Monday, August 18, 2008

"Are we not all beggars?"

-- Steve Walker's "Touched".

Three Sundays ago, the discussion of the "sanctity of the family" in priesthood veered off into a strange condemnation of gays in the church. I've noted that I sat ashamed of my silence and promised myself not to silence myself ever again.

Well, yesterday, a different teacher gave a very good lesson on inspiration and revelation - that when the Lord speaks directly to us, the debate ends and that communication comes with "authority" from God. Of course, the discussion veered into who has "authority" for revelation of what sphere and the "authority" of the Prophet and the importance of current revelation over previous revelation.

I was fine with all of that. The teacher wrote on the board "very nearly the truth" and stated that we need to be very careful of inspiration or proposed revelation by others that may seem to be true, may very, nearly be true, but is not. He whips out his Sunday Salt Lake Tribune and begins quoting from an editorial in the paper written by Carol Lynn Pearson pleading for love and compassion toward our gay brothers (and sisters).

He read quoting CLP: "I believe, with these historians (of the Mountain Meadows Massacre), that we LDS people are hungry for the truth and that we want to apply true religion in our lives. I believe with Anne Frank, that people are really good at heart and I know that there is no better heart than the Mormon heart, leader and member alike.... Many messengers today, of which I am one, have ridden in with reports and pleas for help regarding the ongoing self-slaughter of so many of our best and beautiful young men. For many it is too late. For others - if you and I care enough - we can change history."

He took those words and testified that such speech is dangerous - for accepting sin in the guise of compassion and tolerance and love seems "very nearly true" (using the words of Joseph Smith about those who profess revelation that may seem almost true, but not fully true, and thus not worthy to follow), but in the end nothing by sophistry - that condoning homosexuality in the spirit of love is wrong.

By this point I was boiling. As I was about to say something, he noted the time, concluded "in the name of Jesus Christ" and the closing prayer was said... no time for comment, no time for correction, just time for everyone to condone what was just concluded.

Again I was upset that I didn't say anything. I was obviously distraught through Sacrament Meeting for my wife kept asking me "what's wrong" and I just shrugged. I was really trying to work through my feelings. I was feeling that priesthood meeting is becoming more and more difficult for me. As much as I am wanting to fight the fight from "within", how am I to do so? Thoughts of leaving the building, never to return, were not in my mind as much as "what do I do? What do I say? How can I allow such comments to be unchecked?"

During the sacrament I pleaded for answers. Again my wife noticed how bothered I was by something and now she was becoming alarmed. My answer came in a Sacrament talk which quoted King Benjamin. With liberties to the Nephite King's words I quote:

And ye will not suffer your gay children that they go hungry or naked... but ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another...

Perhaps thou shalt say that this gay brother has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand and will not give unto him of my love and compassion, nor impart unto him my substance of understanding that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just -

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent... For, behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance of love and compassion and understanding, which we have?

I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him."
-- Mosiah 4:14, 15, 17-19, 23 (with some liberties taken)

I felt that King Benjamin, were he there in Quorum meeting, would have delivered his speech to my fellow priesthood brethren in this manner.

Since when does extending love and compassion and understanding toward our gay brothers and sisters in hope that they will not be cut off from family and lose hope and see no alternative but "self-slaughter" signifies acceptance of sin or condoning sin? Since when is love considered "very nearly the truth" but wrong?

I went home and read CLP's editorial. Not once did she mention changing Church principles or standards. All she admonished was for us to recognize that we can change the history of self-destruction of gay members by extending an arm of fellowship and love to them so they don't take their own lives out of despair and lost hope. How is this sophistry? How are we to tolerate the belief that it is better for gay members to do so - for they "brought unto themselves their misery - therefore their punishments are just".

I profess that King Benjamin would be on CLP's side - which I would propose is the Lord's side on this issue as well.

The story doesn't end here... for when we got home from church, my wife wouldn't let the issue die and she wanted to understand completely what was bothering me and wouldn't tolerate my shrugging it off as "nothing"...

To be continued...


MoHoHawaii said...

There are those who think that doctrine is more important than people and those who think that people are more important than doctrine.

Carol Lynn Pearson and many other compassionate members of the Church are clearly in that second camp. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Church and the legions of Iron Rodders are not. I don't know if there's a solution.

P.S. I'm waiting for part two of your story!

Dichotomy said...

That must have been a terribly frustrating experience.

I've actually been reading some commentary on a gay Mormon mailing list regarding CLP's article, and I have been astonished at some of the reaction from the very people who she is trying to help.

This list is populated mostly with ultra-orthodox members of the Church and there is little tolerance for anything that might be considered "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed". (I subscribe to the list to balance out the viewpoints I receive on another list where the attitude is a bit more bitter toward the Church. I wish there was a single list that took the middle road, but I haven't been able to find it yet).

Numerous accusations of CLP trying to force the Church to change its doctrine on homosexuality, etc. had me re-reading the article to see what I had missed, and the only conclusion I could reach is that these people had read a different article than I had, because all I saw was a plea for Christ-like love and compassion.

This attitude from the general membership of the Church I can at least understand to some degree, but seeing the same attitude from a list of gay members (pardon me... members who are "struggling with SGA") made me sad. Why would a person argue against an article that pleads for compassion toward that person?

I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the story as well.

Kengo Biddles said...

Beck--I empathize. I'm feeling some of that same charge in my ward...not as much, but some.

I look forward to reading part two.

Damon said...


GOOD GRIEF, what happened??? What a cliff hanger.

I know it's hard to stay in Church, but I think it's the right choice.

What is it they always may not be easy, but it's worth it.
I hope so.


Philip said...

After reading several postings on recent Church teachings, I am thankful that you have each other for support.

CLP? For days I didn't know what that meant. I thought it was another Mormon term. CLP=Carol Lynn Pearson. Now there is one brave and compassionate woman.

Dichotomy: Don't be surprised. My experience has been that the most ferevently anti-gay people are often gay themselves.


Abelard Enigma said...

To be continued...


I sure am glad I don't attend my High Priest group meeting. The most I have to put up with in the Teachers quorum is hearing "That's so gay" just about every other sentence (at least it seems like that some days).

Beck said...

MOHOH: I love the doctrine of the Gospel. And I love compassionate members who live according to those doctrines and principles. I am convinced that they don't need to be mutual exclusive. It just seems lately like they are.

DICHO: I've also seen where the most vocal against the gays are hidden gays themselves. It's another odd reality of human nature. As for the all-or-nothing obedience and the bitter-at-everyone crowds, I hope there is room for something more in the middle... or is that like sitting on the fence and being neither hot or cold and thus lukewarm and worth nothing to everyone? I hope not.

KENGO: I can't believe you aren't getting even more in Happy Valley. Oh well, I'm sure your time will come. I just wish I could think quickly enough to respond without quivering in my voice and passionate frustration rising to the surface.

Beck said...

DAMON: I'm not going anywhere. I am convinced that more can be done by raising the bar of understanding from within than to leave and fight from without. That may not be the answer for everyone, and I respect that, but for me, it makes the most sense.

PHILIP: These aren't church teachings - they are comments, opinions, and discussions of members of the church that bring with them disgust and intolerance and misunderstandings. Often, these are comments from the "older" generation. I don't hear these comments from the younger generation. The Church itself, for the most part (though some comments from harsh leaders of the past are repented from time to time, and taken out of context) does not publish or "teach" such comments in lesson materials of church class curriculum, but, their actions don't silence such comments either. The hope remains in the younger generation. I just happen to be working with the old buggers - and they may just be a lost cause and I should shrug it off - but I can't.

Beck said...

ABE: That is so gay! You really need to get out of the Teachers Quorum once in a while. It isn't out of the question, though I know it is rarely taken, to take the opportunity to see what the old buggers are talking about. I know you can drop in on the YW and the primary now and then - how about those HP brethren? How about stirring them up a bit with your rainbow personality?

Beck said...

For those wanting "the rest of the story", I don't have time to write it tonight... maybe tomorrow. Thanks for actually reading and caring and wanting to know more... It really means a lot to me.

Robert said...

Wow, I'd be seething too. I hate how you feel when you just keep your mouth shut at times what you described. It's sad and discouraging that some people see themselves as anything other than brothers and sisters that are being loved in spite of their imperfections and sins. According to them, they shouldn't receive love and support from the church and it's members until they've quit persisting in sin, no? I totally agree in the awakening that you had regarding King Benjamin's words.

Regarding "Circle the Wagons", I'm going to get CLP's book No More Goodbyes. I've got a road trip coming up with a special girl and we're going to read In Quiet Desparation and I think we could do CLP's book as well.

Thanks for your posts.

Robert said...

Don't be too long with part two.

Mark said...

The leaders of the church are directly responsible for the prevailing attitudes of the members toward gay folks.

After decades of using the Miracle of Forgiveness as a weapon against us, why is it a suprise that anyone sympathetic toward gays, like Carol Lynn Pearson is labelled as "misguided?"

What I find particularly offensive is when a teacher, like in the Elders Quorum, takes it upon himself to be trial, judge and jury of a subject he probably knows very little about. He must feel pretty self-satisfied that he can take a complex situation like gay Mormon suicide and make stringent pronouncements upon our community. Maybe he should take up the global warming crisis since he knows so much! ;-)

Anyway, I know how you feel, Beck, because I've sat and boiled after a meeting like the one you were in. However, I will say this - smug fools like the instructor who spewed out judgment toward Carol Lynn Pearson need to be educated. An anonymous note to his house would do the job as well as maintain needed privacy.

Good for you for finding strength through King Benjamin. You couldn't have found a better scripture to support you.

Take care,


Abelard Enigma said...

It isn't out of the question ... to take the opportunity to see what the old buggers are talking about.

And, I would want to do that because ... ???

Actually, I do have a bit of a reputation for being a trouble maker in PH meetings. For example, in a lesson about honesty, I might ask if telling our children about Santa Claus is dishonest.

Maybe that's why they keep sticking me back with the youth - they don't know what else to do with me :)

btw, I don't stir up trouble just to be ornery, I just think that, as a people, we tend to try to over simplify things too much. We're adults, we need to move beyond primary children answers.

Silver said...

I want to write more, but it's very late. I am outraged that your instructor would take a posture against CLP and single out this issue in a church classroom. If I attended my meetings more devotedly I might find the same in my ward, but fortunately I haven't yet, just the "that's so gay comment". I've even corrected my own kids on that one.

Looking forward to the "Part two" with great anticipation.

BTW, thanks for the introduction to more great artwork. I love the picture.

You are a great and valiant soul with awesome taste in art.

Beck said...

ROBERT: Good luck with your reading on the road trip. In Quiet Desperation can bring tears as well.

MARK: King Benjamin rocks! His words are the essense of the Gospel... As for the "leaving the note at the door, I think I can do that approach, but I'd like to make more of a statement. I'm in the leadership and have an opportunity next week... should I take it?

Beck said...

ABE: You don't like the standard answers? The ones that you learned in Primary? I thought that Gospel Principles were very basic. Actually, they are... the application of them seems to be more complicated as we get older. I'm glad to hear you try to stir things up every now and then! :)

SILVER: I love Steve Walker! Good stuff. Thanks for your kind words. I know you're busy, but take a breather and make your voice heard when you can.

bravone said...

I just came across your blog and am so grateful. Our lives are quite parallel. I also served in Italy, taught at the MTC am around the same age, struggle with SSA, am married and trying to hold things together as I come to grips with my inner struggles. I have not been as successful as you have been at not giving in. I am not in good standing with the church, but am working my way back. It is difficult because I have lost my testimony. That made it easier to give in to the natural man in me. I love my wife and kids, and am trying to come back for their sake as much as mine. I understand how you felt when your son discovered you on the internet. I have openly discussed my problems with alcohol and pornography with my wife and kids. I do feel like a failure, but I am trying to set an example of repentance and not giving up. I feel like I know you. Thanks for your posts. Ti voglio bene,

robert said...

I suppose that I underestimated what you were dealing with before I went to the North Star site. I was amazed that many supposed gay individuals who are Mormon are very uptight about their own sexual orientation and seem more concerned with doctrine than their own identity. It is hard for me to see this as a site for "encouragement" and "support" with so much self-righteous indignation and judgment toward homosexuality among the posters.

I am certain of your frustration and know that you are being spiritually counseled on a moment by moment basis in your heart in this matter. I trust that about you.

Abelard Enigma said...

You don't like the standard answers? The ones that you learned in Primary?

I never went to primary, I didn't grow up in the church - I joined as an adult. And, I expect to be taught as an adult.

When teaching children, it's appropriate to feed them baby food. When teaching adults - I'm a meat and potatoes man!

Beck said...

BRAVONE: Who are you? You can't just drop in and say that and not make yourself known. Are you ready to make a blog and have a voice? Do you want to communicate by email?

There is always room for another MTC Italian teaching middle-aged MOHO in this community of Saints. No one cares what bloody failure you have been - we all are - but we need your voice.

Spero di poter conoscerti meglio in modo che possiamo aiutarci in questo passaggio insieme. Non sono perfetto ne'anch'io. Auguri per i tuoi passi che prendi di ritornare alla famiglia e alla chiesa. Non perdere la speranza! Ti voglio bene assai.

Beck said...

ROBERT: Northern Lights (and North Star) is one aspect of this community. I feel a bit of an outsider when it comes to the straight party line. But, dialogue is good and I appreciate what is being done to encourage discussion in a positive forum.

I appreciate that you are beginning to understand our struggle as gay Mormons who believe in the doctrine, but who don't quite "fit". It is a spiritual journey - one of two very real authenticities needing to balance and fit together to make the whole. Some may suggest this is impossible. I refuse to believe that.

Beck said...

ABE: My comment was rhetorical in the sense of Primary being an example of the teaching of the basics. I appreciate your appetite and being a meat-and-potato kind of man. I just feel, as I pointed out with King Benjamin in this post, that the principle really isn't that complicated. It is us as complicated adults that make its application complicated.