I thought he asked a really good question, actually.

October 8, 2010 | 54 comments
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Most of the commentary that I have read on Elder Packer’s talk (and I have not read widely) treats the decamped rhetorical question as an emotional and political flashpoint.  But I think it’s more productively understood as a confounding question of theology, even theodicy.  The removal of those nine words from the published version does nothing to resolve the underlying doctrinal problem.

First let me say that I understood Elder Packer’s talk to take up implicitly but very clearly the question of the origins of homosexual desire. Others interpret it differently, but that was how I heard it at delivery, and that is still how I understand the published version. Elder Packer suggests that the provenance of homosexuality matters, very much, and that sexual identity matters, very much, in the Mormon understanding of human nature and destiny.

In this sense, Elder Packer’s real challenge is not directed at gay men and women, or even at gay rights activists, but at the proponents of the newer, apparently softer compromise position on gay issues that we have seen emerging, slowly, in official church discourse. I’m referring here to statements like Elder Oaks’s and Elder Wickman’s interview with Public Affairs, in which there is an acceptance of the possibility that some gay men and women have an inborn orientation toward the same sex, but an assertion that the origin of that orientation is irrelevant to the moral question.  There is also an assurance that homosexual desire is not, in itself, an obstacle to salvation, and that sexual identity need not be a defining human characteristic.

Contra these positions, Elder Packer denies the possibility of a “preset” gay orientation, asserts the importance of knowing the origin of homosexuality, and strongly argues that sexual identity is not “incidental” but is the “very key” to human destiny and salvation. And given his theology, how could he do otherwise?  The talk cites 2 Nephi 2 four times, more than any other chapter of scripture, and rightly so: 2 Nephi 2 is foundational to Mormon notions of creation, agency, and salvation.  Here’s part of verse 27:

Wherefore, men are  free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.

If this is your theological substrate, as it is surely Elder Packer’s, how could you ever accept the possibility that God allows some of his children to be born not free according to the flesh but rather physiologically “preset” away from the very epicenter of Mormon godliness, namely the capacity for heterosexual desire, love, coupling and procreation flowing from that coupling? That he does not give all things expedient but indeed withholds from some of his children the central attribute expedient for exaltation?   2 Nephi 2 makes a hash of the compromise position, and the question asks itself: Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?*

It’s a real problem, one that strikes very close to the heart of a theistic creation. To be sure, it’s only a problem if one holds constant the Mormon theology of sex. And of course homosexuality is not the only aspect of human experience to pose profound problems of theodicy. But for Mormons especially, it’s an important one, and it won’t be going away. To paraphrase the old saw: You can have inborn homosexuality, a Mormon theology of sex, or a loving creator God. Pick two.

*Please understand me here: I’m not arguing personally for Elder Packer’s position, but trying to understand its implications. I’d rather not have comments excoriating me personally (I stipulate from the outset that I deserve excoriation), or focusing on the science of sexuality. I’d rather see discussion of the theological issue.

54 Responses to I thought he asked a really good question, actually.

  1. john f. on October 8, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Rosalynde, being born with a “preset” homosexual orientation does not mean someone is born “not free” — the point is that even people with such an inborn trait such as homosexual attraction are also born with the capacity to overcome temptation to act contrary to God’s will. This is buttressed by the quote from Paul, which really does focus the point of that section of the talk on “temptation”, not “tendencies” or inborn traits as many interpreted his use of “tendencies” in the oral version of the talk.

    The amended talk avoids the complications of theodicy that you pose. By contrast, the oral version created a real problem because if Elder Packer was asserting that God would never create someone with an innate homosexual orientation, then (setting aside the real problem that creates for gay Mormons, especially children and teenagers who realize very young, while still innocent and definitely not sexually active, that they are attracted to members of the same sex) that directly raises the questions of why God would create people with mental illness or infertility or MS or down syndrome or congenital heart defects or any other myriad of other birth defect, inborn genetic traits that are not birth defects but nevertheless affect one’s life in very real ways, etc.

  2. Nate W. on October 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    By “a Mormon theology of sex” you mean the current Mormon theology of sex, right? Because I don’t think the Church’s stance on homosexuality is as intractible as some make it out to be, and there have been changes in LDS theology regarding sex that provide wiggle room for further change (note that I’m not saying it will happen, just that there is theological space for it to happen).

  3. CT on October 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I’d just point out at the outset an alternative reading of the phrase “free according to the flesh.” This can be read as a limitation or qualification of our freedom (not agency necessarily). This does not appear to be Packer’s interpretation, but It is or was Oaks’s. See “Free Agency and Freedom” speech at Byu. Excerpt: “As Lehi taught we are only free ‘according to the flesh.’ We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and power to control our thoughts and actions…’I was born that way’ does not excuse actions…”

  4. john f. on October 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I think you raise an interesting point though that maybe Elder Packer was indeed explicitly trying to “combat” a growing notion in the Church as espoused by Elders Oaks, Wickman and others that homosexuality might indeed be an inborn trait to some extent and that simply having homosexual attraction or feelings is no sin as long as one does not violate the law of chastity.

    Personally, I don’t think Elder Packer would have tried to negate the Church’s more general position as articulated in this orientation/action distinction because he is fully with the program of staying united with the Brethren, especially in his public teaching. Thus, even his oral talk should be read in the context of the Church’s current position (as evidenced by the Oaks/Wickman interview as well as the BYU Honor Code’s application and also whenever you have a gay member who holds a calling and is considered worthy because, although gay, has decided to remain chaste) and understood not to conflict with or contradict it, meaning that if we view his oral talk from this perspective, he was not ignoring the orientation/action distinction even in his oral talk, even though he expressed himself poorly and many people received the talk as a statement against an inborn homosexual trait.

  5. Eric Nielson on October 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I have not thought much about it yet, but I am not sure I buy your three options with the limitation of two. It seems something is missing.

    For me, the ideas of repentance and eternal progression require that a person can make real change if they desire to in any area pertaining to righteousness. Studies in brain plasticity suggest that the brain is much more plastic than we have supposed. I do not buy than any of us are helpless, and must live with all of our weaknesses eternally. It seems vital that fundamental change must be possible in Mormon theology, regardless of what our weaknesses are.

  6. DLewis on October 8, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Eric, are you saying that are brains are flexible enough to change in this life or that we won’t live with our weaknesses “eternally?” There seems to be a big difference there.

    I don’t think we carefully consider how unique the challenge of same-sex attraction is. It is not a “weakness” or “temptation” in the regular sense. We generally understand sexual attraction to be good and normal in a specific context (monogamous marriage) but a “temptation” in other realms, while hate or envy are always temptations all the time. Yet we try to make the case that sexual attractions for homosexuals are like hate and envy–wrong always–even though those same feelings are of a different kind for us. We need to give up the “thorn in the flesh” imagery–these are completely different things.

  7. David T on October 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Have you guys noticed that the Rhetorical question was removed from the published text? Also, the word ‘tendencies’ that cannot be overcome was replaced with ‘temptations’…

  8. Rosalynde Welch on October 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    John, I don’t think the change from “tendency” to “temptation” eliminates the problem, especially in the context of the passage on “preset” traits in which Elder Packer implicitly but clearly rejects an inborn biology of homosexuality. And I disagree that it is Elder Packer’s oral version that is problematic—yes, other inborn human variations exist, but it is only sexual variation (not only homosexuality) at the epicenter of Mormon godliness (the potential capacity for heterosexual reproduction) that is an obstacle to ultimate godliness. If sexual variation is a matter of choice, as Elder Packer asserts, then the problem disappears and one can read 2 Nephi 2 very straightforwardly.

    As I’m arguing, I think it’s the Oaks/Wickman position that is deeply problematic at the intersection of LDS teachings on exaltation and agency. Not least because it relies so heavily on the dubious distinction between orientation and behavior, which is obliterated by Matthew 5:28 anyway.

    All that said, I do understand the desire to reconcile Elder Packer’s talk with a more progressive stance toward gay men and women, and I think it’s an honorable effort. I just think it’s hopelessly philosophically muddled.

  9. Ben Orchard on October 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Hmmm…I thought I’d said my piece on this, but it appears that I was very much mistaken.

    Look, I’m gonna have to admit that I’m not a fan of the line of thinking that leads us to a place where we have to look at things like homosexuality, alcoholism, autism, schizophrenia, and whatnot and ask “Why would God do that to his children?”. I think it comes as a result of a mistaken theological basis.

    So let’s start with the scripture in question. I don’t believe that the only possible/plausible interpretation is that this leads us to the point of stating that no one could be born homosexual.

    In the context I would instead argue that Lehi is saying something like, “men have agency without outside restrictions, and as many choices as are expedient for humanity to have are made available to them, and they are therefore free to choose liberty [and so on]…”. In other words, God has made us as free as he can, giving us as much power to choose as is possible given our current conditions. This does not, I think, indicate that there would be no challenges. Indeed, this line of thinking would argue that something like alcoholism can’t be a real inborn tendency because that would mean something expedient to us was denied. Same with autism, schizophrenia and ANY NUMBER of other human traits that are indeed very common.

    Instead of saying that this scripture makes a hash of the compromise position, I would argue that the scripture is talking about something different. Additionally this line, “…some of his children to be born not free according to the flesh but rather physiologically “preset” away from the very epicenter of Mormon godliness…” is especially problematic. One need not be a scientist or theologian to realize that this is an absolutely absurd position. God clearly allows his children to be born with traits that limit their freedom in certain realms–Down’s Syndrome, missing limbs, severe muscular disorders, and schizophrenia are but a few. Given this, and I’d argue that Lehi, like Elder Packer, was HARDLY ignorant of these sorts of birth defects, it becomes rather far-fetched to conclude that Lehi meant that we are all absolutely free to choose in any direction we like.

    Instead I see this as saying that there are indeed limits on our freedom. Agency in this model becomes FAR less about choosing whether to wear black or orange (a possibility that is difficult for those who are blind, as an example), and more about how we choose to conduct ourselves–GIVEN our personal challenges.

    In this interpretation, the compromise position is much more tenable, though hardly a logical necessity. From this point, one might consider that the point of agency is to accept the challenges presented, and then use agency to choose that which is good and moral.

    As an example of this, I know several people with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, as is obvious from observing their parents. These are people who, if they EVER drink alcohol, will almost immediately become addicted to it. They have, in my opinion, just as much of a choice as anyone else whether or not to take that first drink. But unlike some, these people find themselves faced with a particular challenge: that first drink will put them in a far more difficult place than it would most people. By contrast, there are some people that could easily drink 3-4 servings of alcohol a day, then stop without ever feeling the pull of addiction.

    While admittedly the life consequences of this are somewhat different than for a homosexual, the agency that both people have is the same. They have the choice to engage in the activity or not. A choice that is best made ONE TIME and BEFORE they try it out.

    Is this difficult? Absolutely, but we should be careful about how we frame our outlook on agency.

    /end wall of text.

  10. Rosalynde Welch on October 8, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    John, also wanted to add: the question is not whether or not gay men and women are capable of overcoming temptation. The question is why God would create them (or allow them to be created) without the one trait that is the “very key” (as Elder Packer puts it) to the Mormon notion of exaltation.

  11. JimD on October 8, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Why would God allow a person to be created in the year A.D. 1420, when the entire world was without another trait that is “very key” to exaltation (to wit: temple ordinances)?

  12. dangermom on October 8, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    People are born with all sorts of different challenges or conditions that may make it impossible to get married and have children during this life. I don’t see why that makes it impossible to have all 3 of your options going on in our world.

  13. Adam Greenwood on October 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    “You can have inborn homosexuality, a Mormon theology of sex, or a loving creator God.”

    The excluded rejectable option is a stark (and I would say, simpleminded) Mormon theology of choice, where nothing bad or tragic happens to you without your actively choosing it–or at least without it being relatively easy for you to choose out of it. That would probably be the option I would reject.

    What we are largely seeing is a debate between conservative Mormon optimists, whose sunny view of life paradoxically requires that they denounce the homosexually inclined as deliberately and wickedly choosing to be that way, or liberal Mormon optimists, whose sunny view of life paradoxically requires that they denounce their Church as run by malign bigots.

  14. Adam Greenwood on October 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    DLewis,
    I would disagree that anger is always wrong. God certainly practices it, if the scriptures are to be believed. Further, I disagree that “homosexuality” as such is pure eeevil even if one accepts traditional Mormon moral views about sex, which I do. One could still then believe that the unique experience of resisting the tendency/temptation, the unique orientation to the appreciation of beauty in men (or, I suppose, women, though lesbianism is a different kettle of fish), and the unique mental and characterological qualities that are in many instances part and parcel of the homosexual experience–one could still believe that all of these are valuable contributions to the common store of knowledge and experience when we all share completely in each other as immortal Gods.

  15. kurofune on October 8, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks Rosalynde, great post.

    Elder Packer seems to be arguing that the idea of ‘preset’ homosexuality is incompatible with mormon doctrine. There are many interpretations of a ‘preset’ homosexual nature. Some arguments contrary seem to hinge upon: congenital disease, contrast between heterosexuality/homosexuality, and the stance of tendency vs action.

    Elder Packer also seems to assert that no one obtaining eternal life would have homosexual tendencies in such a state of salvation(see “very key”). Accepting this and proposing that salvation was possible for any soul at the beginning then it must be true that those with homosexual tendencies can be relieved of them. Otherwise since we know homosexual tendencies exist and that some people have them, we would have to reject one of the premises stated above. This may be a restatement of your ’2 of 3′ assertion at the end of your post.

    I’ve wondered if Elder Packer wasn’t saying that homosexuality is not ‘preset’ in the sense that it is neither intrinsic nor eternally sealed to one’s nature, even if present very early in life. This view would allow for some to be born homosexual and still allow fair compatibility with Elder Packer’s statements. The debate on the origin of homosexuality itself is a worthy subject and one that strongly influences this discussion.

  16. MoHoHawaii on October 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    This is an excellent bit of analysis. Thanks.

    The edits move Elder Packer’s talk closer to earlier statements by Elders Oaks, Ballard and others that have gradually become the Church’s official position on sexual orientation, but the edits do not close the gap between these two positions. The Oaks/Ballard position admits that one cannot expect sexual orientation to change in this life and that the Church considers the cause of homosexual orientation to be a scientific question, not a religious one. Celibacy is encouraged as a way to avoid sin, but this is admitted to be an unusual burden that must be borne in mortality only by a certain class of people through no fault of their own. Those who hold the Oaks/Ballard view maintain theodicy by introducing a post-mortal fix-up: although you won’t become straight in this life you will in the next. (Unfortunately, the promise of changing a fundamental aspect of personality in the spirit world or in the resurrection utterly contradicts LDS teachings on the continuity of personality between the mortal and post-mortal self, but that’s an issue for another day.)

    Elder Packer prefers a solution that denies the centrality of sexual orientation to personality and to the dynamics of pair bonding. Instead, he sees only homosexual “temptations,” which are understood only in terms of lust. He is silent on the question of whether homosexually-oriented persons should attempt to find spouses of the opposite sex. (Presumably, such marriages should be encouraged on the grounds of channeling sexual energies appropriately, as was the position of the Church through mid 1980s.)

    The question of mixed-orientation marriage is a useful way to distinguish between the official (Oaks/Ballard) view and Elder Packer’s. The official (Oaks/Ballard) position of the Church holds that marriage to a person of the opposite sex is not something that people with strong homosexual orientation should attempt. This follows naturally from the idea that sexual orientation is a fundamental trait of personality and that mismatched orientations do in fact inhibit pair-bond formation and therefore cause tremendous suffering and heartache in a marriage. In contrast, Elder Packer’s view sees only lust, which can be overcome (i.e., suppressed) with discipline and clean living. From his remarks, you certainly see no indication that mixed-orientation marriages are to be avoided. A person who accepts Elder Packer’s view might ask, Why wouldn’t a person with “homosexual temptations” not try to overcome them by marrying a person of the opposite sex?

    The Church is on a long journey with this issue. The commotion caused by Elder Packer’s slight deviation from the Church’s current position is a real indicator that change is in the works.

  17. Adam Greenwood on October 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I think the four American views of God is relevant to this conversation.

  18. DLewis on October 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Adam,
    I’m not sure you were actually responding to my post. I never said anything about anger: I said we don’t consider hate or envy justifiable in any contexts, while sexual desires are allowed in the realm of marriage. Thus, they are different types of temptations–one to be avoided, the other to be channeled.

    And I certainly never said homosexuality is pure evil–my point was exactly the opposite. People have tried to lump into the category of temptations that are always to be avoided, like hate, envy, pornography, etc. But if you assume that homosexuals feel the same type of attractions and desires as heterosexuals, only its towards the same sex (and I do assume this), then you cannot lump same-sex attraction into that category of “pure evil.” You cannot rely on the old tropes; you have to recognize that this is unfamiliar territory rather than lumping it together with the same old categories.

    You make an interesting point about us later gaining from the “experience” that homosexuals are faced with here in this life. I certainly agree that the challenge presented by our theology of sex to homosexuals would lead to a unique experience of the tension between divine laws and personal desires, one we could all gain from rather than abhor. But I can’t think of anything in our theology to suggest that we’ll gain knowledge, experience, or wisdom from other people’s trials. That seems a weird way of learning: “Thanks for dealing with all that pain and suffering, I’ve learned a lot from your experience.”

  19. Rosalynde Welch on October 8, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    All, I’ll be busy for the rest of the day, but I’m grateful and pleased at the tone of the comments so far, thanks all for the contributions (and especially john f. for starting off on the right foot).

  20. Adam Greenwood on October 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    DLewis,
    To my mind, hate and anger are two of a kind. I don’t see any essential difference between the them. As for envy, I have a hard time thinking that behind envy there isn’t some positive characteristic or aspect that is distorted–perhaps a desire for good things or for blessings?
    I never said that you said that “homosexuality is pure evil”–please reread my comment on that regard. I am replying to your implied polemic that traditional Mormon moral views about sex require believing that homosexual inclination is purely evil, like you assert hate and envy are. I disagree. (I think I also disagree that homosexual and heterosexual desire are identical except with the sex changed out, at least in many instances, though I’m not sure that’s relevant).
    Learning from other people’s experience is entirely appropriate to a society that is bound by the strongest type of love, where mutual understanding is perfect, and where communication can be on the direct soul-to-soul level that is implied in D&C 50. I assume that the divine society of those who bear Christ’s name (he who suffered all our griefs) is like that. I do not believe that any one of us can have all the kinds of experience we need in our own flesh.

  21. Adam Greenwood on October 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    “(Unfortunately, the promise of changing a fundamental aspect of personality in the spirit world or in the resurrection utterly contradicts LDS teachings on the continuity of personality between the mortal and post-mortal self, but that’s an issue for another day.)

    I don’t think this is right. I don’t see a contradiction, let alone an utter contradiction. Eventually we all have to be reborn–notionally it happens at baptism, in practice I expect that baptism is only the beginning of the labor pains, and death isn’t even the crowning–but there is no reason to think that in the rebirth we actually lose any sense of identity with our former self. Our experience will still mark us.

  22. jks on October 8, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I think that Elder Packer might have been asserting that homosexuality, even if it is an inborn tendency during mortal life, is not “pre-set” in the pre-existance and it will not last beyond death into eternity. So while homosexuality is a temptation while here on earth, it is not part of who someone will be for eternity.
    A loving God does put us in extremely difficult circumstances here on earth because that is the way mortality has to be, however, ultimately, our loving Father will give us exaltation if we choose it and we will not be denied it if that is what we choose.

  23. Thomas Parkin on October 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    ” God clearly allows his children to be born with traits that limit their freedom in certain realms”

    Yes. And that cause us pain, and difficulty etc. And I like that you use “allow” rather than ’cause’; this is what I believe, too. Although if He finally was the cause of some difficulties (and after all the line between cause and allow isn’t absolute), that would make him neither evil, nor unkind, nor unloving, seeing that without suffering we seem to be incapable of developing real love. Our pain is for a little season. And, as Gibran says, our pain and our joy derive from the same source, they are inextricably bound.

    I personally read a lot of pain in Elder Packer. He is conservative, a preserver, and so much of what he has found good seems to be slipping away. Some ideas have been made to run so deep in our identity. I think there is an element of tragedy, and I feel myself entirely on his side even as I disagree with some aspects of what he seems to be saying.

    As for me … Once again, today, I wanted to jump off my roof and fly away. Unfortunately, no matter how much newspaper and tissue I tape to my arms, I can’t make it happen. If God didn’t want me to praise him by getting up there and flying away, why implant the desire in me, like a lust in my bosom?

  24. Clair on October 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I’m going to have to go back and listen to the talk again to see what everyone is upset about. As I listened, I was applying his words to myself, my own tendencies and weaknesses, and I was taking courage from his testimony that God would provide a way for me to corral them. That struck me as true, and strengthening. I was glad to hear it.

    Maybe the talk was only for homosexuals, but I don’t think so.

  25. Cameron Nielsen on October 8, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I think we might better understand President Packer’s perspective if we consider his own physical challenges and experiences that we are aware of…didn’t he have several conditions/weaknesses as a child?

  26. Chino Blanco on October 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    And who was the audience for this talk? My biracial kids?

    “We’ve always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians.” — Boyd K. Packer

    For what purpose was this counsel offered? Or, in the spirit of the post, perhaps I should ask: What theological issues does this counsel raise? Wouldn’t those be the same not-at-all-theological issues that Boyd K. Packer is always already raising?

    I thought he made a sad last attempt with this talk, actually.

  27. Clair on October 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    #26. Tomorrow I teach a HP lesson #19 on repentance. I may use Elder Packer’s talk. He mentions repentance a dozen times. It is very good on that topic, as was Elder Christofferson’s talk. I don’t plan to mention homosexuality at all. Repentance is for everyone, as far as I know. We can liken that talk to ourselves as for any other gospel sermon or scripture.

  28. RW on October 9, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Rosalynde,

    You said,

    You can have inborn homosexuality, a Mormon theology of sex, or a loving creator God. Pick two.

    Is there no other alternative? Like a loving creator who is a Darwinist and who must be sad that life has to be so cruel, but that is life? As stated often, this life is the opposition to eternity since all things must have opposition. So God gives us a really nasty problem to sort out knowing that it must be good for us to sort it out since this problem will not occur in eternity.

    Mormon theology is not static, either. I have been trying to envision an eternity and judgment with gays. My cousin and his partner have been raising an adopted boy, a bright young man with two devoted fathers, one of mostly European decent, the other largely African.

    My cousin filled an honorable mission and left the church only when it proved impossible to withstand the hatred he encountered there.

    I have been envisioning them standing before the judgment bar, their son (potentially) going to the celestial kingdom and these two wonderful people, full of love and the desire for truth, all good things, having to kiss their son goodbye and trudge off to the telestial kingdom because God made them gay and not able to go to the temple? This does not seem likely when far worse people and parents skip past them into eternal increase based solely on their temple recommend. God may be a Darwinist on this planet but in the eternities he is not. Heaven is a place of perfect freedom and perfect love.

    So why does God want us to settle our own problems?

  29. Alison Moore Smith on October 9, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    but it is only sexual variation (not only homosexuality) at the epicenter of Mormon godliness (the potential capacity for heterosexual reproduction) that is an obstacle to ultimate godliness.

    I still don’t understand the idea that — what exactly? — is at the “epicenter of Mormon godliness.”

    (1) The capacity for heterosexual reproduction? In which case all infertile heterosexual couples also miss the mark.

    (2) The desire to reproduce? Hey, I’m 46, still capable, but really don’t want to reproduce any more. I’m out.

    (3) The desire to have sex with the opposite sex? In which case lots of heterosexuals also fail. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve argued against the “Who would want to?” attitude among other women — even at RS events.

    (4) The “potential capacity for heterosexual reproduction”? Which includes lots of homosexuals and excludes lots of heterosexuals.

    I don’t see any of those things at the epicenter of anything nor do I see how they figure into some notion of “this is so bad God couldn’t possibly do it.” I have a temper. I’d venture to say that mastering our emotions and being kind and being charitable are kind of at the epicenter of Mormon godliness. So why was I born with this tendency? (And I was.) Does the fact that I’ve always struggled with it meant that it must be as God intended?

    You can have inborn homosexuality, a Mormon theology of sex, or a loving creator God. Pick two.

    I don’t understand this position either. First, I don’t know what the “Mormon theology of sex” is. (Have it lots???) But I still can’t see the incompatibility. “I love you, here’s a standard, some of you will struggle with this standard, some of you will struggle with another one. That’s how you learn and grow.” What’s the problem with that?

    Don’t have a firm opinion about the cause of homosexuality, but I don’t think it matters. I have six kids, all born very different. Standard of behavior remains in spite of the tendencies they were born with or develop.

    If God ever gives us trials — are we are told he sometimes does — why not give them to us genetically? That seems a generally more elegant mode than magically poofing us with something.

    Often discussions of homosexuality seem to assume that God can’t possibly have a standard that makes us uncomfortable. I think he can.

  30. chanson on October 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I noticed that there are actually a couple discrepancies from his original text and what was actually published. I suppose this could be purely semantics, yet, the actual rhetorical was removed from the published text while “tendencies” was changed to “temptations.” This brings up an interesting argument of editorial privilege I think.

  31. MoHoHawaii on October 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Re #30 (chanson)

    This brings up an interesting argument of editorial privilege I think.

    The published transcript should, at a minimum, use brackets to indicate inserted words and ellipses to indicate the omission of phrases or sentences.

  32. RogerDodger on October 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    At one time I could honestly say that every homosexual I knew was a returned missionary. And every single one went through a very painful process of accepting his identity. One in particular tried to take his own life rather than accept that identity. If you asked him today if homosexuality is merely a choice, he would answer this way: “It cost me my family. It cost me my church. It cost me many of my friends. Who in their right mind would choose to give all that up?” I don’t have any answers to anything, but I’m glad that so many young people in the church are more open-minded and loving than previous generations were.

  33. Nicole on October 10, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    How interesting to read all of your posts. I think I have sat here for the last couple of hours reading between this thread and the other. I have no scientific background. I have a gay daughter. She came out in her late teens, she is now 33, though it took several years after that for me to accept it. Looking back I can see now how she was “different” even as a little girl. I think in many instances it is hereditary. She has even told me, “Do you think I asked for this?” I am not real familiar with the Mormon theology and since all this with Prop 8 here in CA I have even started to question God. I also have 2 gay cousins, whose families are Mormon. So perhaps it runs in families. My cousins, of course, had to leave the church. I have seen my own child suffer at the hands of ignorant people. One of my cousins tried to marry her best friend(male) but it didn’t last. She almost took her life because she was so unhappy. This is what the church and family did for her. I find it really hard to understand where the compassion was. Most gays want to have a long term relationship with a partner like everyone else. My daughter has been with her partner for 12 yrs. My gay cousin has been with his partner for close to 40 yrs and my lesbian cousin has been with her partner for about 10yrs. If there is a loving creator then I see him in a different way. He loves everyone the same and accepts them the same. His blessings are for everyone, not just those chosen few. I have turned my back on the Mormon side of the family because of this issue.

    I remember when the revelation came that the African-Americans could hold the Priesthood. I think a new wind is blowing again. Time is slow to change but I think it is coming. Here in CA, too.

    I also am glad to see more compassion and open-mindedness than before.

  34. Ken on October 10, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Alison Moore Smith: … I don’t know what the “Mormon theology of sex” is. (Have it lots???) …

    ROFLMREO, ROFLMREO, ROFLMREO, [Sigh] ROFLMREO …

    Alas, I am theologically … deficient … ! ROFLMREO … [Sigh!]

    Reminds me of a conversation one of my missionary companions, whose dad was a mission president in a different mission when my companion came on his mission, recounted between one of the APs and my companion’s mom. They were discussing this aspect of Mormon [Ahem!] “theology,” and my companion’s mom said,
    “Some Mormons are … Well, some Mormons are … I don’t know … Some Mormons are just …”

    Whereupon the AP offered, “Horny as hell?” ;D

    (Sorry for the derail; we now return you to your regularly-scheduled, appropriately-grave programming.)

  35. TomO on October 11, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Truly, if you do accept mormon theology, you should only be having sex to procreate. If there is any recreation involved or “bonding” through intimacy then this should be allowed of any married or civil unioned couple. It should not be called a sin.

  36. Adam Greenwood on October 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Once again, today, I wanted to jump off my roof and fly away. Unfortunately, no matter how much newspaper and tissue I tape to my arms, I can’t make it happen. If God didn’t want me to praise him by getting up there and flying away, why implant the desire in me, like a lust in my bosom?

    I hear you, man. Care to join me in the holy bonds of civil union?

  37. Thomas Parkin on October 11, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I’m still aiming to be remain both bound and civil.

    ““It cost me my family. It cost me my church. It cost me many of my friends. Who in their right mind would choose to give all that up?” ”

    Well.

  38. Michelle Glauser on October 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    When I heard him ask that question, all I could think about was people with debilitating illnesses and mental problems like Depression (I guess I was zoned out during the homosexuality thing, but it applies here, too!). I felt like his use of the question as rhetoric didn’t work, because that really is a valid question, like you pointed out. Why would He? And yet He does. I don’t understand it and I probably never will in this life. But acting like the question is a rhetorical question doesn’t help.

  39. Kingsley on October 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    “As an example of this, I know several people with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, as is obvious from observing their parents. These are people who, if they EVER drink alcohol, will almost immediately become addicted … By contrast, there are some people that could easily drink 3-4 servings of alcohol a day, then stop without ever feeling the pull of addiction.”

    I am an alcoholic, and in my long, long experience have never met one of these immediate addicts. Nor have I ever met a guy or gal who had 3-4 drinks a day “without … feeling the pull of addiction.” I have met quite a few people who developed an attachment to narcotics overnight. It’s harder to become an alcoholic than say an Oxycodone addict. Takes more work and suffering. I just don’t see an analogy to homosexuality here.

    “While admittedly the life consequences of this are somewhat different than for a homosexual, the agency that both people have is the same. They have the choice to engage in the activity or not. A choice that is best made ONE TIME and BEFORE they try it out.”

    Somewhat different? What activity? With the alcoholic, sure—don’t take that shot or drink that beer or whatever. But with the homosexual, what are we talking about. Don’t fall in love? Don’t kiss? In general homosexuality doesn’t seem to be a transitory high followed by a crash, and feverish attempts to reduplicate the high with diminishing returns. You look closely (in the absence of knowing, loving and regularly associating with living homosexuals) at high-profile homosexual relationships, e.g. W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman’s, and comparisons to booze etc. suddenly seem laughable, or cryable, or something.

  40. Kristine on October 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Amen, Kingsley. (And it is great to see you around again.)

  41. grego on October 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Research is pretty clear: there are problems with “we choose”.

    I don’t know of anyone who chooses to be born with a birth defect, but hey, it happens. How could HF do that? Good question.
    I don’t know of anyone who chooses to be born and then get eaten by a vulture, but hey, it happens. How could HF do that? Good question.
    I don’t know of anyone who wants to be a sociopath, or have other emotional problems, , but hey, it happens. How could HF do that? Good question.
    And the questions go on and on, right?

    Answers(?):
    1. HF doesn’t. We do. (Our actions, or the actions of others, cause our situations–including sexual identity.) He just allows it.
    2. Loss of freedom is one of those things that comes with mortality.
    3. It’s within Satan’s limits to do so, and he does.
    4. He does, and it’s part of our test in life.

    Like with all other problems in life (not ordered):
    1. Do the best you can with it. And make sure you don’t act on it, especially take it physical.
    2. Get help for it–I strongly suggest energy work.
    3. Repent if you mess up.
    4. Pray and seek inspiration for it, and stay close to the Spirit.

  42. Luli on October 13, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Rosalynde – it has been years since I have commented, but your post has me thinking for 2 days now.

    I don’t think the choices offered (pick 2) cover all of the bases. The bodies that our spirits entered are affected by the Fall. Some of these vehicles are seriously damaged. I think that is why coming to earth was so frightening to so many. In my own family, we have one child born with too many chromosomes and the related challenges, some family members with bi-sexual behaviors, some whose birth mothers regularly used drugs and alcohol so that those babies’ bodies – the house of their spirits – had serious difficulties from their first breath.

    The more I know people, the more it seems that for some, the homosexual feelings and behavior have been with them from a very early age. Some came to it later by choice (their words, not mine). So both theories of “Mormon theology of sex” and seemingly inborn same gender attraction are present… as well as a loving Father. At least that is what I have seen.

    I do not know what it would be like to be unable to express your sexual desires. Ever.

    Many of us bear difficulties that do not go away. Ever. Spouses with addictions, infertility, disabiliby or loss of health. I think that one of the important meanings of the symbol of the cross is that some things in this life must be borne – they do not go away. I suspect that all of us will endure at least one of those things.

  43. Ellis on October 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you Luli.

  44. palerobber on October 19, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    #23 Thomas Parkin

    Unfortunately, no matter how much newspaper and tissue I tape to my arms, I can’t make it happen.

    yeah well the gays are not so inept as you. they’re perfectly capable of mating and marrying. easiest thing in the world to them — comes naturally.

    Our pain is for a little season.

    whose pain again?

  45. manaen on October 21, 2010 at 4:47 am

    In case anyone still is concerned about the tendencies/temptation tweak to this talk, Elder Packer resolved it in his 10/2003 GenCon address:

    In the Church, one is not condemned for tendencies or temptations. One is held accountable for transgression. If you do not act on unworthy persuasions, you will neither be condemned nor be subject to Church discipline,

    This clarifies what he intended to say this month.

  46. Mark Brown on October 21, 2010 at 9:57 am

    manaen, I think you are correct to look to Elder Packer’s previous talks to help discern what he meant in this one. The tedious conversations lately about the placement of a comma aren’t very convincing.

    As a counter-weight to the example you offer in comment #45, I’ll point out that this most recent sermon is remarkably similar to two previous sermons by Elder Packer: To Young Men Only, in October conference in 1978, and To The One, given to the student body at BYU. You’ll have to google around to find the texts of these sermons, since both of them have been quietly deleted from the church’s and BYU’s websites. But in those sermons, he also tries to make the distinction between temptations and actions. There are entire phrases lifted from those sermons and included in this one, including the rhetorical question about why would God make somebody that way. So although I don’t know for sure, I think we are on reasonably solid ground to conclude that President Packer meant to say the same thing in this sermon that he did in his previous ones.

    We are now confronted with the truly remarkable and, as far as I know, unprecedented reality that a modern apostle has had his major sermons altered or censored by the church for content on three different occasions, and in two of those cases, the church has taken the extraordinary step of removing the sermon from the official conference record and scrubbing it from the BYU broadcasting site. Add to that fact that the reason for the censoring was the same questionable content on each occasion, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it all. It seems almost incredible.

  47. Mark Brown on October 21, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Corection: To Young Men Only was given in October, 1976, not 1978. But you still can’t find it on lds.org.

  48. Julie M. Smith on October 21, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Mark, what’s doubly (triply?) weird about all of that is this line, printed in the 1997 Family Home Evening Resource Book and available at lds.org:

    “The Church has printed an excellent pamphlet, To Young Men Only (33382). This pamphlet is a reprint of an address given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in the priesthood session of the October 1976 general conference and can help fathers counsel their sons regarding their growth and physical maturation.”

    The pamphlet itself is not, as far as I can tell, on lds.org.

  49. Mark Brown on October 21, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Julie, I think that pamphlet has now also been discontinued. I can’t find it on the LDS catalog site, which is normally where people can go to order supplementary materials. There’s a stack of about 40 of them in the supply closet of our stake center, though, so I imagine it will hang around for another generation….

  50. Left Field on October 22, 2010 at 6:26 am

    As I recall, “To young men only” was never published in the Ensign due to the “sensitive nature” of the subject. There was a note published in the Ensign stating that the text would be published separately as a pamphlet. At the time, I don’t think the talk was considered particularly problematic, just “sensitive.” Though it was omitted from the conference issue of the Ensign, I would assume that it was published in the official Conference Reports, but I’ve never checked.

    The stack we had in our supply closet mysteriously disappeared. If anyone asks, I don’t know anything about that.

  51. Ben S on October 22, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Not that it’s been challenged, but the idea goes way back that “one is not condemned for tendencies or temptations. One is held accountable for transgression.” Three citations I’ve found-

    Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, April 3, 1944. There are no sins charged to our account because we are tempted, provided we shall resist the temptation. But we have no right to go near temptation, or in fact to do or say anything that we cannot honestly ask the blessing of the Lord upon; neither to visit any place where we would be ashamed to take our sister or sweetheart. The good Spirit will not go with us onto the Devil’s ground, and if we are standing alone upon ground belonging to the adversary of men’s souls, he may have the power to trip us and destroy us. We can’t handle dirty things and keep clean hands.

    Discourses of Brigham Young, p.81. Do not suppose that we shall ever in the flesh be free from temptations to sin. Some suppose that they can in the flesh be sanctified, body and spirit, and become so pure that they will never again feel the effects of the power of the adversary of truth. Were it possible for a person to attain to this degree of perfection in the flesh, he could not die, neither remain in a world where sin predominates.

    Brigham Young, Letters Of Brigham Young To His Sons, p. 153 It should ever be borne in mind that sin does not consist of simply being tempted to do, to say, or to think wrong, but that the sin is in yielding to the temptation. One strong safeguard against doing evil is to cultivate good thoughts, and when evil ones are presented, to promptly and manfully reject them, to dismiss them from the mind at once. This habit, together with never knowingly or heedlessly putting yourself in the way of temptation, will greatly aid in proving to you the truth of the scripture which saith, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” And further, this course will assist in cultivating that high moral and religious tone which is indispensable to those who would wield the power of the holy priesthood.

  52. Mark Brown on October 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Those are all good points, Ben S., and I don’t dispute them at all.

    However, I do notice that the message they convey is slightly different from the message that comes through quite clearly in the lesson manual I teach to Aaronic priesthood quorum each week. We teach our YM that even the very thought is a sin, and tantamount to adultery. “Whoso looketh upon a woman….”

    It is a slight difference, but one that is worth thinking about. For gay LDS people, the message seems to be that it is OK to think but not to do. The emphasis is all on the outward action. For the rest of the membership, we are much more likely to condemn even the thoughts.

  53. Ben S on October 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Then the manual’s wrong ;)

    Or at least, I’d like to distinguish (as the manual probably does) between simply having things occur to you, i.e. temptation and tolerating and entertaining those thoughts. I haven’t heard anyone say it’s ok for gay folks to muse on lustful thoughts.

  54. Frank Bisti on October 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Rosalynde,

    Excellent issue that you raise. I haven’t taken the time to consider all of it in this comment. Nor is this comment well and fully formed. Just a drive-by.

    I just wanted to add another potential premise, not generally accepted: God has nothing whatsoever to do with either our evolution (he didn’t give us a sexual drive, only those with one survived natural selection) or our sexual orientation. If he had, as Elder Packer states (all are inborn heterosexuals), should He not be held accountable for ALL and any congenital defects or benefits: Parkinson’s gene, high IQ, all other so-called inborn good and bad physical, mental, genetic traits? The often used “God-given” is not in the least accurate or literally true. He didn’t even make the rules/realities that govern the universe.

    God does not control or dabble in such inborn and “God-given” things. It is totally illogical. To the extent that is not obvious, think about the ripple effects and the intersections of ripples that create other ripples that would be caused by such insertions into the uncontrolled course of people and events. The count of the consequences of a single action (or prevention of action) is extremely high. So, in my “worldview,” He inserts Himself very, very rarely into the course of human events.

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