Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apostate thoughts...

I read in the paper last night that fired BYU professor Jeffrey Nielson (the philosophy teacher who expressed openly his opposition to the First Presidency's stand on gay marriage, speaking in favor of it), is doing well. He's actively employed as a college professor of philosophy at Westminster College and UVSC (both colleges in Utah), still lives in Orem, and is still happily married.

The article from the DESERET NEWS states:

During about two months of unemployment, Nielson, 44, visited gay people in Utah, meeting their partners and children.

"Since that time, I've met hundreds," he said Wednesday after a lecture he gave at Utah Valley State College about his theories on leadership. "I've been completely blown away by their decency."

...Personally, Nielson said his children initially worried he would be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That didn't happen. Still, Nielson, who attended church most Sundays, said he was released from a class in which he taught gospel doctrin to adults.

"I've only had support and love from my LDS ward members," he said. "They've all been great."

His wife, however, continues to disagree with his stance on gay marriage, as she has from the beginning, he said.

"But, we've learned to not have to see everything the same," he said.

He admires his friends at BYU but does not hold a desire to return to the LDS Church-owned school...

"If people could sit down and have mutual respect for each opinion, I think we could gain understanding of each other," he said.

I don't know why this impressed me, but it did. I guess I had thought he was on the path to excommunication for sure. After all, I heard on a local radio station (in Utah) discussions and debates at the time of the Senante debate on gay marriage, that those who profess beliefs contrary to the First Presidency should be excommunicated. Yes, such discussions actually occur on morning talk shows in Utah...

It's refreshing to know that this didn't happen and that he is free to express himself without repercussions. Though I understand the firing from BYU (after all the First Presidency are the boss there), I'm pleased to see that the local ecclesiastical leaders have shown restraint. We should be able to speak our minds without fear of repercussions (as long as we're not actively leading others into apostasy). Now, I'm not sure whether being released from the gospel doctrine calling is related or not. The article doesn't say.

I recognize this has been discussed in fellow blogs, but I add my meager offering to the debate: Is it apostasy to ever disagree with the Prophet? Must I step in line just because? Am I not entitled to have my own personal feelings about things that may not conform with the First Presidency? Is it not my personal responsibility to search and pray for inspiration and understanding of what the Prophet says is the word of God?

I truly believe that the Prophet knows best. I have faith and conviction that he will not lead us astray. But, I also believe that my testimony is an evolving thing - meaning, I'm not certain about all things, and thus, I'm still working out my understanding of things. Most likely, I may someday come to believe the same, but I do not fear feeling differently about things now - and that that difference does not affect my overall belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or my willingness to adhere to Christ's teachings. (Somewhat related, I still don't understand what pierced earrings have to do with spirituality at all - be it no earrings for men, or just one hole in each ear for women - I mean, if the body is sacred and worthy of no piercings, why should women be entitled to one pair and not be defacing the temple of God?)

I currently support gay marriage rights. I proudly voted against the gay protection measure in Utah in 2004. I mean, I really punched NO in the ballet with gusto! Does this make me an apostate?

I have punched my ears myself with silver hooped earrings (Yes, it hurt, but I was too embarrassed to have it done professionally). I did it more as a statement of my "coming out" to myself and to strangers. I know it's illogical, but that is what I did. Does this make me an apostate?

I cringe at Elder Oaks hateful suggestion that gay partners be shunned from family gatherings. Does this sincere uneasiness I have about his suggestion, or his over-arching concepts of same sex attraction, make me an apostate?

Perfection, and working it out, is an interesting concept. Giving ourselves, our one and only gift we can truly give God - our free-agency (and our sins) - requires obedience and sacrifice. It also requires grace! I'm grateful that there is a period of probation for our apostate moments, instead of immediate repercussions... where we can have some time to "work things out". I'm far from perfect and need some more time. I'm not sure I'm ready to put my "sins" on the altar. I like my sins! I mean, I REALLY LIKE my sins! I'm not willing to give them up just yet. I know I should and I know I want to, but I can't bring myself to do it yet. I don't think I'm unique in clinging to my "favorite sins". But I accept Christ and know He will fill the gap of my shortcomings - after all I can do (2Nephi 25: 23).

The question(s) is (are)... am I prepared to DO "all that I can do" as Nephi admonishes? Am I stuck in the procrastinating-the-day-of-my-repentance attitude and not wanting to "prepare to meet God" as Alma preached (Alma 12:24)? Did I vote against the Prophet's will and do I continue to feel contrary to his will because of my pride? my ego? my sins? Is it popular to be "cool" on these anonymous gay-Mormon blog communities, and admit feelings contrary to the Prophet's will when one is admitting he is gay? Am I not as strong and ardent as -L- to place these feelings on the altar, too, and humble myself with a broken heart and contrite spirit?

Can I not struggle with these feelings and still sustain the Prophet as the only prophet, seer, and revelator on Earth?

I DO sustain the prophet as the only one on Earth who holds all priesthood keys. I think Jeffrey Nielson does so as well.

I thank Mr. Nielson for his open approach to the issue... and expressing his feelings as was encouraged by the First Presidency AND going beyond that to take the steps to understand the alternate devoted families living "decent" lives. Maybe if more of us weren't so afraid to do the same... Maybe if I weren't so cowardly to do the same...

Maybe the apostate in me just isn't quite broken hearted or contrite enough to throw it all on the altar just yet. I need some more probationary time...


Chris said...

I know I'm easy to dismiss as an apostate myself but...

God and the LDS Church are not the same thing. God and President Hinckley are not the same thing. But the Church maintains its authority over you and other members by suggesting that when they speak, God speaks. It's oppressive.

I, too, great admire Jeffrey Nielson. He is actively rejecting spiritual oppression.

Samantha said...

Useless trivia at its best, as inspired by your blog entry:

Samantha is the only woman in the world with no piercings. I keep myself unpierced as a revolt against fads and conventions. I know women have been instructed to have only one piercing in each lobe. Hopefully God will overlook my lack of piercings. I like my lobes with no holes.

I know...shocking.

Beck said...


I don't easily dismiss you. I follow your "story" in earnest as it could one day be my story. Right now it is not, but I desperately want you to find the happiness you are seeking and are entitled to and want no law to prohibit that happiness.


I got a chuckle from your response. I must admit that my holes have healed over nicely, barely a mark left to remind me of those days of not very long ago when I was losing my mind as I was facing this gay-thing head on. I've allowed them to close and scar over as I've decided clip-ons suit me better!

-L- said...

Am I not as strong and ardent as -L- to place these feelings on the altar, too, and humble myself with a broken heart and contrite spirit?

It occurs to me that I may have sounded cocky with my reference to Maxwell's quote, but the opposite was my intent. I've felt more conflicted and confused on this issue (and humbled) than on anything in recent memory. Thanks for your input.

Also, nice graphic. ;-)

santorio said...

interesting, but i don't really worry about apostasy and excommunication. i don't like conflict so i am hardly likely to engage in public debate with the brethren, but lets say that some bishop deciphered my blog and decided that i should be dropped from the membership of the church... i'd simply say, 'amen to the priesthood of... that man' [d&c 121], and move on.

Beck said...

L: I'm not calling you cocky... you may just be at a point that I'm not at. I'm just saying I'm still troubled by it all and not ready to lay down on the altar.

SANTORIO: I've had similar thoughts about my "anonymous" status - in fact, I'd like to reveal more personal things than I already do, but I'm hesitant do to so and it bothers me. I mean, I met with the Stake President this evening - what if instead of issuing me a calling as he did (a subject for a future blog entry), he called into question my deciphered blog? I'm at the point where I'd have to look back at him across his polished desk and say: "Good detective work, Pres... What took you so long?"

Moncrief Speaks said...

I am definitely an outsider to your faith, and I should probably not contribute here for that reason, but it surprises me that the leaders of your church would claim to speak for Jesus on this issue when Jesus himself said nothing about it.

Delete my post if you want. I want to understand, but I'm having difficulty doing so.

santorio said...

another person to admire: michael quinn, with all kinds of reasons to be bitter towards or dismissive of the church, but then you hear him talk, defending joseph smith. it would seem that he has found that incredibly fine line that distinguishes faith in the restored gospel from faith in the current church

the Baker's son said...

Nice post! I know its kind of old- but Im looking for new blogs and read whats on the first page. I was probably one of the "100" of gay mormons that Jeff Neilson met. He is a really cool guy, yes he sustains the prophet and is a good member, but has his own ethical values (that's what he is a professor of) and the 1st Presidency's Letter went beyond his line. I can understand getting fired, but I would have been suprised if he was exed. This whole topic opens up a lot to think about that could be good or bad. Like- Disagreeing with Kimball when he said birth controll is sinful and using it anyway, the church now is totally fine with it... Im not saying that that'll happen with anything else, but it does make you think about just how bad it is disagreeing with the First Presidency.