Mormon Homophobia, Part Two 20 August 2006Posted by Todd in Democratic Theory, Ethics, Gay Rights, Homosexuality, Inequality & Stratification, Mormonism/LDS Church.
[Continued from Part One. My comments in bold italics.]
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: If we were to look back at someone who had a ‘short fuse,’ and we were to look at their parents who might have had a short fuse, some might identify a genetic influence in that.
OAKS: No, we do not accept the fact that conditions that prevent people from attaining their eternal destiny were born into them without any ability to control. That is contrary to the Plan of Salvation, and it is contrary to the justice and mercy of God. It’s contrary to the whole teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which expresses the truth that by or through the power and mercy of Jesus Christ we will have the strength to do all things. Fine. These are your religious beliefs. Great. I don’t really care what you believe about sex and sin. What I want to know is why a democracy should enact and enshrine your religious beliefs into law. That includes resisting temptation. That includes dealing with things that we’re born with, including disfigurements, or mental or physical incapacities. None of these stand in the way of our attaining our eternal destiny. The same may be said of a susceptibility or inclination to one behavior or another which if yielded to would prevent us from achieving our eternal destiny.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: You’re saying the Church doesn’t necessarily have a position on ‘nurture or nature’ ….
OAKS: That’s where our doctrine comes into play. The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. That’s not what the Proclamation on the Family says. But the Church has become notorious for speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.
WICKMAN: Whether it is nature or nurture really begs the important question, and a preoccupation with nature or nurture can, it seems to me, lead someone astray from the principles that Elder Oaks has been describing here. Why somebody has a same-gender attraction… who can say? But what matters is the fact that we know we can control how we behave, and it is behavior which is important. Again, true in the abstract. But Wickman actually begs the real question, which is why should gay people (which is pretty clearly biological in origin) not act on their desires? And for the record, the fact that they frame this is a “nature vs. nurture” issue reveals how out of touch they are with the study of human beings, and where the “nature vs. nurture” debate is actually seen as a red herring.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is therapy of any kind a legitimate course of action if we’re talking about controlling behavior? If a young man says, “Look, I really want these feelings to go away… I would do anything for these feelings to go away,” is it legitimate to look at clinical therapy of some sort that would address those issues?
WICKMAN: Well, it may be appropriate for that person to seek therapy. Certainly the Church doesn’t counsel against that kind of therapy. Certainly not. Why would the church counsel against a practice which is deemed UNETHICAL by every professional psychological organization and professional medical organization in the country? But from the standpoint of a parent counseling a person, or a Church leader counseling a person, or a person looking at his or her same-gender attraction from the standpoint of ‘What can I do about it here that’s in keeping with gospel teachings?’ the clinical side of it is not what matters most. What matters most is recognition that ‘I have my own will. I have my own agency. I have the power within myself to control what I do.’ Yes, because it’s all about self-control, isn’t it? If you act on the sexual desires you have, you are weak willed and a sinner. Why? Because your sexual desires are wrong to their core. Why? Because it’s against the plan of salvation, which says you can’t be saved (exalted, in mormon parlance) unless you’re in a heterosexual marriage, and where the nature of godhood is heterosexual reproduction. So if you’re gay, control yourself! Again, for the umpteenth time, WHY SHOULD I?
Now, that’s not to say it’s not appropriate for somebody with that affliction to seek appropriate clinical help to examine whether in his or her case there’s something that can be done about it. This is an issue that those in psychiatry, in the psychology professions have debated. The debate ended in 1973. The handful of outliers on this issue have absolutely zero scientific evidence on their side, and the studies which have been done basically show that basic orientation cannot be changed, even when behavior modification works. It is yet another case of the right-wing confusing scientific issues by claiming there’s a “debate.” Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not. From the Church’s standpoint, from our standpoint of concern for people, that’s not where we place our principal focus. It’s on these other matters. If this is indeed the church’s position, it is new. BYU required gay students to undergo reparative therapy through the 1980s. LDS Social Services regularly refers people for therapy to change orientation, as do Bishops and Stake Presidents. This is either a lie or a significant switch in policy.
OAKS: Amen to that. Let me just add one more thought. The Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate, for medical doctors or for psychiatrists or psychologists and so on. Bullshit. They do it all the time, especially in any areas concerning sex or reproduction.
The second point is that there are abusive practices that have been used in connection with various mental attitudes or feelings. Over-medication in respect to depression is an example that comes to mind. The aversive therapies (it’s called “aversion therapy” Dallin) that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. Am I the only one blown away by the irony here? What the fuck is Oaks talking about? BYU and the Mormon church where among the biggest perpetrators of what amounts to psychological torture of gay men (and rarely gay women) to make them change their sexual desires. From electroshock therapy to induced vomiting, it was all done in the SWK Tower on BYU’s campus, and was still practiced when I was a student there, although they’d made it “voluntary” by then. This is a deceitful presentation of facts, a lie by slight of hand and occlusion of history. While we have no position about what the medical doctors do (except in very, very rare cases — abortion would be such an example), we are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses. That says it all, doesn’t it? Our church was a primary perpetrator of these atrocities, but we take no responsibility. This is the very definition of evil, an individual or institution that refuses to take responsibility for the consequences of its behavior. Even though they are addressed at helping people we would like to see helped, we can’t endorse every kind of technique that’s been used.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is heterosexual marriage ever an option for those with homosexual feelings?
OAKS: We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: “Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” Yeah, after hundreds if not thousands of people’s lives had been turned upside down. To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God Notice the elimination of lesbians/women from this equation. In typical fashion, the church sees women in one way: wives and mothers, innocent and needing to be taken care of. Because lesbians never marry straight men in the church? That is simply not true. who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses The morality is more complicated than “false pretenses.” The men and women who get married do so because in their culture, the Mormon culture, there is no other choice to make. Not only is it culturally normal, it is the only road to full acceptance within the community; and religiously it is the only road to salvation. These folks aren’t getting married out of deception, they’re doing so because they are given no other viable option within the context of their religious upbringing. The only ones who get out of that situation are those who make significant breaks with mormon culture in some way or another. or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith. Yes, yes. Gay people are evil for trying to cope with their lot in life in anyway they can. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The people on the outside, those creating this double bind within Mormonism, are simply blind to the world they are creating for the gay people they supposedly love.’
On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter again, the disappearing lesbians of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.And so again Oaks reinforces the social norm and puts the carrot out there for gay men (not gay women?) to strive for, setting them up for misery and failure, or at best, a life-long daily effort to be something they are not.
President Hinckley said that marriage is not a therapeutic step to solve problems. Too bad he didn’t extend that out to straight people; mormon marriages can be pretty fucking unhealthy, given that they marry young and for cultural rather than personal reasons.
WICKMAN: One question that might be asked by somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is, “Is this something I’m stuck with forever? What bearing does this have on eternal life? If I can somehow make it through this life, when I appear on the other side, what will I be like?”
Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence. Bwahahahaha! Okay okay, he’s perfectly free to believe that little fairy tale. But this goes right to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? The Mormon religion has a very specific view of the course of time and the Way Things Are. Because that view is fiercely heterosexual and because salvation itself is tied to heterosexuality, of course they believe that homosexuality cannot be eternal. This is just silly to all but believers, and it is frankly cold comfort to an individual who must live their lives wishing they were someone they weren’t, hoping beyond hope that who they are will be different after they day. What a cruel God, this must be, who revels in the torture of its creations. From my position out of the church and out of the closet, the deep irony here is that I can’t for the life of me think of any reason WHY I wouldn’t want to be gay. The real tragedy to me would be that the mormons are right, and in the next life I would no longer see the beauty and pleasure of a man’s body. But if it were true, I’d gladly be cast out of God’s presence. Who in their right mind would want to live with such a cruel God for all eternity?
The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it’s hard to look beyond the ‘now’ sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it’s only during this season.For people who think rationally, now is all we have. This is a big beef I have with Christianity in general, that it takes people out of their lives and projects them ever to the future. This allows them to gloss over real moral quandaries right now in the flesh. It projects their thinking away from the world they live in and prevents them from living well in the present. This is something that Buddha did far better than Jesus, in his insistence that NOW is all there is. 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing — including eternal marriage — is and will be mine in due course.Okay, this is getting irritating. Yes, yes, this is your religious belief. Fine. You have a right to it and you may even express it. I have a right to call it bullshit. And at the end of the day, I’m still waiting for any shred of rational argument about WHY IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL in a DEMOCRACY.
OAKS: Let me just add a thought to that. There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Voilà that little bit of Mormon theology I was talking about. Further, men are that they might have joy. This is one of the key bits of mormonism I have taken with me. I do love this idea, but I imagine that my interpretation of it is quite different from the mormon hierarchs. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities. Now this is one of the things that is just difficult for me to swallow. I was tortured by my sexuality until I was about 28. But I was tortured because I lived in homophobic society that told me I was bad and that threatened my life for being gay; so I tried to change it or hide it or deny it. The process of self-acceptance has brought on a whole new perspective. I can’t even describe how happy I am in my life as a gay man. Homosexuality brings no more unhappiness than heterosexuality does. Individuals can make bad choices for themselves or their partners; normal life circumstances can be such that you’re single or in a bad relationship; diseases can accidentally be spread; etc. The only misery that comes from being gay, other than normal life stresses that are common to both gay and straight people, is the misery heaped upon me and mine by the likes of Oaks and Whitman, who for their own reasons don’t want us to be free and equal in American society.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: A little earlier, Elder Oaks, you talked about the same standard of morality for heterosexuals and homosexuals. How would you address someone who said to you, ‘I understand it’s the same standard, but aren’t we asking a little more of someone who has same-gender attraction?’ Obviously there are heterosexual people who won’t get married, but would you accept that they at least have hope that ‘tomorrow I could meet the person of my dreams.’ There’s always the hope that that could happen at any point in their life. Someone with same-gender attraction wouldn’t necessarily have that same hope.
OAKS: There are differences, of course, but the contrast is not unique. There are people with physical disabilities that prevent them from having any hope — in some cases any actual hope and in other cases any practical hope — of marriage. The circumstance of being currently unable to marry, while tragic, is not unique. So being homosexual is like a physical handicap? I think that’s unfair to both the physically disabled and the homosexuals of the world. Wanting to have sex with a man is not at all the same as being wheel chair bound. That’s insulting to both parties’ life experience.
It is sometimes said that God could not discriminate against individuals in this circumstance. But life is full of physical infirmities that some might see as discriminations — total paralysis or serious mental impairment being two that are relevant to marriage. If we believe in God and believe in His mercy and His justice, it won’t do to say that these are discriminations because God wouldn’t discriminate. We are in no condition to judge what discrimination is. We rest on our faith in God and our utmost assurance of His mercy and His love for all of His children.A religious argument that is neither here nor there. But if there is a god, and if that god loves its creations, then we’re all fine as we are.
WICKMAN: There’s really no question that there is an anguish associated with the inability to marry in this life. We feel for someone that has that anguish. I feel for somebody that has that anguish. But it’s not limited to someone who has same-gender attraction. This elision of single straight people with gay people is one of my pet peeves. Within mormon culture, there are social consequences to being single, in a culture where being married and having kids is everything. But being gay carries with it all the stigma and scorn, and it’s internalized in a way that something about the person him or herself is WRONG and worthy of hate and scorn that must be suppressed. This is just simply completely different from a single straight person. It’s so obviously different to me (perhaps because I lived it) that I actually struggle to explain it.
We live in a very self-absorbed age. I guess it’s naturally human to think about my own problems as somehow greater than someone else’s. I think when any one of us begins to think that way, it might be well be to look beyond ourselves. Who am I to say that I am more handicapped, or suffering more, than someone else? Yeah! So all you who suffer under our homophobia, buck up and shut up! At least you’re not handicapped! I’m sorry, but this is beyond ignorant.
I happen to have a handicapped daughter. She’s a beautiful girl. She’ll be 27 next week. Her name is Courtney. Courtney will never marry in this life, yet she looks wistfully upon those who do. She will stand at the window of my office which overlooks the Salt Lake Temple and look at the brides and their new husbands as they’re having their pictures taken. She’s at once captivated by it and saddened because Courtney understands that will not be her experience here. Courtney didn’t ask for the circumstances into which she was born in this life, any more than somebody with same-gender attraction did. What a horrifying thing for a father to say. Why wouldn’t Courtney marry? Is she mentally handicapped? Even kids with Down’s Syndrome have relationships. What is he talking about? And why the hell is he comparing this with homosexuality? Am I the only person that finds this deeply offensive? So there are lots of kinds of anguish people can have, even associated with just this matter of marriage. yup. And there not all the *same*. That someone else is suffering, even if it’s worse suffering, is never comforting and is manipulative at best. What we look forward to, and the great promise of the gospel, is that whatever our inclinations are here, whatever our shortcomings are here, whatever the hindrances to our enjoying a fullness of joy here, we have the Lord’s assurance for every one of us that those in due course will be removed. We just need to remain faithful. Religious belief. Not a rational argument.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Elder Wickman, when you referred earlier to missionary service, you held that out as a possibility for someone who felt same-gender attraction but didn’t act on it. President Hinckley has said that if people are faithful, they can essentially go forward as anyone else in the Church and have full fellowship. What does that really mean? Does it mean missionary service? Does it mean that someone can go to the temple, at least for those sacraments that don’t involve marriage? Does it really mean that someone with same-gender attraction so long as they’re faithful, has every opportunity to participate, to be called to service, to do all those kinds of things that anyone else can?
WICKMAN: I think the short answer to that is yes! I’d look to Elder Oaks to elaborate on that.
OAKS: President Hinckley has helped us on that subject with a clear statement that answers all questions of that nature. He said, “We love them (referring to people who have same-sex attractions) as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church.” Love the sinner, hate the sin. Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is a backhanded slap, and everyone who is the recipient of this so-called “love” knows it. It is love with judgment. It is conditional. It is a love that expects conformity. It is, in short, not love at all.
To me that means that a person with these inclinations, where they’re kept under control, or, if yielded to are appropriately repented of, is eligible to do anything in the Church that can be done by any member of the Church who is single. I wonder if these men are even capable of empathy. So a homosexual can deny who she is, live a lie, and still go to the temple? Wow, that’s great! What a loving church! Occasionally, there’s an office, like the office of bishop, where a person must be married. But that’s rather the exception in the Church. Every teaching position, every missionary position can be held by single people. This is simply another deception. The Handbook of Instructions clearly states that men and women with same-sex attraction are not allowed to serve missions. Period. We welcome to that kind of service people who are struggling with any kind of temptation when the struggle is a good struggle and they are living so as to be appropriate teachers, or missionaries, or whatever the calling may be.
WICKMAN: Isn’t it really the significance of the Atonement in a person’s life? Doesn’t the Atonement really begin to mean something to a person when he or she is trying to face down the challenges of living, whether they be temptations or limitations? The willingness to turn to the Savior, the opportunity of going to sacrament service on a Sunday, and really participating in the ordinance of the sacrament… listening to the prayers, partaking of those sacred emblems. Those are opportunities that really help us to come within the ambit of the Savior’s Atonement. Viewed that way, then any opportunity to serve in the Church is a blessing. As has been mentioned, there is a relatively tiny handful of callings within the Church that require marriage. How many thousands of gay men and women, and not just Mormons, but every other religious tradition, have to say that they have prayed, fasted, studied their respective scriptures and worked until they dropped to get the grace of god/jesus/allah or whatever and IT DOESN”T WORK? How long do we have to say this until someone listens? I can’t even look at my mission journals or my journals from BYU because I was so horribly psychologically disfigured by self-hatred and loathing and the desire to be what the church wanted me to be. I went to the temple constantly and read the scriptures and prayed and lived in depression and despair. Wickman’s statement is one of ignorance and unknown cruelty.
OAKS: There is another point to add here, and this comes from a recent statement of the First Presidency, which is a wonderful description of our attitude in this matter: “We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives, but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord.” Huh? There is only ‘great loneliness’ in the lives of gay people for two reasons: 1) they still live in a closeted state, where they are trying to conform to a heterosexual norm; or 2) they have normal life problems that straight people have. Why do these people think that gay men and women are miserable? Because the only gay people they deal with are believing members who are tortured by trying to change or live the way the church tells them to. Those people are indeed lonely and depressed. But Oaks cannot see they are lonely and depressed because of the culture of Mormonism, not because homosexuality leads to loneliness and depression. Again, these seem increasinly to be men who are incapable of compassion, of putting themselves in another’s posiiton and truly imagining what it must be like.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: What would you say to those members in society, members of the Church, who may look at same-gender attraction as different than other temptations, than any other struggle that people face? First of all, do you think it’s a fair assessment that some people have that feeling? What would you say to them?
OAKS: I think it is an accurate statement to say that some people consider feelings of same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence. There are also people who consider the defining fact of their existence that they are from Texas or that they were in the United States Marines. Or they are red-headed, or they are the best basketball player that ever played for such-and-such a high school. People can adopt a characteristic as the defining example of their existence and often those characteristics are physical. Oh brother. Again with these inaccurate and facile elisions.
We have the agency to choose which characteristics will define us; those choices are not thrust upon us. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Life is much more complicated than that, and he knows it. A straight person could “choose” to say they’re gay, but seriously, why would they? I could say I’m “black”, but I’d be laughed into the ground. I could pretend I wasn’t raised mormon (and often do), but the reality is that my life was shaped by mormonism from the time I was born. This is either a flip dismissal, a rhetorical strategy, or simple ignorance of the basic processes of socialization and psychology. Identities change over time, but only as experience in the world and with other people allow. We are not, in fact, utterly free individuals, but are individuals anchored in our bodies, our experiences, our social and cultural milieus, and our memories.
The ultimate defining fact for all of us is that we are children of Heavenly Parents, born on this earth for a purpose, and born with a divine destiny. Whenever any of those other notions, whatever they may be, gets in the way of that ultimate defining fact, then it is destructive and it leads us down the wrong path.Religious belief. Not a rational argument for the public sphere.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Both of you have mentioned the issue of compassion and this feeling about needing to be compassionate. Let’s fast-forward the scenario that we used earlier, and assume it’s a couple of years later. My conversations with my son, all our efforts to love our son and keep him in the Church have failed to address what he sees as the central issue — that he can’t help his feelings. He’s now told us that he’s moving out of the home. He plans to live with a gay friend. He’s adamant about it. What should be the proper response of a Latter-day Saint parent in that situation?
OAKS: It seems to me that a Latter-day Saint parent has a responsibility in love and gentleness to affirm the teaching of the Lord through His prophets that the course of action he is about to embark upon is sinful. Again the backhanded pseudolove. Tell your kid you love them, but that they are evil. Rock on. While affirming our continued love for him, and affirming that the family continues to have its arms open to him, Again, the disappearing lesbian. And again, this isn’t unconditional love, it’s conditioned and judgmental and unaccepting, and therefore toxic to any gay person I think it would be well to review with him something like the following, which is a statement of the First Presidency in 1991: “The Lord’s law of moral conduct is abstinence outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife, appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual conduct, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful. Those who persist in such practices or influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline.” Religious belief. Not a rational argument or a substantiated moral position.
My first responsibility as a father is to make sure that he understands that, and then to say to him, “My son, if you choose to deliberately engage in this kind of behavior, you’re still my son. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to reach out and cleanse you if you are repentant and give up your sinful behavior, but I urge you not to embark on that path because repentance is not easy. You’re embarking on a course of action that will weaken you in your ability to repent. It will cloud your perceptions of what is important in life. Finally, it may drag you down so far that you can’t come back. Don’t go that way. But if you choose to go that way, we will always try to help you and get you back on the path of growth.Is it just me, or is this among the most manipulative things you’ve ever read? I think this is why people in conservative religions lose their children. And I think that in many ways, a religion that sets up such rigid definitions and boundaries for love actually prevents people from having fully developed, fully loving relationships with their families (let alone with strangers).
WICKMAN: One way to read the Book of Mormon is as a book of encounters between fathers and sons. Some of those encounters were very positive and reinforcing on the part of the father of a son. Some were occasions where a father had to tell his son or his sons that the path that they were following was incorrect before the Lord. With all, it needs to be done in the spirit of love and welcoming that, as Elder Oaks mentioned, ‘You’re always my son.’ There’s an old maxim which is really true for every parent and that is, ‘You haven’t failed until you quit trying.’ I think that means both in terms of taking appropriate opportunities to teach one’s children the right way, but at all times making sure they know that over all things you’ll love them. Oh man, how do I even address this? First, notice again the absence of women in the equation. The sexism just seeps from this entire interview. But then there’s just this overlay of mormon culture, that oppressive impossible standard of perfection that must be strived for, and the only answer in life is to constantly strive for it. But no one ever stops to ask if the standard is the right one and why, and if maybe the striving is itself the source of their problems (e.g., the highest national average use of prozac in the nation is in Utah).
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At what point does showing that love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?’ Why would having a gay son or daughter make you concerned for your other children? Is it catchy? Or is this that irritating pedophilia thing?
OAKS: That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer. Again the love is conditional and the standards are different for straight sons or daughters. This is unethical to its core.
I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.” I can understand on a human level why a child would try to maintain this kind of a relationship with this kind of a parent, but from a distance, I would have to say that eventually, the child will just go away and never come back. The parent has basically said, we don’t love you like our other children and you are not welcome here. Your relationship doesn’t mean anything to us. And we do not approve of you. What child would stick around for that?
There are so many different circumstances, it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all.
WICKMAN: It’s hard to imagine a more difficult circumstance for a parent to face than that one. Really? In the grand scheme of things, the hardest thing a parent has to do is decide whether or not to be a complete jackass to his or her own son or daughter? Really? The only way this could ever be true is in a case where their culture (i.e., mormonism) comes before their children and the expense of their children’s welfare and happiness. It is a case by case determination. The only thing that I would add to what Elder Oaks has just said is that I think it’s important as a parent to avoid a potential trap arising out of one’s anguish over this situation.
I refer to a shift from defending the Lord’s way to defending the errant child’s lifestyle, both with him and with others. It really is true the Lord’s way is to love the sinner while condemning the sin. So now they’ve set up the parents of gay children with this manipulative gem: If you chose to love and accept your child, you have rejected God. I really hope that I’m not the only person infuriated by this. That is to say we continue to open our homes and our hearts and our arms to our children, but that need not be with approval of their lifestyle. That’s an impossible distinction to make in practice. Neither does it mean we need to be constantly telling them that their lifestyle is inappropriate. An even bigger error is now to become defensive of the child, because that neither helps the child nor helps the parent. That course of action, which experience teaches, is almost certainly to lead both away from the Lord’s way.Whuh? So if a parent defends his/her child, they are being led away from the Lord? Is this guy serious? If a parent wants the best for his/her child and defends them, say by supporting a gay rights bill, they’ve made the wrong decision by taking a course “away from the Lord?” Unbelievably in the depth of these men’s immorality. Unbelievable. What is exceptionally sad to me is that they obviously cannot see the ethics of what they are saying. They seriously believe this.
OAKS: The First Presidency made a wonderful statement on this subject in a letter in 1991. Speaking of individuals and families that were struggling with this kind of problem, they said, “We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues.” Surely if we are counseled as a body of Church membership to reach out with love and understanding to those ‘struggling with these issues,’ that obligation rests with particular intensity on parents who have children struggling with these issues… even children who are engaged in sinful behavior associated with these issues. Ya know, I’ve grown weary of my sexual desire being described as a struggle. it isn’t a struggle at all. It comes quite naturally and is a joy in my life. It is only a struggle to deal with homophobia or to try to work out a relatively free and equal life for myself in a world dominated by people like these men. Yet again, we have been given a religious rationale for a problem that is democratic and social.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is rejection of a child to some degree the natural reaction of some parents whenever their children fall short of expectations? Is it sometimes easier to ‘close the window’ on an issue than deal with it? It is a homophobic reaction supported by mormon culture (and American culture at large).
OAKS: We surely encourage parents not to blame themselves and we encourage Church members not to blame parents in this circumstance. We should remember that none of us is perfect and none of us has children whose behavior is entirely in accord with exactly what we would have them do in all circumstances. And god knows having a gay child is the height of imperfection.
We feel great compassion for parents whose love and protective instincts for their challenged children have moved them to some positions that are adversary to the Church. I hope the Lord will be merciful to parents whose love for their children has caused them to get into such traps. This leaves me without words. See above. Stunning in its ignorance. is the choice really between god and one’s own children? Is that really a God worthy of worship and devotion (not to mention 10% of your income)?
Continued in Part Three.