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10/11/10

even though nobody asked.

Like a lot of people, I was upset at Elder Packer's conference talk. But, like a lot of people, I was comforted when the talk was changed to reflect the church's previously stated stance on homosexuality. (link HERE).

It did not comfort me because I am satisfied with the LDS Church's position on homosexuality. I could lie and say that I was, but again, I would be lying.

I was comforted because changing a General Conference talk shows that the LDS church is willing to change, and to correct error. Right now, it is a few words in a very complex talk, given by the person next in line to lead the church. A complex talk because I agree with him on the nature of the atonement. I believe God is always there and willing to forgive. I do not, however, believe that people choose to be Gay. After all, I did not choose to be straight.

I also believe in prophets. I believe in prophets who listen to God's voice, but have to listen just like the rest of us. Who may struggle to hear that voice amidst louder voices. The louder voices of personal bias, cultural upbringing, and fear. Sometimes those voices drown out other voices, even if that voice is God. Even if you are the prophet.

This makes being Mormon extremely difficult for me. It would be easier if I could simply believe that everything said in General Conference was direct revelation from God.

It would be easier for me if I could believe they were all lunatics.

But I don't.


What I do believe is that the church can change. We can recognize errors, fix them, and progress. It is an agonizingly slow process. Change in the church is like the child who slowly peels off a band aid. There are times I want to rip off the huge band aid of being Mormon, because watching it peel back hurts so much.

But for whatever reason. I'm still here. Forcing myself to listen and pray every time I hear something that does not sound right. Every time I question, and yes, every time I doubt.

If I have learned anything from Elder Packer's talk, I have learned that I am the only one responsible for my testimony. I cannot rely on one man to determine my relationship with God. I can only listen and hope to hear God's voice. Sometimes he speaks through someone else, sometimes he speaks through the scriptures, and sometimes he speaks to me. Because he loves me.

So no, I am not satisfied with the LDS Church on many of their positions. But this is the church where I learned to pray, where I learned to listen, and where I learned I am a Child of God.

For now, that is enough.

41 comments:

NIKOL said...

I really appreciate this post. It sums up so much of the same feelings I have. Thank you. I mean that sincerely.

The Boob Nazi said...

You're a horrible, terrible person.

(I just thought I'd give you an angry comment in lieu of all the other real angry comments you probably receive.)

P-Cute said...

Really well put. My favorite part was:
"I can only listen and hope to hear God's voice. Sometimes he speaks through someone else, sometimes he speaks through the scriptures, and sometimes he speaks to me."

Who would have thought being a Mormon in 2010 would be like this.

Audrey said...

Amen.

robocop said...

Very well written. I just might have to steal this (but I won't). Thank you.

Hillary said...

This encapsulates so much of how I feel about the church. There are lots of things I don't like or disagree with, so what it comes down to is my personal relationship with God. Nothing else, not even words from an apostle, really matters.

Natalie | The Bobby Pin said...

amen sister. I hear you on a lot of those points.

I keep going back to "OK, so I know Joseph Smith's story is true... I know the Book of Mormon is true... so I am Mormon, but why don't I feel so gung ho about this talk?"

I struggle, but then I go back to "OK, so Joseph Smith story, Book of Mormon, got it."

And I come to the conclusion that its OK to not agree with everything said. I am Mormon, I got the basics.

Steven and Wendy OBryant said...

I don't know that I agree too much with you Steph, but thankfully we're all entitled to our own feelings and opinions. And I always appreciate a well written post from somebody who I really admire in life (you). xo

Kyle said...

As a gay man who (occasionally) reads your blog, thank you for saying this. I didn't "ask" to be gay, and it wasn't a choice (as many people have said, who would choose this?). It's great to know there are mormons in the church who don't agree with all of the leadership's beliefs, and believe that the church can change in a positive way. Thank you again.

mommy dearest said...

Thank you Steph.

Lisa Louise said...

perfectly stated Steep. You just put into words a lot of what I have been feeling lately.

Natalia said...

I love the church and I love the leaders of the church, but I wish they could just understand how their words often simply add fuel to the fire. I hear members saying so many despicable hateful things and feel completely justified in doing so because of what they perceive to be the brethren's stance. Yet where is the message of tolerance, understanding, and Christlike love for all?

Linds said...

Great post. Indeed those that are gay don't chose to be. I missed the talk (and am kind of glad I did because it probably would have rubbed me the wrong way.) I will probably get hateful comments from this, but I'll say it- I look at it as a trial. We all have trials for me it's depression... for my eldest daughter it's autism... for my brother it's being PAINFULLY shy. You get the point- we all have some cross we may have to bear as we go through our lives.

Nookleerman said...

So it's not a choice? Then I'm confused, because I hear vitrol and disgust when anyone suggests it's inherent or genetic, akin to some sort of disorder. What I wouldn't give to have someone come out and say, with some sort of certainty, what causes homosexual tendencies. The vacillation and inconstancy of the LGBT position makes it imposible to have a meaningful discussion about it, which only adds fuel to the fire.

As for the talk in question, I took from it (whether he meant it or not) that the acts performed by members of the community are done so by choice. Regardless of how we feel about them, God has said in no uncertain terms that they are sins. Regardless of whether or not homosexuality is a choice, acting on those feelings is a choice, just like the husband who looks at porn or the child who engages in pre-marital sex.

I love gay people and I feel such pity for the members of our church that are faced with such a choice. But to be honest, I don't think that people outside the church have any reason to be upset with our leaders. Their address was to those members who are faced with the choice and choose to turn away from God. If other members are taking that talk and twisting it to attack the entire LGBT community, your beef should be with them.

Of course all of this is based on my interpretation of the talk, so if I've interpreted it wrong all my crap flies right out the window.

Cynthia said...

Thank you and Amen.

Hillary said...

Just my two cents, my I think a lot of problems and misunderstandings come from people comparing homosexuality to pedophilia or a pornography addiction, which it simply is not. I think that for most people, sexuality is not a choice. I did not choose to be straight any more than someone else chose to be gay. But just because you are "born that way" doesn't make it a disorder. Are your eye color, skin color, hair color, height, weight all disorders? Is homosexuality "unnatural" when it is often seen in nature?

What it comes down to, for me, is that I cannot imagine telling someone that he or she is not entitled to the same happy, fulfilling life I am just because happened to choose the right gender for my life partner and he/she did not. To expect people to go throughout their lives without one of the most basic forms of human companionship--a loving, committed, monogamous adult relationship (with, yes, sex) is not only cruel, but also unrealistic.

HeatherB said...

Thank you for this post. You articulated so much of what I have been feeling about this issue.

Nicole said...

Amen. And I am so glad you posted this, not just because of what YOU said, but because I get to read how many other people agree. Hubby and I were both squirming through that whole talk and feel just like you do on this issue.

Alycia (Crowley Party) said...

You would love an institute teacher I had here up at the U. He was so realistic and i loved it. A lot of people didn't like him for it, but he gave an amazing lesson on how the church has had to go through and change talks that apostles have given before because they are putting their own opinion into it. No one is perfect we are all human, and we can all change. gosh I think we could have a lot of great conversations haha

SammyStewart said...

Nookleerman stated things very well. I remember President Hinckley refusing to engage in whether or not homosexuality was a question of nature or nurture. Nature and/or nurture can make people want to be pedophiles, wildly promiscuous, adulterous, gay, or just chronically single.

The law of chastity with its far-reaching consequences for good or evil, applies to everyone--married and single, gay and straight. There are hundreds of ways this law can be violated, and hundreds of ways we can change to more fully live this law.

The Lord "giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he prepare a way that they should accomplish the things which he hath commanded them." For some, that does mean a life of celibacy. For others, it means a perpetual struggle with every scantily clad woman he or she sees. For everyone, it means the opportunity for blessings and growth.

President Packer may have spoken one or two words out of opinion or culture, but I seriously doubt that a man of his faith and understanding would speak out of fear. Refusal to validate behavior that you understand to be destructive is an act of love, bravery, and compassion, not bigotry or fear.

Brian said...

Here are my abbreviated thoughts,
I agree with President Packer's unedited talk 100%.
I agree with you maybe 5%...which might be pushing it.
I won't post my reasons here, but maybe when we see each other we can have a friendly discourse upon the issue.
From Brian

CaLLie.ANN said...

LOVE this.

You're amazing.
and this post is amazing.

And...you should be a prophet.

:)

TheOneTrueSue said...

"The vacillation and inconstancy of the LGBT position makes it imposible to have a meaningful discussion about it"

You could say the same about the church's position.

Great post Stephanie. I agree with every word.

I believe the church has been on the wrong side of almost every major social issue over the last 100 years. We belong to a church governed by elderly men, who bring their own cultural biases with them to the position, making change extremely slow. Even among the twelve, there are often fierce disagreements about social policy. Reading David O. McKay's biography was an eye opener.

I really struggle with how we treat gay people. But like you, I'm not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The church is my spiritual home. I just wish it was a more hospitable place for all of God's children.

Cynthia said...

What are your thoughts on the press release in response to the HRC Petition? I know that I have found some peace (not a 100% by any means) from the statement.

Lauren & the gang said...

I came across this from an old friend who posted this on Facebook. I read a few of the comments as well. I feel strongly at I must comment. I am DEEPLY saddened...deeply. Clearly you many others are unsure of your testimony. The wonderful thing about this gospel is that can find out for ourselves if anything is true. If you have a testimony of Jesus Christ, of the scriptures, of Joseph Smith, of the Book of Mormon, and especially of a living prophet today who isguided by our Heavenly father for us than you KNOW that this church and its teachings are true. You must find out for yourself, as we are taught in the scriptures, if we do in fact havea true and living prophet with apostles that are all led by God. What Pres. Packer said is NOT new at all, nor is it extreme. We have known for a long time that everyone has challenegs and inclinations that they must face in this life. We know that if one has certain feelings towards the same gender, they can still be members of this church and must not act on those feelings, as God has told us is not His plan. This is not new. Those who talk about not agreeing with the "leadership's beliefs" not understand. We have the same beliefs, and our leaders teach the doctrine and beliefs as God has given us in the scriptures and through revelation. It all comes down to having a tesimony of revelation (from God through a Living prophet for the church as a whole as well as personal revelation for you), the truthfulness of this church, and prayer. As long as you aheva testimony of the prophet, know that he & his apostels will never lead us astray. Get a testimony and do what the Lord has tauhgt (stay good, read your scriptures, keep your relationship with God, and that will keep the spirit with you and help you to know what is truth and not. there isn't partial truth in the scriptures, or partial truth in what the prophet & apostles say. Either the gospel taugh by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true, wonderful, whole, complete, or else it is a completely wonderful lie. There is no in between. Ether Joseph SMith saw a vision, or he lied, but YOU have to find that out for yourself. With all that said, I do not follow blindly. I ask God if these things are true. I can tell you, because I felt the spirit so strongly, that we have a Living prophet who leads and guides us today and who is led and guided by God. I know that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the sacred Grove. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that He knows and loves us more than we could dream. I know that if we do what teh Lord has taught us, we wll know joy and live with Him again. I cannot doubt these things, no matter what life brings. I pray that you and those others who feel the same will be able to have that sam knowledge and joy that I know and feel. I wouldn't do this a blog comment, but because this is so sacred to me, I know I must say that I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Stephanie said...

Lauren-

To respond to you is futile, but I do it anyway. Clearly you have already decided that me, and others who have posted here, are not as strong as you. I hope that gives you comfort.

To assume you know the contents of my heart, after reading one post, is the height of hubris. You do not know me, my relationship with God, or the nature of my revelations. Last time I checked, God did not give you insights into my heart, nor do you have stewardship over me to recieve any such revelation.

I am just as entitled to personal revelation as you. I would never tell you that because I disagree with what you said that you must have got the wrong message, and that your testimony is faulty.

You have implied that I do not pray, that I did not ask to know if what I hear and learn is true, and that I am somehow less faithful than you.

That is unkind and unchristlike. You are not called to judge me.

I appreciate your testimony, but I do not need to prove to you, or anyone else, what I believe and know to be true.


I believe in prophets, Heavenly Father, and the Savior. I said that in my post, and I repeat it to you now.

Krista said...

Stephanie,

You are so insightful and I really wish I knew you in real life. Thank you for your amazing post and tactful comments. I want to address "Lauren & the gang" too.

Hi "Lauren & the Gang,"

First off, good for you for feeling compelled to stand up for your beliefs.

Second, the relevancy of your comment to the post seems to be, to me, your statement "What Pres. Packer said is NOT new at all, nor is it extreme." Unfortunately, his talk, as it was delivered, caused many to think that this information was either new and/or extreme. If you go to the LDS Newsroom page on Same-Gender Attraction
(http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/official-statement/same-gender-attraction) you'll find that the Church's official statement on nature vs. nurture is there is no official statement. As a sociologist studying rhetoric in social movements, I can wholly understand why individuals would be confused about President Packer's inclusion of the words "inborn," "preset," and "tendencies," as these are all words that, in the LGBT social movement, signal a comment on the nature vs. nurture debate. I appreciate the changes Packer made to clarify his intent. I also appreciate the Church PR statement yesterday. I suggest you read it, as it focuses on love, kindness, and respect. I can only assume that you intended to be respectful in your comment, but it is absolutely not lending itself to be interpreted that way. You come across very patronizing and condescending, especially in your dogged assertion that Stephanie is void of the Spirit and a testimony.

When we understand context (not just the context of the talk, but the context of the social movement), it helps us to understand social issues from other perspectives. With that understanding, we can have a dialog that addresses different perspectives instead of talking past them with red herrings. Just because we discuss these issues doesn't mean we aren't "searching, pondering, and praying" (for me, discussion and debate is a form of searching). Just because we're confused or concerned doesn't mean we don't respect President Packer and that we need a Facebook page about loving him. If we understood each other, we wouldn't create these false dichotomies.

In other words, understanding breeds respect, which our Church leaders specifically called on us this week to cultivate.

Thanks again for everyone's willingness to join the dialog.

Stephanie said...

Krista

Thank you for being so kind in your response. To both me, and Lauren.

MamaBear said...

i want to say nasty things to lauren, but that would hurt other people too. so i won't.

but i left "the church" a long time ago, not over GBL issues but others. if i go further into than that i can't stop myself saying hurtful things, so i avoid debate.

my brother recently DID leave over these issues. we're both straight but we both love people who aren't. all of them.

kudos on being fair, and kind. these matter far more to me than what church you follow. and i do believe that doing good, being fair and kind, is always right, regardless of your church or sexual orientation.

TheOneTrueSue said...

Actually Lauren, it does represent a shift - in tone and in content. If you read talks recently given by Elder Oaks and other apostles, there are major differences between what President Packer said and what the rest of the apostles and our leaders have been saying.

Our leaders do change the way they treat certain social issues - race, presiding in marriage, polygamy, and yes, homosexuality. To deny this is to deny the color of the sky. Go read old conference talks that mention race. Go read Mormon Doctrine. There have been shifts, and there will continue to be shifts because our leaders are human. President Packer is almost 90 years old. His outlook is different than that of Elder Holland and his contemporaries. President Packer has always, always been one of our most socially conservative apostles. If you'd read any of his books or talks, and compared them to Elder Holland's or Elder Oaks or - well - MOST of the other apostles, you would know this. To claim otherwise is just ludicrous and shows that YOU are the one who is not listening to your leaders.

Even amongst the twelve, there are major differences in thought, tone, and perspective. During the controversy over giving African-American members the priesthood, they literally fought with each other about what ought to be done. God put twelve of them there for a reason - I suspect partly to balance each other out.

I not only pray about these issues, I study what our leaders have said in the past, and what they say today. And I'd remind you - President Packer is not the prophet.

Please do not confuse our failure to arrive at the same conclusion you have arrived at, with a failure of the spirit. You have no right to make that kind of judgment.

TheOneTrueSue said...

One more comment and then I will let it go...

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, "The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom…"

Apostle Mark E. Petersen said, "LDS Apostle Mark E. Petersen asked, and answered, the following hypothetical question: "If I were to marry a Negro woman and have children by her, my children would all be cursed as to the priesthood. Do I want my children cursed as to the priesthood? If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I have read to you, they receive the curse. There isn't any argument, therefore, as to inter-marriage with the Negro, is there?"

Prophet Brigham Young said, "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so" (Journal of Discourses, 10:110).

There are many, many similar quotes, but you get the idea.

Now I ask you. Do you feel think when they said these things, they were speaking for Heavenly Father? Do you think Heavenly Father agreed with these sentiments? Do you think these comments made Him happy?

Or do you think perhaps, despite their calling, they were imperfect men who were still capable of flawed thinking and ideas based on the prevalent thinking of their time? They may have been called of God to serve in a calling, but this didn't prevent them from being flawed and biased.

Do you think for a moment that President Monson would condone any of those statements about african american members?

Of course not.

Our leaders are human, and they have biases that they sometimes justify with doctrine.

Prophets have been human throughout the history of the bible. God needed them anyway.

This is why we have personal revelation - to decide for ourselves if what we hear is in tune with the spirit.

Sorry Stephanie, you don't have to publish this if you think it will be inflammatory. It's just my peeve.

Stephanie said...

Lauren-

Thanks for coming back and clarifying. I agree, we must be giving mixed signals.

I tried to say that while I don't always agree with a prophet's personal opinion (and we can agree to disagree on what is opinion and what is not) I still believe God speaks to us.

I read your comment as saying "oh I am so sad you are not as righteous as me, maybe if you prayed more, you could get to my level of perfection."

But I was probably acted defensively. It was scary to post this.


Sue

Your comment isn't any more inflamatory than the original post, and I agree.

Stephanie said...

Note: Lauren posted another comment, and for some reason, blogger WOULD NOT let me publish it. RUDE.

So I have copied and pasted it here. My most recent comment is in response, even though it shows up backwards. Hope that makes sense.

HERE IS THE COMMENT:

First, I am deeply sorry that my comment offended anyone at all. Perhaps, much is lost in translation through the typed word, I am not sure. I did not say, or imply, or intend to leave any impression that was unkind or self-righteous. I certainly am quite flawed. I am the first to say tht no one can receive personal revelation for anyone else, nor can anyone know the true intentions of one's heart nor their whole story (I have had personal experience with others attempting to receive such revevlation for myself). Many of your statements did not make sense to me, and, perhaps I mis-interpreted you as well as you mis-interpreted me. You clearly stated doubts you have over & over. I don't know your heart and never claimed to know it. All I know is what you wrote. Thus, i felt prompted to share my testimony of a living prophet as well as my testimony of the gospel (both of which you expressed clear doubts about) & to encourage you to re-examine your own. General authorites have instructed us before about homosexuality, tendencies, and their involvement in the church. I apologize for not having references for you. I have been taught these things most of my life, having personally known friends dealing with homosexual tendencies andhow that affects their relationship with the church. This is why I said it is not new. I do realize that it was a very forward talk in the matter, whcih is sometimes hard to hear when it is a sensitive subject. The gospel is very dear to me, and I apologize that my emotional writing left a wrong impression. perhap I was too forward, but I assure you I did not mean to be assuming in any way. I appreciate your thoughts and hope you understand and forgive me. I promise you that my comment was straight from the heart and absolutely meant with love. Best wishes to you all.

stewbert said...

I had a hard time with the talk too. MamaBear is my sister. Obviously the brother who left the church over these issues is my brother, too. It IS hard to reconcile my religious beliefs with talks like that and how I personally feel things should be for the GLBT community.

I do have a testimony of Joseph Smith and our current prophet, the Book of Mormon, and temple work. This is one of those issues where I have to say, "I don't understand," step back, and hold on to what I DO know and feel at peace with.

Sharon said...

Late to the party, obviously, but I wanted to click the like button on Stephanie's post, and to thank Sue for your amazingly insightful comments. (By the way, come back to us, Sue. I miss your navel-gazing immensely.)

Sue's point about shifts in policy are so true, and I really feel that members should be more knowledgeable about many of these issues. Ignorance is a dangerous thing, and when we persist in believing that "the church" was, is, and will always be the same and that policies and stances are consistent throughout the history of the church, we set ourselves up for some rude awakenings.

Sue had some excellent examples, and I would add issues regarding gender equality, sexual behaviors within marriage (think about it), and respect for other religions as areas where our leaders have changed their perspectives.

I do believe they are men of God. I also believe they are men, and as such, they are subject to the influence of their own experiences when they formulate their beliefs and opinions.

I have an unwavering testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I struggle with my testimony of "the church," but it is who I am, and there is nothing on this earth that offers me and my children more goodness than we can receive from this church organization.

I love President Packer, in his way. He's like an old grandpa-type who we don't always agree with, but we recognize that he is a product of his environment, and we love him in spite of his foibles. I will admit, however, that it would be a struggle for me if he were ever to become the president of the church.

Plain Jame said...

I am usually really wordy - but to summarize:
I have the courage to admit that I don't know how to think about this; because I have this God-given gift of being compassionate, so I want everyone to have what they want - no hard feelings. On the other hand, I know that God has his own way, and I will not understand everything yet. Ever since I heard this talk and all the political outrage afterward, I have just thought of the scripture "lean not unto thine own understanding..." which is what many of us undoubtedly do.

I always say if religion were meant to be easy - we'd all be catholic. Say ten hail marys and you're forgiven! (I say that very tongue in cheek since my parents were catholic up until right before I was born - oh the stories).

Emily said...

Hi. Um I have never commented on anyone's blog before that I didn't know personally but I just wanted to share here.

I've really appreciated the openness and level of understanding you have shown in your acceptance of good and bad comments. The dialogue between you and Lauren is refreshing that you don't hold onto anger and disappointment over the misunderstanding of her intent. Having these kinds of posts/conversations/debates is important in the mormon culture and we would all be better off if we(as mormons) were more open to hearing and understanding differing opinions.

Kelly said...

omg. I really liked this post because

a) my brother who has been active for 26 years is gay but still believes the church is true but for the last 3 years has not been active in the church. so the talk at conference shook me in a weird way too.

b) because deep down inside we all doubt and worry and are scared at times but you seem to be the only one who is strong enough to admit it

c) i like the way you use your words :) I wish I had a way with words like you do

Rachael said...

@ Hillary, way way up there: YES! I've had my own personal struggles and periods where I was very distant from our church but in the end this pulled me back. That ultimately it is MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY SAVIOR AND HEAVENLY FATHER. If I question what comes from apostles or even our prophet I can take to my knees and pray about it.

To MCB: Thank you for summing this situation up so eloquently. I think the point that was completely missed in this speech was that the "love thy neighbor as thyself" advise is not followed up "unless thy neighbor is gay." One of my best friends is gay.

Julianne said...

I have a family member who works at church headquarters in SLC and is very familiar with the inner workings of the church. If it gives you any comfort, it wasn't 'the church' or even the curriculum committee who changed President Packer's talk. It was President Packer.
- Thanks for being exactly who you are :)

Kristen Cawley said...

Very beautifully written. I appreciate you putting words to exactly what I feel and experience. I found it especially relevant. More than you know.