Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jenny, Emma, and Idaho

In honor of Jenny

I thought I would pass along a letter I received today from my friend Jenny (not as nice a name as her real one) – who kindly granted permission. I think the questions she raises are important as all get-out.

Hey- (Jenny is from Idaho where this is an acceptable greeting)

Help me to understand this, the talk by Elder Packer. I really thought the LDS church had moved past his kind of rhetoric. The reports of the G.A (Larsen) who spent time with church members in California was so encouraging- I knew that it wasn't going to make the church change course but it was heartening to read that the leadership was tuning in to the concern of families and friends over Prop 8.

I've heard from some folks that, “well it's just BKP- that's how he is. He was in his heyday a racist, sexist man”. It troubles me deeply that the brethren allowed him to give this talk. I have been thinking about it and what if it was black people he was talking about? What if it was my bi-racial son? Would the people I love, the people who love my son be okay with what was said?

I'm not suggesting that BKP was advocating hate, intolerance or anything like that but hearing a message, "over the pulpit" does do a couple of things:

1) For gay member or those who are dealing with SSA (using your lingo) what this says to them is, if you're not over it then you don't have enough faith. What is enough faith? It's like when my father had a huge dealy brain tumor and people would tell me that faith can heal and create miracles. So, what does that say to his family and loved ones that he died within the time-frame expected from this dealy tumor? That we didn't love our father enough or have enough faith for him to make a full recovery? And what does it say about the dozens, yes dozens, of young men and women I've known throughout my life who on bended and humble knees asked for the burden of homosexuality to be lifted and have failed?

2) Because the average church member doesn't understand the dynamics of being gay, hearing BKP say what he said about sexual orientation, they will think “yeah, get over it”. I think that viewpoint breeds intolerance in an already homophobic group of people.

I also think it was extraordinarily insensitive to give that talk in the wake of numerous suicides last week.

I have never considered having my name removed from the church..but in the aftermath of this I'm really thinking about it. I am angry, hurt, offended and I'm not sure I can get past this one.

I had to vent to someone on the inside.

Jenny, these are questions that thousands of us have, and I am thrilled that you would want to talk about them. I wish I was all wise and stuff.  I will do my best to let you know how I feel about the events. 

First up, I just read a biography of Mother Teresa in which states the she struggled throughout her career (Do nuns have careers?) with her relationship with the savior – wondering if she was committed enough.

Would anyone dare to think less of her because she had doubts and questions? Why do we freak out a little when we do, or when we run upon issues that cause us to re-evaluate our beliefs? I am grateful for Elder Packers talk, if only for one reason – it is getting people talking about Mormons and homosexuals. (Gays, SGAers,…whatever term you use)

Second, I am just a guy, and forth, I am not all that bright. I will say this. I believe that God is God, and after that knowledge things fall into place a little for me. I don’t know if Elder Packer meant to be insensitive. But he was. I don’t like it that he was. If he was my grampa I would say to him that he needed to go take his pill and have a nap before he tried to speak to any group anymore. But he is not my grampa, he is a General Authority. Does he speak for the Lord? I believe that he does. Would the Lord allow him to be as insensitive as I feel he was? Apparently yes.

Brigham Young, anyone? I believe he spoke for the Lord. He, like Elder Packer was a man. He was, according to dozens of accounts, a bit arrogant and in your face. One of the reasons Emma Smith choose to stay east was due to her poor relationship with Brigham Young. She didn’t like him much. How disrespectful is that? Did Brother Brigham speak for the Lord when he spoke for the Lord? Yes. Was he also insensitive at times? By all accounts, yup.

Ezra Taft Benson was blue, which was the original red.  That is to say, he was very conservative republican and, for those who remember, political and out spoken.  He put the fear of God into people.  Many were afraid that when he became the prophet his politics would become policy.  However, as prophet his personal political leanings stayed personal.  I always felt this was because he became a spokesman for new polices - those of the Lord, and that these overruled his personal opinions. 

Many question what would happen if Elder Packer became the prophet.  Would the church become as ridged as he appears to be? We are told that the Lord will not allow the prophet to lead us astray.  Does Elder Packer's being "a prophet" count as "The prophet"?  I don't know.  But I do know that every Apostle that has ever lived has had a personality, and some of them were not very PC.  Elijah taunted the Queen and her people on Mount Carmel for heavens sake.  Jonah ran like the wind and sank like a stone.  

Elder Packers remarks may have been even harder for those of us in gayland to take when we realize that some of us - a lot of us - were hoping for something kinder and gentler out of conference due to recent events in the church and by some church leaders and in reaction to the week’s tragic events with several gay youth. I was hoping for acceptance - not just tolerance, but downright acceptance and fellowship. Honestly, I got that from 99 percent of the talks. Some made me hopeful and excited and loved – even when there was chastisement involved. The priesthood session was one of my favorites of all time. I think secretly we were hoping for something a bit more all encompassing.

It may boil down to this. If you have been a member you understand the relationship we can have personally with the Savior. This is the time to test that. The gift of the Holy Ghost is for THIS VERY THING. Even if we feel unworthy, the spirit of the Lord can testify to us.

The questions you have are excellent questions, and I know there are more where they came from. I have them, too. We must ask the Lord with sincerity and faith that HE will and can answer us. If ever there was a time for the assurance of the spirit, THIS IS IT!

Let’s leave this somewhat open for respectful discussion.

Questions? Answers


  1. First of all, my comments are going to echo those of Cal Thompson, blogger. Boyd K Packer is only one of the apostles. I struggle with SSA, and have been a member all my life. The two talks immediately after Boyd K Packer have immensely helped my life. ONe was on your relationship with God, and the next was on overcoming addictions. I will never forget these 2 talks.

    I can only imagine what the quorum of apostles were discussing 2 weeks before conference, but what I do know is that each apostle brings something unique to the quorum. Boyd K. Packer gave the first talk in the new Salt Lake Conference Center and it was on indirectly on overcoming homosexuality.

    This is my opinion is that Boyd K Packer gave this talk out of desperation on what he now sees the world accepting gay lifestyle. I think SSA members in the church struggle with the temptations, but hopefully do not accept the gay lifestyle. I just don't think that Boyd K Packer understands the predicament that some of the Mormon members are in struggling through rejection just for having the temptation.

    But you know, from my viewpoint, I think that the other 11 apostles, and President Monson would have enough compassion on those of us who want to be loved and accepted by fellow Mormon members. I think it's sad in a way, that we have to convince ourselves to keep faith despite the lack of support, but that's what we are called for.

    Personally, I don't think the other apostles of the church think that Boyd K. Packer fully understands the love and compassion that members with SSA need. They say not to criticize the leaders of the church, which I'm trying not to do. But it's obvious that we all have weaknesses. I think we should just band together over this one, and let him have his way. I think Boyd K Packer could be doing us a favor in the long run because what we want is the same thing he wants. We try to live righteous lives so that one day, we will be saved. I think that's what Boyd K Packer was encouraging.

    I wish the members had an example of someone who loved SSA members, but that is just a wish! How long has this been going on?

  2. I feel you are exactly on the mark David! I am the 53 yr old married/female/member who has commented recently. I had no idea that there are gay members who, married or not, still choose to live the principles of the gospel. Don't be offended anyone when I say I guess I thought anyone who admitted they were gay most likely rejected either some or all of the gospel principles and lived a gay lifestyle. It is all we hear about. Guys, mainly, who come home from missions, disclose they are gay and leave the church to live that lifestyle. We never hear about you or Cal or the many others who do choose to live the principles of the gospel as given. I am proud and humbled by you all. Jenny please don't loose faith over this. No one is perfect in the church from the Prophet on down. When they accept the call they are not made perfect nor given personality changes. They are moving through life trying to perfect themselves just like us and,unfortunately, everyone is looking either to them or at them for guidance or a mistake. What a burden as well. You all have my love, acceptance and support, and I feel, the Lords as well.

  3. Its looking like this is a safe haven for those who are gay but who want to stay in the church. Cool. I'm happy to know it. I want to stay in the church, but I've been living gay. How are bishops these days in working with people? I havent had good luck in the past.