Reflections on the “Clarification” and Pres. Nelson’s Remarks.

2.2.2016

The News

https://www.lds.org/pages/church-handbook-changes?lang=eng

On November 13th, a week after the policy was leaked to the public.  A First Presidency letter to local leaders clarified the handbook change.  It drastically reduced the scope of those effected.  Now it only applies to “those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship.”  Furthermore, it grandfathered in those that had “already been baptized and [are] actively participating in the Church.” These changes are most welcome and necessary.  They reduced much of the pain and damage.

A week earlier, Elder Christofferson made no indication of these narrower applications of the policy in his video interview. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the brethren discussed and decided on the pleasantly received newer clarification in that week. Additionally, the letter is not incorporate into the Handbook. Thus leaving open the possibility that some future local leaders will apply the original and still operative language of Handbook 1.

https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/worldwide-devotionals/2016/01/becoming-true-millennials?lang=eng

Elder Nelson has recently declared that the policy was done in accordance to revelation. He stated, “Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.”

 

Thoughts and Questions

Every decision the quorum of the twelve and the first presidency do, is in accordance to the revelatory process.  Revelation works line upon line.  It is a slow process where God allows us to make mistakes and fumble along the way.  This is a feature in His Plan.  By this, we preserve agency, learn for ourselves, and grow.

We would have to resort to prophetic infallibility to conclude that this policy is perfect, simply because the brethren felt it was right.  They always feel things are right, as they, and we, should.  They do not move forward on a decision, but after careful deliberations and a confirming spirit.  However, this process is not perfect.  God allows the quorum of the twelve and first presidency their agency, and hence allows them to make mistakes.

What Elder Nelson’s story does for me, is confirm that they have the best intentions at heart.  They are working to the best of their ability to reconcile the difficult doctrinal question of the place for homosexual feelings in the context eternal familial progression.  They do not come from a place of hate or meanness.

Here are my questions:

Do President Nelson’s remarks refer to pre- November 6th, or after?  The First Presidency letter exempts two certain permutations[1].  The “primary residence” clause of the letter contradicts the “have ever lived” clause of the Handbook.  They were right that the “have ever lived” language lead this policy to be prescribed in absurd situations; many are outlined in my previous essay and in the footnote.

The revelatory experience expressed by President Nelson seems to describe the initial decision to move forward.  This leads one to ask, what elements of the policy are established revelation, and what are not?

Perhaps the spiritual confirmation was for a more general feeling of protecting children, or that the policy towards homosexuals needed clarification. The distance in the differences between the handbook change and the letter show that they were still working out what the Lord really intended. Perhaps they have yet to arrive.

 

The Spiritual Gift of Heterosexuality

Previous to Elder Nelson’s talk, his wife spoke.  Sister Nelson said something striking,

“Gratefully, the Savior has paid the price for every gift of the Spirit we will ever need to help us. It’s up to us to prayerfully discover which gifts we need. … Perhaps we need the gift to have our sexual feelings be in harmony with eternal laws.”

This has left me quite perplexed and troubled.  It is already well established that “praying the gay away” is not only ineffective but damaging to mental, emotional, and spiritual health.  After a disciple of Christ spends years in agonizing prayer and devotion, only not to have the burden lifted and the promised “spiritual gift” denied, they are left to wonder why God has abandoned them, why they are not loved, why their sacrifice is unaccepted.  They lose their self-worth.

There is a further reason why this troubles me.  Here is some background as to why. Elder McConkie stated[2]  “prophets are yet mortal men with their imperfections common to mankind.  They have their opinions and prejudices.” These common biases and prejudices explain why God allows prophets to make mistakes.  He works with imperfect humans.  We can only acquire revelation, when we’re willing to see it.  God sometimes works past our inherent biases, but often times He does not, thus preserving prophet’s agency.  Why else would a loving God allow his prophets to teach racist doctrines about the black’s pre-existence valiancy[3]?  Why would He allow the discouragement of interracial marriage in church publications decades after the 1978 revelation[4]?

Societal prejudice against LGBTQ is millennia strong.  Our apostles and prophets are no exception.[5]  They have previously taught that masturbation lead to homosexuality, homosexual attraction is a disease that can be cured, and cited traumatic experiences or sexual experimentation as a cause.  All of these have been shown to be false.  Society has learned, and the church also [6].  Today, Elder Holland stated when relating in an anecdote about a gay young man, that the “sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would.” (emphasis, mine)  The official Mormon and gays website states, “individuals do not choose to have such attractions”  “No one fully knows the root causes of same-sex attraction….[it] should not be viewed as a disease or illness.”

We excuse and charitably forgive the mistakes and shortcomings of our leaders and church policies because we are all products of our time.  We excuse past misunderstandings about homosexuality, because society, at large, did not understand it either.  Believing that the current policy is the will and mind of the Lord requires that our leaders have overcome the historical biases and misunderstandings towards gays.  Sister Nelson teaching that heterosexual feelings are a gift of the spirit, available to those who have sufficient faith and powerful prayers goes against all we have learned about the nature of homosexual feelings.  If she, the wife of the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, does not understand the true nature of being gay, who else does not among our leaders?

Conclusion

I have prayed and pondered, I have sought for peace and understanding.  It does not come.  I have only felt at peace, when 1) I have done all I can to study it, and 2) when I have done all I can to love, support, and provide safe places for those negatively affected.

 

footnotes

[1] For the a vast cope of sub-permutations involved in these two larger exceptions see here.

[2] “Are the General Authorities Human?” address delivered at the Institute of Religion Forum at the University of Utah, October 28, 1966

[3] See the 2013 Church Essay Race and the Priesthood

[4] One example is the Aaronic Priesthood manual published in 1995 and in use until 2013.  Lesson 31.

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

http://rationalfaiths.com/timeline-of-mormon-thinking-about-homosexuality/

[6]  Elder Christofferson has cited advances in the social sciences have increased our understanding about homosexuality.  https://youtu.be/XybDk3CEoHg?t=7m12s

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