really think throgh what I believe, and it has helped be better able to defend to others the Lord’s standard. But, just to pass this on to all, but we seem to be running out of new material here.

  5. Cal on April 22, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Do I have control over my own life? In essence, am I accountable for my actions? My point is this: If I think to myself that I just can’t help the way I am, and give over my power of choice to something I can’t help like genetics, circumstances, or whatever…then I have already lost the battle.

    Humans in general hate to be in the wrong, and in many cases will do whatever it takes to avoid it. When you look at the Gay issue it is exactly that–”How dare you say I’m wrong, I can’t help it, I was born that way, or I was abused, and so on.”

    My point, then, is not to say Gays, criminals, adulters and so on really are in the wrong. I really don’t know, for I lack all the information and the perfect capacity for judgement. To me, much of the intellectual debates on this issue are fruitless for those reasons. At any rate, what I am saying is all that is left to us is to think and live in a way that requires strict personal accountability. Anything else is flawed, and anyone–activist group, government agency, scientific community–that attempts to dismantle that accountability is doing us no favors. In the end, I think they’re just players in the great game of self-justification which certainly requires no outside justification, like a Savior for instance, since that would mean, dare I say, that all of us are in the wrong.

  6. Adam Greenwood on April 22, 2004 at 12:58 pm

    Mr. Cal correctly explains why we publicly need to act as if adults can choose their sexual behavior, even if we are privately uncertain about certain adults, or even privately sure that certain adults do not have real choice.

    Gary Cooper is uncertain, as am I, whether certain minority of souls have any real choice over their sexual behavior, either now or at some point in the past. Gary Cooper is certain, as am I, that the Lord has commanded that sex be the one-fleshing of man and wife, and of no other. Gary Cooper manifests an undertone of worry that my remarks may serve to romanticize and legitimate certain sins of sexual congress, making them salvific as it were. I see his cause for worry and wish to state that nothing could have been further from my intent. Sinners are not at all saving the rest of us by committing sin themselves, as if the universe had some sort of fixed quantity of evil. Believe me, brothers, sisters, there’s enough to go around. Rather, I am suggesting that sinners, especially those that ‘have no choice,’ will suffer obloquy and scorn because of norms against sin that were instituted to benefit and guide others who do have a choice. If, either now or at the Day, the sinners who have no choice can welcome that obloquy and scorn as the price of the others’ good, then the obloquy and scorn will become salvific to them.

  7. Julie in Austin on April 22, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    I can’t accept the premise that large swaths of the population (whether homo or hetero sexual) cannot control their desires.

    I am sure there is a *very* small percent, similar to those with Tourette’s syndrome, or kleptomania, but *in general* I think people are making excuses for not choosing to control their behavior.

    And, as everyone might have expected, I am stunned by the assertion that “I do believe that the sexuality of men is more difficult to control than that of women, even when the social factors are filtered out.” On which scientific studies or extensive personal observations is this statement based? (I suppose if you meant that it is more difficult for *society* to control the sexuality of men than of women, I would agree, but I would attribute it to social factors. If you are talking about individual men and women controlling their own sexuality, I see no basis for this statement.)

  8. Gary Cooper on April 22, 2004 at 2:23 pm


    Thanks for the clarification. I see your point now, and can agree with it (I think). I would just extrapolate and say it really applies to all of the human race, not just homosexuals, who live and die either without the Gospel or without all the tools needed to live it fully. All of these souls, through their suffering, play a role in the salvation of others, and will have a full opportunity for salvation themselves.

  9. Adam Greenwood on April 22, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    You’re right that the concept branches out in many directions. You’re also right that I’m not just talking about homosexuals, as should be clear from the initial post which was primarily on heterosexual infidelity.

  10. Adam Greenwood on April 22, 2004 at 2:40 pm

    Julie in Austin,
    Why stunned? We both admit that men and women are socially influenced, so we have no good evidentiary way of sorting out what’s social and what’s essential. It’s an assumption we bring to the table.

    Given the assumptions you bring to the table that there are no essential gender differences, I am not all stunned that you reject the idea of an essential difference in sexuality. Given my assumption that there are important and essential differences, I think it very little surprising I’d find them in sexuality too.

  11. clark on April 22, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    I think the problem is that infidelity often isn’t due to a lack of sex but simply the desire for the chase, a lack of respect, and many other facets. i.e. I’m not at all convinced that polygamy would reduce adultery.

    Now perhaps in some cases where women don’t like sex or there are incompatible sex drives. However I think in those cases counseling probably would help better. i.e. perhaps the woman can’t achieve orgasm via intercourse, perhaps there is a background of abuse that’s affected her ability to act sexually normally, perhaps the husband isn’t a considerate (or knowledgable) lover.

    Trying to simply deal with this by legitimizing multiple partners seems fundamentally misplaced. I recognize that this was an argument used by Mormon apologists in the 19th century. However I think it was fundamentally informed by Victorian notions of sexuality which were rather warped.

  12. clarkgoble on April 22, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Sorry — posted that previous comment in the wrong thread. (Although they are related)

    Julie, I think that there is far more than a small number who fit into these categories. One doesn’t have to read much literature to see what effects abuse on children – especially those under the age of 8 – has on their sexual behavior as adults. That it is *so* predictable suggest that there is a level of brain development that seriously impacts agency. It may not fully remove agency in regards to sexuality to the degree that say a very bipolar person having a manic attack may face. I think it a matter of degree. To get such things under control requires a great deal of effort even in the process of overcoming those effects they will almost certainly fail many times. I think it unfortunately to simply discount these examples of immorality as not choosing right. The brain is far more complex than that and we all are limited by our brains. As Paul said, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

    While we are judged by our works, I also take confidence in the idea that Christ overcomes for us our disabilities. We have historically been focused in on only major disabilities, but I think there are far more mental disabilities due to abuse of children than most realize.

  13. Julie in Austin on April 22, 2004 at 3:00 pm


    Agreed. I was only objecting to the assertion that men or women without definite mental illness/disturbance couldn’t control their desires.

  14. Gary Cooper on April 22, 2004 at 3:17 pm


    That’s a an excellent point, and one I should have touched on too, because I think it is safe to make distinctions between people who, for no readily accessible reason, end up with deviant sexuality (homosexuality, for example), vs. others who were abused or otherwise exposed inappropriately and at too young of an age to sexuality. This is one of the major reasons, I believe, that the Lord inspired the First Presidency quite a few years ago to come out against sex ed in schools, because of the fear that children would be exposed at too young of an age to this kind of subject. The statistics of how many child molesters were molested themselves as children is astonishing. I think it is safe to say that the Atonement can cover all the “hard cases”, and God has not forgotten the suffering people who had no control over their home environments and upbringing.

    When I was new convert, I just assumed that if a person in the Church engaged in fornication, and died in a car wreck on the way home, they were damned, and that was it. Now, nearly 23 years later, I would not be so judgemental. We don’t know what others have beenn through, and what burdens and trials God has put them through. Is a single divorced woman in the church, a convert, who was abused sexually as a child, and who is struggling mightily as a new convert to overcome alcoholism and drug abuse, going to be excommunicated because, in a moment of depression, she succumbs to fornication, but immediately goes to her bishop? I don’t think so. Likewise, are we to say that a young man, molested by a male relative for years as a child, is going to be “written off” by the Lord because, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t overcome his attraction to men, and his lack of attraction to women? I believe strongly that, for the vast majority of the human race, the real benefits of the Atonement will not be seen until beyond mortality. Most people, and this includes some members of the Church, will have to wrestle with problems their entire life, and for those who are members, it will be all they can do to cling to the Gospel. We shouldn’t judge them, we should do all we can to help, and that will often mean saying “No!” to ideas and policies that we know are wrong.

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