Failing the Progressive Quiz: a Response to Dehlin

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John Dehlin wrote:

Several people have contacted me in respond to my “Oaks Fail” post to say: “If you believe in this church, then you believe in revelation and in following your leaders. Consequently, it is inappropriate for you to be speaking openly about wanting LGBTs to be more accepted in the church, supporting gay marriage, or for women to receive more responsibility in the church. Either the leaders of the church get their direction from God, or they don’t. If you choose to be a part of this church, then it’s either get in line and follow, or get out.”

My response: A quiz for you.

1) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in Joseph Smith receiving the Word of Wisdom revelation? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

2) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the 1890 Official Declaration renouncing the practice of polygamy? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

3) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the granting of priesthood to black males? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

4) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the LDS church’s changing stance regarding oral sex (first forbidding it, then rescinding that forbidding)? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

5) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the LDS church’s change in stance regarding LGBT people, going from a) telling LGBT people that SSA was a result of sin, b) that being LGBT was a choice/non-biological, c) that LGBT folks should “get married, not tell their spouse, and it will go away,” or d) to try reparative therapy……vs. the church’s current position (http://mormonsandgays.org/) — abandoning all of those positions? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

6) Rinse and repeat with other issues like the use of contraception, women working outside of the home, apostolic denunciations of evolution, the cessation of publishing Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, etc.

7) In fact, are you aware of ANY significant changes in the church that were NOT made in response to conditions/environment/personalities ?

What is the value of continuing revelation, if it is not used….and what do you think precipitates revelation? Does it happen in a vacuum?

9) Finally, if conditions/environment/personalities can lead to change in all of these other scenarios, why couldn’t/shouldn’t it be so with gay marriage and the role of women in the church?

My responses:

1.  Of course all revelation is addressed to human beings in their situation, including particular and local features of their situation.  There would not be a revelation about tobacco use if no one were using tobacco.  It would be surprising if there were a revelation that we should, say, stop walking on water, because there’s no conceivable issue with people walking on water, as far as I know.  So, yes, divine revelation often applies to concerns people have.  So in some sense, since revelation is revelation to some people at some time and place, it can always be construed I suppose as “in response to conditions/environment/personalities.”

2. But you tend to notice revelations that you can fit onto a certain progressive grid, and beyond this you can’t think of “any significant changes.”  To be sure, the Word of Wisdom is perhaps a less-than-stirring starting point for the progressive story, but it does take us back to JS’s day at least, and to a woman’s concrete concerns, so that’s something.  But from there we’re up and running to the edifying tale of progress that goes like this:

Monogamy à Blacks receive priesthood à Oral Sex à … and of course to the great moral-political cause of the present age, the liberation and full moral recognition of “gay” sexuality.

Questions:

A)  What comes next?  Surely progress cannot come to an end?  If you are sure what direction we should go in, why make us (and the prophets) wait – why not tell us where it is all supposed to lead?  What is the ultimate vision of individual fulfillment in a just society?  After the overcoming of the traditional, natural, conjugal understanding of marriage, and of  the associated preference for heterosexuality and role differentiation between the sexes, what further barriers must be toppled to reach our destination?  Where does all this lead?  Surely there must be more traditional barriers thought to be “moral” that will be revealed to be sheer, stupid, self-interested prejudice, or perhaps pathological hang-ups that limit our self-expression.  What other barriers to equal freedom and free equality need to fall? And where will this leveling of barriers lead us?  What, again, is the ultimate vision?

How else could we be further liberated?  Surely the whole church hierarchy thing would have to go eventually, no? Why be satisfied with the halfway house of a Constitutional Prophet regime, where a figurehead royalty responds to the demands of a freedom and justice-seeking people?  Why not declare the people (and why just LDS, why privilege them?) as the absolute source of progressive energy and re-envision “the prophet” as the spokesman for the people, the true voice of God?

Of course, since the people can never organize into an effective body and speak for themselves without the assistance of activists, of an avant-garde, then the liquidating of hierarchical religious authority can only mean the elevation of intellectuals who grasp the true morality of equal freedom in advance of ordinary people, who put no stock in prejudices but take only freedom (the more the better) and science as their governing values.

Or, if you and the people you lead or propose to represent cannot clearly describe the features of the brave new world to which you would lead us, then how can you know what should be next on the horizon?  How can we be sure that change is good if we cannot articulate a concrete and coherent vision of the final destiny of human beings?  Whence your confidence that you have discerned the one true direction of all progress, at once revealed and popular? You and others who follow you or think like you may not appreciate being categorized as a “Progressive,” but you so categorize yourself every time you refer to the Church as “behind” where you think it should be, or congratulate yourself for your “patience” in waiting for the Church to adopt a purer moral code, or otherwise assume a directionality in history that you can know and that our Church leaders are still learning to discern.

But as soon as this confident directionality is put in question, possibilities arise for careful thought which you don’t now seem to see. For example, why not envision the reversal of an earlier step that you now regard as progress?  How can you know in principle that, say, new conditions might call forth a revelation that would re-emphasize the distinctive roles of men and women.  In fact, I thought maybe I heard some rumblings of that in the last conference.  Can progress go “backward”?  For that matter, would there be something inherently … irrational, inconceivable, in the prophets, say, starting to warn us of the consequences of taking too much control of births, of not being open enough to the gift of birth… In fact, now that I think of it, I think I’ve been hearing rumblings of such a movement in recent revelations.  Could this too portend a new and surprising “progress”?  Or is it possible that “continuing revelation” might not align itself neatly with the narrative of Progress?  Note that I’m not predicting and I’m not advocating; I’m just pointing out scenarios that could be regarded as at least as plausible as the progressive scenario.  The point is, there is no reason to assume: continuing revelation (openness to change) = openness to change favored by progressives.

As to substance, I will just note that the man/woman/posterity thing seems to be a pretty deep ground of LDS doctrine and sensibility.  Mother in Heaven, for example?  Do you really think this cosmic vision in which sexual difference is constitutive of eternity can be adapted progressively to include Gay Parent in Heaven, or Free Gay Relationship in Heaven or whatever, and the result could still be called “Mormon” in some meaningful sense?

Of course the political/legal question is a distinct, prudential question – but not completely separate from the moral/religious question.  Various conference talks I thought were quite firm yet careful on how these are distinct but not separate questions.  We have a moral and religious duty to help shape institutions and cultures to promote and facilitate true human goodness and happiness so far as is possible, that is, to provide the best environment possible for the education and exercise of moral agency.  But we also have to judge prudently what constructive action is possible in a given political sphere, and what is not.  (This, by the way, might help to address some questions raised by Steve Evans in reply to Elder Oaks at BCC.)

B) Are there really no other revelations to notice besides those in your inventory?  Were the temple ordinances first introduced as a response to popular entreaties?  But perhaps this hardly matters, since it is hard to see how they contribute to our “progress” in freedom and equality. And what about something like, say, the infamous Correlation, a reform of church government that has made possible the growth of a truly unified world-wide church?  Or is that a bad thing, and so doesn’t count, doesn’t fit in the story of progressive revelation?

And how about a little thing called the Family Proclamation?  Was this a response to a popular movement for freedom and equality, led by morally advanced intellectuals?  If not, then I don’t suppose it fits in your narrative of prophecy responding to social conditions.  Anyway, it has been explained to me that the Proclamation is not really canonical, therefore not really revelation, just a passing nuisance from the standpoint of progress – unlike the notable signposts of progress you name such as the permission of Oral Sex (I missed that announcement, by the way) and the downgrading of a popular book called Mormon Doctrine.

My reply to your quiz is vigorous because I think it is important to confront plainly the assumptions behind your quiz that you and many of your followers do not seem to be aware of, and thus to hold much too confidently.  Some will not like my forthright tone, but it is always hard to appreciate the tone of someone who is confronting cherished assumptions that are very hard to put into question.  I grant at the outset that there is no way to decide between our perspectives based upon pure and simple logic.  There are sensibilities and understandings of purpose and meaning that separate us, and there is no sequence of pure reasoning that can resolve what divides us.  I have little hope of finding a sympathetic hearing for my fundamental spiritual premises, since you can dismiss them a priori as casually (at least) as you do the entreaties of Elder Oaks and other General Authorities who have just addressed us.  If you demand that the teachings of current prophets and apostles meet the test of your apparently unquestioned moral-political commitments, then it is no surprise that they continue to fail to impress you, and so my arguments are likely to impress you even less – unless, that is, you should be willing to question the fundamental story-line of Progress defined as the gradual overcoming of all restraints and norms that hinder equal freedom and free equality.

My hope is that reasoning can be of some help by calling attention to assumptions that frame our narratives and our arguments.  I have tried to contribute to such an excavation of firmly embedded assumptions.  My whole point is to invite you and your followers to reconsider whether this assumption provides an adequate ground to justify dismissing the counsel of Church authorities that contradicts your idea of progress.

If you should choose to reconsider this dismissal, you might even find that very reasonable arguments can be adduced in favor of many of the non-progressive views that inform our authorities’ counsel.

But that’s another argument.

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About Ralph C. Hancock

Ralph C. Hancock holds degrees from BYU and Harvard, and has taught political philosophy at Brigham Young University since 1987; he is also President of the John Adams Center for the Study of Faith, Philosophy and Public Affairs, an independent educational foundation (johnadamscenter.org). His most recent book is The Responsibility of Reason: Theory and Practice in a Liberal-Democratic Age (Rowman & Littlefield), and a new edition of his Calvin and the Foundations of Modern Politics has recently been published by Saint Augustine’s Press; he has also translated numerous works from French.  Dr. Hancock is also a contributing editor of the quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and an editor at the online scholarly journal SquareTwo.org, which addresses public affairs for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Ralph and his wife, Julie, are parents of five children and grandparents of ten.

85 thoughts on “Failing the Progressive Quiz: a Response to Dehlin

    • The black members have always been able to hold the priesthood. There never was a revelation denying them the right to hold the priesthood. In the 1850′s a policy was put in place because of political pressure from Southern Church members which denied the black members the priesthood. The later revelation just clarified that black members indeed could hold the priesthood. The policy remained for so long because later Church leaders thought that a revelation might be involved, though one was never found. The last Church Historian told me he searched the Church’s Archives top to bottom and could find no revelation banning the black members from holding the priesthood.

      • A long time ago (like, before 1978) we should have stopped speculating on the reason why blacks could not hold the priesthood. Continued contradictory and unsupported speculations, like the one above, do not help at all. The important thing is that in 1978 President Spencer W. Kimball did receive a revelation that all worthy male members of the church may hold the priesthood. This revelation came from God and settles the question.

        • The problem is, David, that the 1978 revelation did not settle the question as to why Joseph Smith and others had no problem at all in ordaining African Americans, but a later policy denying that privilege came into vogue. Pres McKay wanted to begin ordaining again and wanted to take the Gospel to Black Africa. He could find no doctrine forbidding that, but was constrained by Joseph Fielding Smith’s insistence that a revelation on the subject was needed.
          We should learn from this that history is not and never has been progressive (Hegel was wrong), but is oscillatory and virtually unpredictable. As fallible humans, we try to work through obstacles and demands placed in our path by circumstances beyond our control. How well we manage that test is the reason why we are here on Earth, till Kingdom come.

  1. Well phrased response Ralph, I very much enjoyed your contributions to a recent podcast that you participated in with John Dehlin hosting together Kate Kelly of Ordain Women etc. Thank you for standing firm with the Prophets and Apostles in the traditional sense. I don’t mind the queries, but certainly if we’re judged by obedience to God’s commandments, I’d rather follow the Prophet, than suggest by agitation that we should be changing God’s laws. As Oaks said at conference, Mans Laws are not necessarily God’s Laws!

  2. I hypothesize that there is a faulty assumption involved in “progressives’” analysis of the immediate causes of significant course corrections by the prophets. They select prior events which fit their narrative of outward pressure (the kind they believe they can bring) and attribute to those events the role of agent causing change. But I can select other prior conditions, and if my selection is more accurate, then the precedent for progressives, and their rationale for criticism of the Brethren in the role of “loyal agents of change” , loses its precedential authority.

    Wilford Woodruff stated that he would have let the Church suffer the consequences of the Federal war against polygamy, including confiscation of the temples, but the Lord instructed him that preserving the temples was more important than preserving plural marriage. The fact that there are still many polygamist sects that rejected that revelation shows that this was a real option, though it would have made it imposdible for the Church to accomplsh any of its assigned missions except for plural marriage. The change freed the Church to work toward the primary goals the Lord set for the restoration.

    In the case of ordaining men of African descent, the progressives try to telescope time and create fictional protest movements to create a narrative of critics eliciting revelation. I was doing research in the Church Archives during 1977-78, and when the announcement came in June 1978 there was no obvious external movement or group to which any of the national news media could point as the antecedent cause. It was a bolt from the blue. And it is clear from the detailed narratives we now have that what motivated President Kimball was not criticism or political pressure, but the inherent tension between the priesthood limitation and the core mission of the Church to take the Restored Gospel to every nation, kindred and people. His significant message to the new mission presidents in 1974 was that we must do everything we can to prepare ourselves to preach in all the world, and the Lord would open the doors of nations to our missionaries. And the priesthood restriction was a clear impediment to taking the gospel to Africa and other nations with large black populations, because church congregations in the LDS Church depend on the men of each ward and branch to be the ministers. Consistent with the Woodruff manifesto, the outcome was to ensure that the primary mission of the Church could be accomplished. And it has borne fruit. The Church has prospered in Africa, with remarkable growth in one generation. And the Lord opened the doors of Spain, Portugal, and Italy, and the doors of the former Warsaw Pact nations and Mongolia. With the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, there are LDS stakes and a temple inside China, awaiting the development of further religious freedom.

    If my interpretation of those events is correct, there is no clear reason to expect any major new revelation to ordain women, or to endorse homosexual relationships as moral. Participation by LDS women is high and enthusiastic, as demonstrated by the surge in female missionaries. And the maintenance of the Biblical standard of sexual morality is at the core of strengthening real families of parents and their children. Endorsing homosexual unions would be at odds with the teaching to refrain from sex outside marriage, and that marriage is intended to be eternal and a link through ancestors and children to a unified Zion in eternity.

    The critics of the Brethren are barking up the wrong tree, and don’t realize that barking doesn’t cause anything.

    • Raymond, you seem to be getting at the heart of Dehlin’s point. You acknowledge that change occurs in response to changes in conditions, but you deny that protests and the like have been significant factors in leading to change. That’s certainly possible, but it isn’t plain, even given the facts you cite. There’s surely the appearance that cumulative pressures may contribute to change. President Kimball’s reasons may be as you state, but the readiness of the Church and other leaders in it may have been driven in part by other pressures and influences, and both might have been important.

      • Kent,

        One might take this argument about outside pressure in a different direction. Suppose for a moment that the Lord could have been ready to grant Church members of African descent the priesthood as soon as the nation in which they lived could abide that bestowal. After all, Elijah Abels received the priesthood and this seemed not to cause trouble, but the tensions in Missouri already portended a national explosion in the 1830s, and this foreshadowed a Civil War that caused the death and misery of many souls. What if the Lord, in his wisdom, withheld the priesthood, through a prophet, (Brigham Young) to protect both African Americans and Mormons from devastating consequences? When the nation finally got around to passing the Civil Rights legislation in the mid-1960s this may have provided the necessary national step to demonstrate that the United States had sufficiently repented from the abomination of slavery to allow the priesthood to be safely bestowed on worthy men of all races and ethnic groups.

        Do you think the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could have been restored in England when they were still burning men who dared to publish the Bible, or in 1600s Massachusetts where they still burned “witches?” I see a distinct possibility that God waits for timing to be right to reveal certain truths.

        It may be that Polygamy was revealed at a time and place where it could be sufficiently tolerated to allow a generation of future church leaders to come to earth, and then when that generation arrived, God could arrange to have sufficient trials and difficulties to cause the prophet to pray for answers, so God could rescind that commandment.

  3. By Dehlin’s logic of progressive-ism, it will only be a matter of time before the Church okays all types of relationships: multiple partners of either sex, of any age, and of any species.

    If Dehlin draws a line somewhere, one which we cannot pass (man/child relations?), then what makes his line any less arbitrary than the lines he is fighting?

    If there is no moral line that prophets can draw via revelation, then religion has no meaning. If there is no opposition, then there is no law, there is no good, there is no evil, there is no God (see 2 Ne 2).

    • That’s a straw man. Of course there are lines to be drawn. Anyone who has paid attention to the reasons given for same-sex marriage, or has even given your points some careful thought, is aware that there are obvious relevant differences between people and animals, adults and children, etc.

      • But there is also an obvious relevant difference between male-female copulation and every other form of sexual relation: The former is the completion of a bodily function (reproduction) and the latter is just titilation. Why should not the delineation there remain?

        • This is really a different topic, but since oral sex also came up, maybe only somewhat! A lot of sexuality in marriage isn’t about procreation (a significant number of couples can’t even if they try), and it isn’t limited to acts that could lead to procreation.

          • But male-female is the only pairing that includes the possibility of procreation and is therefore factually different.

          • There’s no such possibility in many male-female relations, due to infertility or age (but they’re still legitimate marriages).

          • But, Kent, according to Mormon Doctrine, failure of the physical body to bear children will be remedied in the resurrection. Thus male and female would continue in the eternities as the only viable child bearing option. So your logic cannot carry over concerning same gender pairings.

          • Michael, some legitimate marriages are for time only and have no chance of being eternal (because of previous sealings), but they’re still legitimate. Marriage has other sufficient reasons than reproduction, now or later.

            I assume you refer to Mormon doctrine, small d, and I agree about what the conventional doctrine is. Some hold out hope for further knowledge on the topic that might make room for homosexuality, though. I know that’s a long shot at best, and it strikes many as wrongheaded, but as long as the chance remains, those who feel their sexual identity as part of their essential identity, or that of their loved one, will hope.

          • Doctrine and Covenants 132:
            15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.

            16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

            17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

            A change in Mormon doctrine to include homosexuality doesn’t seem possible because of Mormon theology, as per above. It would no longer be Mormonism.

          • Yes, this needed to be included:

            Doctrine and Covenants 132:

            19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood;…shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

            As I understand it from these verses, the only pairing in eternity will be a “man” and his “wife” who are “sealed” and can have a “continuation of the seeds.” All others will “remain separately and singly…in their saved condition.”

            I don’t see how this theology can include homosexual pairing, unfortunately.

          • Susanne, it doesn’t imply anything about pairings not mentioned, if that’s what you’re getting at.

          • Kent, ok. The way I’m understanding your perspective is that the “long-shot” you described earlier is the lack of an explicit description in these scriptures regarding homosexual pairings. Am I on the right track?

          • Procreation aside, all forms of homosexuality regardless of the reasons, has always been forbidden by the Lord, it has always been an abomination, without NATURAL affection, VILE affections, Error, uncleanness,wicked, STRANGE flesh etc. They are paired as men with men and women with women leaving the natural uses. Since they are paired as same sex partners and ALWAYS referred to as unrighteous, and those that change the truth of God into a lie, I find it unlikely that they would be found in the Celestial kingdom. Homosexuality is always listed among the other grevious sins such as murder, adultry, incest. to say that the Lord would change his mind and accept this practice leaves the question of well if this one is ok now maybe in the future these other sins would also be accepted? The church will never give its blessing for the acceptance of homosexuality for to do so would go against every scripture of God concerning the practice. He does not take it lightly, it is not like a little white lie, it is a grevious sin. In the last days, it shall be as it was in the days of Lot, if you remember right, Lot lived in Sodom and the Lord destroyed it for its wickedness … Luke:17:26-30 One can mince words and try to change the meaning of scriptures but it still remains that the way to the gate is narrow and making it wider by making Gods truth a lie will not work…

          • Susanne, yes, that’s part of what those who hold out out hope for a change rely on. But as Valerie points out, there are other scriptures to deal with too, so it’s a challenge to understand how it could happen.

            Valerie, I think it’s fair to conclude as you do that scripture condemns homosexual behavior, and it appears to single it out as a particular abomination and unnatural. LDS practice emphasizes relying on experience to confirm belief. Gay LDS and their families and loved ones often don’t experience homosexuality that way. They experience it as a part of their essential nature, and not a negative one. That apparent clash of experience and authority of scripture is being met in various ways, including a lot of prayer, study and self-doubt while trying to see if the scriptures might mean something else or might be influenced by culture. Some just give up and leave (as my brother-in-law’s family has after their son came out as gay). It’s a difficult issue for those dealing with it personally.

          • Kent, I appreciate your explanations. They have helped me understand better the perspective of LDS homosexuals. The reasons for same-sex attraction are multitudinous and there is no easy answer. It is truly an extremely difficult issue for all involved on both sides.

            My puny mind, in sorting through possibilities regarding this issue, has come up with a few places it can find logical respite (although none of them comfortable):

            1. The “long-shot” to which you have alluded. This one is tough for me to feel restful about because I can’t understand why God would withhold such vital information when he has been so explicit regarding pairings otherwise. However, who am I to limit God? There’s always the unknown and the unknown unknown.

            If this is not a real option, then I feel that what’s left is:

            2. The “overcoming the natural man” option. All of us must do this. For example I, by nature and nurture, struggle with antisocial tendencies. I’m not trying to equate this with the epic battle of homosexuality but in a parallel manner I act opposite this tendency because I believe the gospel requires me to be outward reaching. It remains difficult but easier than it was, and I feel that my life and those of my family members is better than it would have been if I act according to my feelings and close myself off. Another example of “overcoming the natural man” is the experience of any faithful heterosexual husband who still has desires toward woman other than his wife but chooses not to act on those desires and to get himself away from those desires.

            3. The “Law of Sacrifice”. I chose to capitalize because this is more than just a phrase; it’s a thing – a covenant. If we feel like we are sacrificing, then we’re on the right track; it’s an essential part of Christ’s gospel. Not easy,for sure. Neither was His great and last sacrifice for us.

            4. Abstinence. There are several ways that this could play out.
            a. In looking up “exaltation” on lds.org I found a General Conference address (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/salvation-and-exaltation) in which was this statement: “In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter.” One way of thinking about this is the reference I made in an earlier post to the scripture about remaining “separately and singly…in their saved condition.” There are many mansions and degrees of glory and happiness in the heavens.
            b. The same General Conference address also stated, “We know that the Lord will judge each of us according to the desires of our hearts, as well as our works, and that the blessings of exaltation will be given to all who are worthy.” I think about this in terms of those who do not have a chance of marriage in this life, and to me it would seem to apply to homosexuals. And, to be clear, exaltation involves the “continuation of the seeds” which I can’t construe as anything other than heterosexual pairing.
            c. Not closing oneself off from the possibility of heterosexual love, as in this instance: http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-navigating-the-labyrinth-surrounding-homosexual-desire

            I know that there is nothing new or ground-breaking in my list, but this exercise has been helpful to me and I hope you will appreciate it and maybe find something of use in it. I certainly welcome your input.

            Susanne

          • My last post was very dispassionate and I must add that I feel deep sorrow for all who are struggling with this issue in any way. God bless us all!

          • Those that practice the act of homosexual behaviors fall into different categories. Those that are either evolutionists or simply claim the bible to be a made up story, thus negating any of Gods word and making his truths lies and their evil good… They then feel justified to act and behave however their desires dictate with no consequences for their actions for there is no one to answer to.
            Then there is the Christian that must try to hold out hope for God to change his mind or reinvent the interpretation of scripture to fit his lifestyle and thereby justify his acting on his desires with still no consequences for his actions.
            And then there is the peculiar LDS who first wonder, why me? Why our family? And many of them leave the church failing to recognize that this is probably the greatest trial they will face in their lifetimes. Just as we all have trials to overcome, some are worn on our sleeves and others you would never know unless they tell you. And some are yours alone to bear while others affect the whole family.
            Feelings of why would God do this to me? Or to my child? The same questions come to anyone who has a grievous trial to bear. Why does the woman who has lost 15 children in miscarriages never get to experience conception and giving life? Why is the most valiant LDS couple given a child with extreme disabilities in a wheelchair? Why did the new brides husband die on their honeymoon so much in love? What did they all do wrong? Nothing… that was their lot to bear in this lifetime. I might ask why I was born with an addictive personality trait helping me become an alcoholic at a young age. I am 49 and still to this day a scene on tv with alcohol makes my mouth water. Once an alcoholic always an alcoholic and you say no every day because just one yes and its over… Of course there are other reasons I say no now like obeying my Father in Heaven and his commandments. But I don’t’ ask why me father? Why can’t you just say ok to drinking? I’d much rather have the trial of too much money and learning how to be generous with it !! But that wasn’t my lot.
            Instead of these people with SSA and their families looking at it as a trial from God that they must endure and overcome and trust him and his timing, they try to find excuses for their behavior and for excepting it as the norm, that there is nothing wrong with it because hey, everybody is doing it. I understand some think it is a part of them and the very essence of who they are, but what do we say then to the pedophile that likes little children ? why is it illegal ? why is it wrong? They like to look at them? You and I think it is wrong, but every pedophile out there thinks it is ok.. Why would God give them those feelings if they were wrong? What is wrong with adultery? It is consenting adults? Why would God deny someone sex with whoever they wanted if it brings them joy? Why would God give a serial killer the mind that enjoys killing others?
            Just because we have feelings and desires does not make them right!! We have free agency and we have to prove we are worthy of a Zion, that we can overcome and abstain from the temptations that Satan has placed in our way. Every day in everyway he is making things harder and harder to hold to the rod. He has saved his most wicked angels for now and it has become a free for all world where if you are not open to anything and politically correct then YOU are the one that is wrong, thus making evil good and Gods truths a lie. His cleansing begins in his own house and even the very elect shall be deceived if possible..

            My point is that we don’t always know why God does what he does, or why he chooses his timing the way he does, but we so quickly loose faith in him and what he can do for us if we just believe. And we are so wanting to be OF the world as well as in the world which is where we fall into Satans trap of justifying everything with the foolish thoughts that we will somehow have no consequences for our actions.
            Faith precedes the miracle, If Jesus can raise a man from the dead then you can say that through enough prayer, fasting, blessings and temple worship that a loved one could not be set free from the trial he was given to prove himself/herself through?

          • Susanne, I appreciate the spirit of what you say. I think your analysis captures well paths many are trying to follow.

            About your point 1, many who hope for change think along the lines Michael K. Bennion explained above in relation to blacks and the priesthood, that God may withhold some things according to the readiness of the people and circumstances:

            http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/failing-the-progressive-quiz-a-response-to-dehlin/#comment-6379

            Valerie, actually having gay loved ones tends to change how people understand this, including some who felt as you do. Many Gay LDS and their loved ones both maintain faith in the Church and hope for change. That’s not unfaithful.

            Do you think sexual identity is part of who one is? Most people do. Pedophilia is plainly different from other sexuality in regards to harmfulness, and pedophiles aware of that would be happy to be rid of it. There’s no similar evidence of harm from homosexuality, thus the difference in how it’s regarded. (Adultery, killing, etc are also harmful in ways not shown for homosexuality.)

          • Kent,

            Thank you for your engagement in this conversation. It is good to be able to discuss this weighty issue, which is so fraught with emotion, in a respectful, measured and peaceful way.

            I do agree with the idea that there seems to be an interplay between circumstances and God’s revelations/actions. In my mind this principle is apparent in the narrative of the creation in Pearl of Great Price (Abraham 4: 18 And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.) Another place it seems at play is in regards to the end of the world where the timing is contingent upon humankind being “ripened in iniquity.”

            While I agree with the possible explanations Michael gave regarding blacks and polygamy, as much as I would like to, I’m not able to make the mental leap and apply this principle to the homosexual situation. I would say the main reason for this mental block is one of math (symbolically speaking): Pairing = Exaltation = God’s life = Seed = Heterosexual.

            What would a non-reproductive pair do as a God or Gods?

            That is not to say that the heavens are necessarily as simple as our current understanding leads us to imagine. On the contrary, I feel quite certain that they are complex beyond our ability to understand.

          • Susanne, celestial roles, and even reproduction/care of children, are something of a mystery from any point of view, I suppose. I can’t offer any particular ideas about the possibilities. I know some people have given it some thought, but it would have to be completely speculative.

            A good discussion, I agree.

          • Kent,

            I’m not meaning to disappear from our conversation. I haven’t had the time to give my reply the attention this topic deserves. It’s half written and I hope to post it soon.

            Susanne

          • Kent,
            I apologize for the delayed response.
            From what I can tell we see similarly the things we’ve so far discussed: We’re not willing to limit God. Whereas you are willing to bank on the possibility of the “long-shot” inherent in the unknown, I am not.
            I feel that the crux of the matter is in the answer to your question: Do you (I) think sexual identity is part of who one is? Here again, there is no black and white answer to point to. But I’d like to run my thoughts past you (and, obviously, everybody).
            (Deep breath…)
            The phrase “sexual identity” is too nebulous for the question to be answered concretely. The gist of the meaning as I understand it is:
            1. Not always related to gender [which is “part of who one is” biologically (DNA) and theologically (Proclamation on the Family)].
            2. Sometimes or in some ways related to biology.
            3. Related to one’s sexual proclivity.
            4. Related to the proclivity or proclivities one chooses to identify with.
            Point 1: Obviously gender doesn’t help define “sexual identity” because not being boxed in by one’s gender is the crux of, in this case, homosexuality.
            Point 2: Hormones play a part in sexual proclivity but are not the only, nor the main, impetus.
            Point 3: Sexual proclivities are numerous. Part of an inexhaustible list would include asexuality, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexualism, pedophilia, bestiality and an untold number of sexual fetishes.
            Point 4: The identity one chooses to embrace is based on a cocktail of the first three points and stirred with cultural norms and pressures, personal belief systems, the strength of personal commitments and many other factors.
            Assuming “who one is” is concrete, the answer to the question, “Do you think sexual identity is part of who one is?” is a qualified “no”. By this I mean, because of the number of factors involved, the dynamic nature of some of the factors, and the changeable nature of the ultimate factor – choice – “sexual identity” cannot be concrete and therefore cannot be tied to “who one is”, which is assumed to be concrete. The “no” is qualified because, in an ephemeral sense, one can say, “Under these circumstances I choose such-and-such identity”, and, in this sense, “sexual identity” is momentarily, “who one is” (although it may be a very long moment).
            The confusion inherent in “sexual identity” is not useful in policy-making or, theologically speaking, in eternal-world-making.
            Additionally:
            1. The founding principle and purpose of sex is reproduction (biologically and theologically speaking).
            2. The intimacy inherent in sexual relations also has the byproduct of helping to cement couples, the principle and purpose of which is the stability of families, from which flows “joy and rejoicing.”
            3. All else is aberration (biologically and theologically).
            Therefore, heterosexuality (categorically speaking) is the only “sexual identity” tied to this concrete founding principle and purpose.
            The reasons for aberrations (in this case same-sex-attraction) are multitudinous. They include, but are not limited to, nature, coping mechanisms and perversion. In all these cases and more, the laws of the gospel, the law of sacrifice, and the law of chastity exist, here and now, as places to place one’s hope, as opposed to, what I fret is, the misapplication of hope in some “long-shot.” Admittedly, these laws and more which constitute “the strait and narrow way,” and difficult to follow, and “few there be that find it.” However, should not the church established by God embody “the strait and narrow way?”
            I believe in the limitation of marriage to heterosexual couples for the purposes and reasons outlined above. Also, it is my belief that if governments require “equality” in marriage (although it won’t actually be total equality but just a new line), they will eventually require the church institution to extend such “equality”, which I have already described as being outside the “the strait and narrow way” that should exist in God’s church.
            There is so much more to say, but I’ve already said a lot. But I must include that I do not believe that those who struggle with sexual aberrations (at least those aberrations which, as you pointed out, do not harm), but who also feel that they cannot follow “the strait and narrow way”, should be persecuted in any way. I feel that civil unions would afford these individual the protections they need and the opportunity to live in peace. I would hope that they would also allow those that believe in a “strait and narrow way” to live in peace as well.

          • Susanne, you lay out well how complicated sexual identity is. You may be overestimating the role of choice in many cases. Other aspects of who we are are complex in similar ways. Intelligence and personality, for example, are at least as complex and hard to pin down as to what’s basic and what isn’t. But they’re part of who we are.

            Another aspect of this is relational. Same-sex couples feel the same about each other as heterosexual couples do. Like heterosexual couples. their sexuality is part of what binds them together. Like heterosexual couples with fertility issues, or who simply choose to adopt, they are also often bound together by their children.

            I don’t see any likelihood of churches being forced to perform or recognize same-sex marriage. An outside possibility would be not being eligible for tax-exempt status and other government aid, as happened with Bob Jones University with regard to racial policies. But the First Amendment protects religious practices in a strong way, and the Catholic Church and other conservative churches, which have policies similar to the LDS policy, are very powerful politically.

            I’m not among those who have high expectations for any change in the Church’s policy on this in the foreseeable future. But I’m not directly affected by it either. Those who are, and who are trying to stay on the strait and narrow, feel the need for hope more keenly, in the gospel as it is and may be.

          • Kent, I think you are naive if you don’t think churches won’t be forced to perform gay marriage within our lifetimes. There are already at least one lawsuit I am aware of in England to force the Church of England to perform gay marriages.

            http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/gay-couple-to-sue-church-of-england-for-marriage-rights/

            Based on how favorable the courts have been to gay marriage, I think it’s a foregone conclusion that in the not too far future they will force churches to perform gay marriages.

          • John, as I meant to indicate by my reference to the First Amendment, I’m talking about the US.

            In England there’s a state-established religion and no First Amendment, so things are different, but even there it’s doubtful that churches, at least non-state-sponsored ones, will be forced to marry anyone. (This is a different topic than the Church’s policy, in any case.)

      • It is no straw man that the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) advocates sex between adults and minors. Indeed, the late Allen Ginsberg, a firm believer in such a heinous principle, is now being lionized in a new feature film.
        The lines are drawn wherever someone wants to draw them, and for whatever reason. Without criminal penalties, there are virtually no limits to what people will advocate or do.

    • Kent referenced my comments about Blacks and the Priesthood in support of his idea that God waits for people to be ready before he reveals new practices. While I do subscribe to this idea, it in no way applies, in my opinion, to LGBT issues, as I cannot find any reference whatsoever to the acceptability of marriage between anyone but a man and a woman (or women).

      I also find problems with the argument that homosexuality causes no harm. 1. Based on current scriptures it would curtail eternally the ability to multiply and replenish (the 1st commandment given to Adam and Eve) 2. I affects the lives of those associated with those engaged in same gender relations and conveys the idea that what God has revealed may be set aside in favor of an evolutionary approach.

      • Michael, maybe I should have made said you don’t agree with Dehlin’s position on gay issues, but your understanding of what may have happened with the priesthood does fit his point in a general way.

        When I spoke of evidence of harm I was thinking in particular of scientific evidence of the kind that can be supplied to show the harm of pedophilia, adultery, etc. You’re right that scripture appears to imply it’s harmful.

        • I think he thinks it fits. I disagree. Again, I see no reference to same gender pairings as acceptable before the Lord, in ancient or modern scripture. As concerns the revelation on the priesthood, clearly the age and ethnic group varied over the timeline of all scripture, so we have a clear precedent. Such precedent does not exist as per se same gender marriage.

          • Michael, Dehlin’s point doesn’t require that there be precedent, only that change can come with changing circumstances, which is what your suggestions would illustrate. Not everything new has known precedents when the change is made.

          • Which, in my opinion, is one of the flaws in his argument. Would you like to provide an example of an unprecedented revelation?

          • I’m no expert on such things, but eternal marriage comes to mind, with no clear precedent and some scripture that seemed to imply there would be no marriage after death.

          • What is the definition of unprecedented? Would the change of age to 19 for women to serve missions be considered unprecedented? Would the revelation of the Law of Moses to Moses be considered unprecedented?

          • The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, in both the Old Testament and the Pearl of Great Price presupposes a marriage between Adam and Eve at a time when they were both capable of living forever in the garden. Thus this marriage would have lasted eternally. I quote from N. Eldon Tanner April 1980 General Conference Saturday Morning session:

            “Let us consider first the purpose of the creation of the earth. The scriptures make it clear that it was for no other purpose than to provide a place for the sons and daughters of God to dwell in mortality and prove themselves worthy, through keeping the commandments, to return to the presence of God from whence they came.

            “Following the creation of the earth, “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. …

            ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

            ‘And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it’ ( Gen. 1:26–28).

            “When God created woman and brought her to the man, he said:

            ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ ( Gen. 2:24).

            “Yes, marriage is ordained of God, and following that first reference to husband and wife, we find recurring scriptures as evidence that men and women became husbands and wives in marriage ceremonies followed by wedding feasts. We are not here just to ‘eat, drink, and be merry’( 2 Ne. 28:7). We have been given an earth to subdue, and instructions to multiply and replenish it. It is interesting to note that God said ‘multiply’ and not just ‘replenish’ the earth (see Gen. 1:28).

            “It is important for us to understand, as we can learn from the scriptures, that God is eternal, that his creations are eternal, and that his truths are eternal. Therefore, when he gave Eve to Adam in marriage, that union would be eternal. Marriage as ordained of God and performed in his holy temples is eternal—not just until death. In Ecclesiastes we read:”

            ‘I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever’ ( Eccl. 3:14).

            “When Christ asked Peter to tell him who he was, Peter answered, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus gave Peter the assurance that he knew this by revelation from God the Father, and that it would be upon this rock of revelation that he would build his church. Then he said, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (see Matt. 16:15–19).

            “When the Pharisees came to Jesus, tempting him, to ask about divorce, his answer included the following: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

            ‘And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

            ‘Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder’ ( Matt. 19:4–6).

            These scriptures indicate that celestial marriage, ordained by God and performed by his authority in his holy temples, is eternal, and couples so united are sealed for time and all eternity, and their children are born in the covenant of the everlasting gospel. They will be an eternal family according to their faithfulness.

          • Michael, those can be viewed as precedents, but not clear ones. They’re more a matter of looking back after a new revelation and seeing what would never have been visible otherwise. For example, without Section 132, it wouldn’t be warranted in LDS doctrine to look at Adam and Eve as intended to be married eternally, since God’s plan required they become subject to death and thus not remain together forever in the Garden. If there were a revelation that homosexuality can be good, one might equally well look back afterwards at David and Jonathan as an example of blessed homosexual love (and some do see it that way). But that wouldn’t be warranted in present LDS doctrine.

            In any case, there’s no reason in LDS doctrine to expect clear precedents in every case, as some things can be truly new, or the precedents can be lost.

          • Since the Church claims to be a restoration of all things one would expect revelation to renew many things that were lost. In terms of Priesthood and missionary callings, the ages and qualifications of those called has varied throughout the history of the church from Old Testament times until now. So changing the age that qualifies to serve is hardly unprecedented. Neither is the concept of God dealing with his church based upon their willingness to keep his commandments. The reason for the Law of Moses had to do with the rejection of the higher law. Since Israel was not ready, God tailored his revelation to their level.

  4. I was unaware of the revelations regarding oral sex and contraceptives. My understanding of these things is that they in general not good, but it is not meet for the Lord to command in all things.

    • The Lord through his prophets have long encouraged the peoples of the earth to control their passions and desires. HPV wasn’t discovered until the 1950′s and greater knowledge and understanding about the virus not until the 70′s. Michael Douglas has a new understanding of that prophetic advice. Yet, we are free to choose for ourselves and learn for ourselves the consequences of our actions.

    • I inquired about this in the 1980′s and was told that what we do in the bedroom is between us and the Lord, as long as both partners agree to it and it is not illegal, ie. sodomy! That the reason the “law” was ever in place was because there were men that demanded it of their wives and their wives did not like performing this for them.

  5. Alas, since (at least) the 1960′s, “activists” and “progressives” have suffered under the delusion that their moral imperative is achieved by protest and challenging the ossified Powers That Be. Unfortunately, that “moral imperative” seems to revolve around (forgive me, but I know of no other way to phrase it), the Genital Liberation Front.
    Also unfortunately, and as I recall all too well, the protest consists mainly of throwing a tantrum in a public place, the like of which a toddler would be ashamed.
    Actually, the assumption of moral superiority (don’t you believe in *freedom*?) is rather annoying. Ditto for likening the feminist claim to be granted the priesthood (Mormon or Catholic), as equivalent to the Civil Rights movement, which trivializes the civil rights struggle without elevating the desires of the feminist brigades.
    In sum, the “moral imperative”, is not Moral in any sense, but is simply another iteration of the thought “I want, therefore you must give.”. As I told a person some years ago who cried, rather shrilly, “I Have A Right To Be Heard!”, “No, you do not. You have a right to speak, but no one is obligated to listen. Christ did not die and put YOU in charge.”

  6. John, to answer your questions:

    1 — BCC is the acronym for the blog “By Common Consent”
    2 — “Oaks Fail” is what John Dehlin put up on his public facebook feed after Elder Oaks’ talk in Conference.

  7. “and don’t realize that barking doesn’t cause anything.”

    Well, it does cause a loss of the spirit and the ability to discern looking forward. It causes them to loose some of the precious light they have already received. And those two things explain pretty clearly why they continue to grope about in the dark not understanding why others are so bigoted and presuming that whatever their uninspired feelings are what God desires.

  8. Ralph,

    Upon reading your response, I was a little bit challenged if you had really answered John’s initial premise (i.e., does revelation ever occur from people asking questions of the leaders?). Given the examples, I would assume you would agree. But if you do, it did not come out very clearly in your response.

    I think for a productive conversation in the direction you would like to take it, it would probably be nice if you at least acknowledged the initial premise before moving the conversation on further.

    Thanks for your consideration in being more clear.

  9. Ralph,

    What about Dehlins # 5? Where the church has gone through several different responses to gay members of the church. From having same sex attraction is a sin, to marry and it will go away, etc. To today where the church is saying it is ok to be gay as long as you live the law of chastity. Why did the church go through all of these iterations on the gay issue? If the bretheren were receiving revelation on this issue why go through all of the iterations, shouldn’t the original revelation be the position the church has today?

    It almost seems like the church is going through trial and error on this issue, throw something out there and see if it works. “Woops I guess having gays getting married in a traditional marriage doesn’t work, let’s try something else.” If they were actually receiving revelation you would think they would get it right from the beginning.

    • I may be splitting hairs, but I cannot recall any Church authority saying “It’s okay to be gay.” What I have heard is that people need not feel condemned simply for feeling same-sex attractions, but rather only for acting on them. For people who feel or have felt SSA and yet “earnestly strive” to keep the commandments and their covenants, that is welcom relief. Hardly, though, a license.

    • Mike,
      I think you might be mistaking revelations for local practices and advice. I don’t remember revelations or official church positions on most of what you stated. The only official church position I have known is that it is a sin to act on homosexual tendencies. Did the church ever hold the position that gays should just get married and it will go away? Or was that the bad advice from members and some leaders?

    • john on October 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm said:
      “get it right from the beginning”
      Wouldn’t that negate the continuing revelation and “line upon line”?

      So what you are saying is in the 1950′s it was a sin to have same sex attraction, but today it is not a sin? I don’t believe that.

      • Why? Polygamy is currently a sin, but it didn’t used to be. It seems that via revelation God can change what is and is not sin. I don’t think this means God has changed, but He is adapting things to the current situation.

        • John, I think you need to consider the difference between principles and practices. Jacob, in the Book of Mormon quotes the Lord as stating that Polygamy is not authorized unless he needed “to raise up seed unto himself” otherwise it would not be authorized. So throughout the history of God’s dealings there have been times when polygamy was authorized and times when it was prohibited. If you can show me that any other option than marriage between a man and a woman, (or women) has been authorized then you might be able to make your point.

  10. I went back and read Elder Oaks’ remarks (even a few hours later, alas, I could not recall what exactly he had said). If I understand what he was saying, in the spirit in which it was given, he was makingthe point that there are certain standards which are considered normative in the church (or, in any other church), which are not negociable or up for modification regardless of the surrounding culture’s norms. By the reasoning of some people, if society practices exposing deformed infants on hillsides (as did the ancient Greeks), then the LDS leadership should have a revelatin to match what is “normal” in society.
    These standards are matters of church norms, not to be imposed on outsiders, but to be followed by insiders. If there are no norms for church members, you don’t have a church, just a real-estate holding company which accepts donations and gives advice which you may follow or not. (And that is much of what happened to the mainstream Christian churches in the USA in the last century,IMHO.)
    Upon due consideration, I must protest the assumption that membership in a church does not require following the norms. This asumption follows upon the assumption that individual freedom trumps social cohesivehess, and that whatever at all an individual desires must be good (and, therefore, allowed and even required — to be furnished by the other memebrs of society.) That is a rather stupid set of assumptions. I protest them.

  11. There is another way to view the provenance of the 1978 revelation: revelations sometimes come from the members’/leaders’ readiness to receive them. I once asked my bishop if he regarded the black revelation as a blessing? He said “Of course!” I then asked him what law we had obeyed to trigger the revelation since all blessings are predicated upon obedience to law? He shrugged, and I said it was in response to members/leaders more fully obeying The Second Great Commandment — truly loving others (in this instance our Afro-American brothers) as ourselves. In 1954 then-President McKay approached the Lord about the practice of denying blacks the priesthood and he essentially was told it wasn’t time to end it. Although President McKay didn’t elaborate on the Lord’s reasoning, I postulate that the Church members/leaders were not really ready to love their black brethren, hence the uninspired practice was allowed to continue and the blessing withheld. Over the next 24 years, however, members’/leaders’ hearts softened and they began to pray for new light and knowledge. This attitudinal metamorphosis was hastened, no doubt, by the civil rights movement and the worldwide opprobrium the church was enduring over the practice. Some may remember the palpable joy we all felt when the revelation was announced — happiness for our Afro-American brothers and relief that the the practice had been discarded.
    The Lord does not force us to live the Second Commandment, but he withholds attendant blessings. We’re in a similar situation today with regard to women and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. When we truly love them as ourselves — and want them to share the joys of holding the priesthood and marriage equality — then new revelation will come and new blessings will be poured out upon us.
    With regard to Elder Oaks’ belief that gay marriage will always be “immoral,” we should remember that the Apostle Peter resisted the Lord’s directive to take the gospel to the Gentiles. It took a dream in which the Lord said, “Peter, don’t tell me what’s moral or immoral — just obey the Second Commandment and love the Gentiles!” He had to repent and accept the possibility of new direction, just as Elder McConkie had to acknowledge that “everything” preached or written about the “Negro Doctrine” prior to the 1978 revelation was “wrong.”
    I sometimes am faced with a trap question: Do you think women SHOULD have the priesthood? It’s phrased in a way to put me in the position of “counseling the brethren.” My response is: “I support the brethren and recognize that we’re all trying to love our neighbors more fully. However, I would consider empowering my sisters a great blessing.”

    • One might rather suggest that when we love them as we love ourselves, we will want for them the joy of keeping the commandments that God has given to allow them the greatest happiness they can receive. It does not necessarily follow that the greatest happiness comes from changing commandments about sexual relations to conform to societal norms.

      The equation of gay rights to civil rights or to the gentiles receiving the priesthood strains credibility. Those blacks of African descent as well as the Gentiles who received the priesthood, expected to keep the moral standards commensurate with their new calling and responsibility. As clearly indicated by Elder Oaks, this constitutes a moral issue, not a civil rights issue. Gay couples may marry freely in our present society. They may not live that life style as temple recommend holders. This will not change. That has nothing to do with my love for them or in any way suggests that I hate or denigrate them. My love consists of desiring that they keep the commandments to find the greater joy.

      • Those certainly are well reasoned statements, but I shudder when anyone — you, Elder Oaks, or Elder McConkie — presumes to pronounce “that will not change,” thereby tying God’s hands. As I said, the Apostle Peter believed the gospel would never go to the Gentiles — “that will not change.” He believed eating certain foods was wrong and a moral issue — “that will not change.” But change it did because God determined what was edible and moral, despite centuries of pronouncements that “that will not change.” I’m sure many General Authorities were forced to rethink long-held beliefs when the Lord looked at the Negro Doctrine/practice and said “that will change!” My definition of loving women and gays is to want them to have every blessing and opportunity I have in the gospel, whether it’s holding the priesthood or enjoying a loving, committed Church-sanctioned marriage. When sufficient numbers of leaders/ members pray for a change, it will come — along with the attendant blessings.

        • Shudder away. I recall as a young man being taught that the day would come when blacks of African descent would hold the priesthood, and I believe that you mis-characterize Peter’s understanding, considering that Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world. As to polygamy, there were times when God authorized it and times when he forbade it. I have, however, found no place in the scriptures or in Mormon doctrine that suggests that anything beside marriage between a man and a woman will ever be acceptable before the Lord.

          • Please re-read Acts 10, and you see that I have not mischaracterized Peter’s attitudes. Despite the command to take the gospel to all the world, Peter had to be admonished by The Lord to minister the Gentiles. This chapter makes several points: 1) Even an apostle can fail to understand a commandment — Elder McConkie wasn’t alone 2) Circumcision — like other practices (limiting priesthood to white males) — could be changed by the Great Lawgiver when times demanded it and 3) The Lord responds to the prayers of the righteous faithful in establishing Church practices.
            Who knows — maybe Elder Oaks will receive his version of Peter’s dream with regards to gay marriage.

          • To quote Ralph C. Hancock:
            “The danger of the New Liberalism is that it is not merely a political doctrine in the practical, institutional sense; it tends increasingly, rather, to insinuate itself as a comprehensive understanding of morality and of the meaning of human existence. It presents itself as a rival to our most basic moral and religious principles, and so, if accepted uncritically, it tends to undermine, often subtly and quietly at first, Latter-day Saints’ convictions concerning moral norms governing sexuality and the family.”

            “It is no accident that increasing numbers of young Latter-day Saints, in particular, find themselves being convinced that to be truly moral in today’s world is to be “tolerant,” “accepting,” and “compassionate,” which the New Liberalism has redefined to mean: every person is entitled to define right and wrong for himself or herself, and God would not have us “impose our values.” But this redefinition is based on the New Liberalism’s own assumed highest value of “self-expression,” or the freedom to define good and evil for oneself. To accept the New Liberalism as somehow “rational” or “progressive” and thus beyond questioning is a grave error, and one that is eroding moral structures without which a good life is impossible, not to mention a life worthy of a Latter-day Saint.”

  12. I’m not a fan of the line of the reasoning behind Dehlin’s quiz, and I find the title of his FB post (“Oak Fails”) to be somewhat offensive. Unfortunately, I think the response here is just as unhelpful. Aside from framing the issue unnecessarily in a political context, I think it focuses on the wrong aspect of the discussion.

    Given our views on creation, I don’t think we should advance a doctrine of revelation ex nihilo simply as a tactic to counter John. Mostly because it’s not accurate. From Joseph’s First Vision, to family prayer, to running our wards and stakes, we ask for divine guidance based on the trials of the day. Stimulus, guidance, response. Almost every section of the D&C is exhibit A for seeking guidance based on internal and external stimuli to the nascent Church. In fact, all of the examples offered in this blog as revelation free from stimuli or derivation are actually good examples of the opposite. President Lee’s implementation of correlation as a solution to specific issues is well documented in several sources.

    The hymn I sing on a Sunday that profoundly inspires me may be Shaker or Methodist in origin, the OT passages I read in Sunday School may have been patterned after Hittite treaties, the temples I attend were anciently patterned after Canaanite models, and when I make sacred covenants that I believe are binding and effective, I do so through participation in a ceremony that is related in some way — the extent of which is tirelessly debated — to Masonic rituals. But I believe that all of these are the product of divine revelation that used ‘ideas unorganized’ (as opposed to revelation ex nihilo) to reveal and restore sacred truths to meet the specific needs of Saints in specific times. Contra what is advanced in this blog, revelation unencumbered from its Sitz im Leben as a catalyst is not the rule while revelation in response to stimuli is the exception.

    The best response to Dehlin is to focus on the process of how this pattern of revelation in response to stimulus works in the kingdom, what part we as Saints play in it, and how we interact with those we sustain as leaders with priesthood keys. While Church leaders at all levels will see and consider both internal and external stimuli, when (if ever) is it appropriate for members who should be following the internal process of requesting guidance and clarification to abandon that process in favor of adopting the methods of outside sources? In response to the question about why he is agitating in the manner he does (a concern about the *process* he is using as a member), Dehlin responds with a quiz about how agitation can be a catalyst for revelation. But that’s not the point. We understand how outside stimuli might work, but it is jarring when we see members adopting these methods. Is it appropriate? If so, why or why not? That is where the real discussion lies.

    Joey Green

  13. Joey needs to read a little more carefully. Nowhere did I state or imply anything like an ex nihilo creation, or a corresponding form of revelation. In fact, you will notice that I lead with an appreciation of how revelation responds to the facts on the ground. For example: correlation. The point of the correlation example was not that it came out of the clear blue sky, without any humanly perceived need or purpose (what would that even mean?), but that the case does not fit Dehlin’s progressive narrative, and so is not included on his progressive list of “moves forward.” Is that “political”? Well, excuse me. The challenges we face have an explicitly, obviously, flagrantly political dimension.

    • Joey certainly needs to do a lot of things better, my brother. And Joey doesn’t propose to second guess the author’s intent, since the first guess apparently went awry.

      But this should not be a political issue at all. Not any more than Snuffer’s concern that the Church has given in to progressivism, or those who want to fine tune the Church’s stance on immigration, or those who advocate for the Church to follow the current trend against any exceptions for abortion, or those who don’t understand why the Church wouldn’t want guns in chapels, etc. In the end, the issue of members wanting the Church to adopt certain political leanings is not about the political leanings themselves as much as it is about how we as Saints take whatever these issues are to our file leaders and ask for guidance and revelation about how we merge our faith with our responsibilities in the public square. For you to target a specific ideology as the problem in this way only makes you part of the same problem as the issue you perceive with Dehlin — wanting to remake the Church in your own political image.

      Regards,

      Joey Green

  14. The single biggest problem with the church is the substitution of inspiration which is more man than God for revelation which is more God than man resulting in it becoming reactive in place of proactive.

  15. We are suppose to make his will our will, his ways our ways, be in the world, not of the world. Members are trying to change Gods mind or will to conform to their ways, to remove guilt and accountability from their actions. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His basic statutes are NOT changeable. Murder is and always will be a sin. Taking the Lords name in vain is a sin and always will be. Homosexuality has ALWAYS been a sin and always will be. Not once has God ever instituted Homosexuality even for a remote second. It has ALWAYS been an abomination, a sin and unnatural, and it ALWAYS will be. It is against the very nature or life and procreation, without which there would be no more life? As much as homosexuals would like to have hope that their lifestyle would be accepted by the Lord, it will not. Everyone is born with a challenge or struggle they must strive every day to overcome and keep control of whether it is homosexual feelings, pornography, alcoholism, pedofilia, adultery, hatred whatever? etc etc. Just because you have these feelings does not mean they are right or “natural” or that anyone should conform to them. The church says to be accepting of ALL and love everyone, that is in hopes of changing the sinners and sins being committed, and not pushing them away or out of the church. NOT that there sinful ways will later be accepted as the norm by the church or the Lord. Scripture after scripture confirms the Lords unacceptance of unnatural affection. And scriptures confirm the art of self mastery and rule over his own spirit, abstaining.
    3 Ne 24:6 For I am the Lord, I change not. Morm 9:9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing.
    Homosexuality is as evil as beastiality. Whole nations such as Sodom and Gomorrah have been destroyed for their sinful lifestyles. Lev 18: 22-25 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
    By your logic that God could change his heart and accept this unnatural affection of homosexuality, we could assume also then that he would come to accept adultery, beastiality and incest. Even though all of these are considered “ wrought with confussion” and abominations. Lev 20: 10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
    It is pretty straight forward that a sodomite shall not be a son of Israel. Deut 23: 17- Moses specifies those who may and may not enter the congregation. There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
    Gen 18:20 And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
    Deut 32: 32 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:
    1 Corin 6: 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
    Gen 19:1-11 Lot entertains holy men—The men of Sodom seek to abuse Lot’s guests and are smitten with blindness. They desire to “Know” him. Lot is so upset he offers up his daughters to be taken by these vile men rather than have them have their way with his holy guests. Again in Jude, Homosexual behavior is called Strange flesh! Jude 1:7 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
    I can’t help but wonder how you think God could list so many evils, sins and abominations and include homosexuality in all of them, yet you expect him to pick homosexuality out of the group and say well I changed my mind, it’s ok to be unnatural?
    Romans 1:24- 32 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
    And we are told that in the last days Sodom returns to the people as in the days of old, yet it is still a sin just as it was and has always been. 2 Timothy 3:1-3 Paul describes the apostasy and perilous times of the last days—The scriptures guide man to salvation. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
    Isaiah tells us that they do not hide it, but declare it rewarding evil unto themselves, just as today, they declare their sin with “pride”. Isaiah 3: 8-11 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory. The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves. Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
    Gen 13:13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.
    Deut 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.
    So scripture tells us that this sin of homosexuality is “an abomination, defiled, wrought with confusion, iniquity, vomiteth, very grievous sin, bitter, unrighteous, abusers of themselves, strange flesh, uncleanness, dishonor their own bodies, vile affections, men with men working that which is unseemly, error, worthy of death, wicked, having pleasures in them that do them, without natural affection, lovers of pleasure more than God. ” I would hope one would search the scriptures for self mastery and deliverance from evil in their quest to try to live as God has commanded, and not revile against the truth As 2 Nephi says: 9: 38-40 And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins. O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal. O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.
    Either we are followers of God, his Prophet and his commandments or we are followers of the corrupt one and make truth into lies and evil into good….

  16. Kent said here on Oct 17, 2013,
    “If there were a revelation that homosexuality can be good, one might equally well look back afterwards at David and Jonathan as an example of blessed homosexual love (and some do see it that way).”

    Biblical scholars do not interpret that as a homosexual relationship, lest all close friendships among men be tainted with the “Broke Back Mountain” syndrome. It is already bad enough that men are no longer permitted to put an arm over a buddy’s shoulder, or even allowed to show affection for their sons — without someone suspecting homosexuality or pedophilia. How sad.

    • Biblical scholars don’t typically interpret Adam and Eve as eternally married either. But in the light of a new revelation things are reinterpreted. (If it’s not clear what I’m getting at, the context for this is above where the quote from me is taken from.)

      • Yet you have not shown how any new revelation in Mormon scripture or Apostolic statement has leaned in the direction of “reinterpreting” same gender attraction from the strong proscriptions of both the Old and the New Testament. On the other hand. Modern revelation has added to our understanding of Adam and Eve, as well as their relationship with the Lord and with each other.

          • You need to go back and look at the supporting evidence (Old and New Testament scriptures) provided by Elder Tanner. Then you need to show that any such evidence exists for same gender issues. There is precedent for eternal marriage between man and woman. There is none for same gender marriage.

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