A homophobic church ?

LGTB issues continue to haunt our Church’s leaders, and for some time will continue to do so. Recently, The Advocate, a platform for gay expression, drew up a list of top ‘homo- and transphobics’ in the world, and here I was unpleasantly surprised to see listed among the three top homophobics, Dallin Oaks. He was rated on a par with Jair Bolsano, the recently elected strong-man-president of Brazil and Governor Paul Makonda of Dar es Salaam. The latter is tracking down homosexuals in order to arrest and execute them, the former has told reporters that he would rather see his son dead than gay. Whatever political leanings one might have, this is not the company in which I like to find any member of our church, let alone an apostle. Of course, ‘The Advocate’ is not exactly the voice of gospel authority, but their branding of Oaks as a top-homophobic does harm the church. So as member of the Public Affairs Committee in The Netherlands, I am a bit concerned, for three reasons.

1. The family orientation of the church, which I heartily endorse, is being drawn into a debate on LGTB acceptability, which is not at all the same. The present discussion sounds as if affirmation of family importance implies a denial for the right of existence of LGTB’s. Family should be primarily about raising and nurturing the next generation of incarnated spirits destined to inhabit the wonderful planet that has been entrusted to our stewardship. A wise adagio holds ‘it takes a village to raise a family’, and in the church we do have such ‘villages’ that assist couples in raising a righteous generation. These villages we call ‘wards’, or ‘branches’ and during my stints as branch president and as stake president I have consistently sought to strengthen the bonds needed for such a process: nuclear family, wider family, and wards. Basically, family is the antithesis of loneliness, not the exclusion of specific genders. In our present day and age, loneliness is a much greater threat that any definition of gender ever can be. Just ask the unmarried sisters in our wards.

2. The church leaders have in the recent past consistently admonished not to let their stance over the definition of marriage imply that LGTB people may be discriminated against on the labor market, for jobs, for civic treatment of whatever. (see for instance, the balanced statement in https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/explaining-religious-freedom-and-lgbt-rights).

The fact that the leaders do not allow same sex marriages, should not be seen as an excuse for gay bashing or whatever discrimination. Apparently this is not an easy line to hold, and may be easily misread; I think this happened in the case of ‘The Advocate’. Oak’s address at General Conference in October does not make this distinction, whereas he could have stressed it. Undoubtedly he is well aware of the high suicide rates among the LGTB in Utah – especially in the LDS cohort – but that concern does not emerge clearly in his speech. His wording is rather unfortunate – mentioning the adversary in this context – and again shows how gentle one should tread on this path. Maybe it would be wise to restate, again, that as members of the church we love our brothers and sisters with a different gender definition, and we empathize with their plight. And then realize in what measure we are party in their plight.

3. However my main concern is tied in with the core of the Church, Jesus Christ. The church stance on same sex marriage much too easily seems to translate into exclusion of people with different dispositions. We just celebrated our Saviors’ coming into the world, as fulfillment of a promise of love, an encompassing love for all mankind, to be saved and redeemed. His was a ministry of inclusion, not exclusion, of forgiveness not punishment, of love and definitely not of superficial judgment. Any appearance of homophobia detracts from our claim as Christ’s church. President Nelson keeps stressing that we use the proper name of the Church in honor of Jesus Christ, and any exclusionary discourse detracts from that message.

Evidently, CJCLDS apostles should not be ranked amongst gay bashers. On the one hand that classification might be based upon misreading, but on the other hand some of our spokespeople have made statements that are open for such misunderstandings. We should show ourselves more Christ-like towards people with different sexual leanings; after all, people do not chose their sexual preferences, they are thrown upon them, mainly by genetics, and nobody is responsible for one’s DNA profile.

So, speaking from the other side of the Atlantic, I want to stress, on behalf of my fellow members here on this old continent, that we love our L, our G, our T and our B, or whatever part of the alphabet is called into action these days. We all are children of God, we all follow the Lord in his ministry of love, whatever specific attributes our genes have saddled us up with. We are all different, thank God, so we are all unique, but we can and should be all united in treading the footsteps of the child of Bethlehem.

Walter van Beek

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