I have a lot on my mind. I suppose that isn’t something that is unusual. When controversial subjects appear in the public forum I typically keep my perspective to myself and form my opinion based on research and study of the issues at hand. However, there is something in my craw that I can’t get my head around.
Have you ever felt like you’ve been lied to? That you’ve been told half truths to enable you to move from point A to point B? Maybe the lie wasn’t intentional; maybe it was. I see the pattern happen in government on a frequent basis. Years ago a line from Chris Farley’s “Tommy Boy” made an indelible impression upon my mind. In the movie Dan Akroyd played a car parts salesman, Ray Zalinsky, who was as sleezy as the stereotypical car salesman (and had a guarantee stamped on his box to prove it.)
One line from Ray Zalinsky has always stuck in my mind, he said, “what the American public doesn’t know is what makes them the American public.” Sheeple: people who follow because they are told to. It’s what Ray was making a fortune on…taking advantage of uninformed people, who didn’t know better.
I wonder if that tactic was developed by God to allow us to stumble over a few molehills…in hope that it helps us avoid the mountains? Or is it a cleaver trick of Satan to entangle and ensnare humanity in a web of confusion, pain and doubt? I can’t say exactly why this movie quote has stuck with me all these years. Maybe I am a cautious person who second guesses so many opinions and options in my life. Maybe I am the victim of the progressive lies.
I want to focus on being the victim.
For those who know me personally, playing the victim card is not territory I am familiar with. In fact, I can’t remember a time (or series of events) when I relied on a victim defense. I have assumed responsibility, blame and punishment even when I knew I was right or when I knew other people would have been harmed. I have taken blame to calm angry storms, knowing that eventually the waves would calm and the journey would be smoother for other sailors. This is one of my faults.
I am a firm believer in letting dead skeletons sleep. I believe that we all have skeletons in our closets and exposing them to light only brings up unnecessary pain and grief. My therapist tries to convince me differently ;). I didn’t “come out” to my wife until March of this year. However there were times I almost wanted to scream out loud that I experienced SSA and that I had felt like I was a victim of lies, propaganda and misinformation. One of those experiences came late one November night. And yes, it centered on the Church’s policy change effectively labeling participating homosexuals as “apostate” and as a result of that apostasy, prevents the eternal progression of the children of the “apostate.” My wife and I got into a very heated discussion about the topic. She had no clue that I was struggling with my own feelings of homosexuality and how the policy could have a direct effect on our small family. One of my skeletons is being a victim of the Church’s continual botching of the homosexuality topic. I knew from a very early age that I experienced a same sex attraction. During my formidable years I read everything I could obtain concerning the topic of homosexuality and Mormonism. I listened intently to every talk, every conference address, every backhanded comment from friends, family and church leaders. There were two things I was certain of: being gay was not holy and I could never tell anyone that I was. As I entered high school more and more church curriculum was propagated on the subject of homosexuality. As a senior in high school I remember ordering a pamphlet entitled, Letter to A Friend, written by Spencer W. Kimball. It was full of healing promises! I could be cured of my disease and that God had prepared a pathway in which my homosexuality could be taken from me. As you can imagine the eventual realty was devastating to me. The pamphlet, which still rests in my mission scriptures outlines God’s love for me as a son of God and also the admonishment that if I remain worthy: i.e., make temple covenants, serve a mission, marry in the temple and continue in righteousness… then the sin of homosexuality will be removed and I can find peace in my life. I tried all of those things…and I am now here.
History is a great backdrop.
In 1959 the states of Utah and Idaho were grappled by a higher than normal number of gay men being incarcerated for sex crimes. In response, President David O. McKay issued a call to Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Peterson to work on a plan to “cure” gays in the Church. At the time, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness and President Kimball was adamant that it could be cured. Speaking to Church psychologists, President Kimball said, “[w]e know such a disease is curable,” and that ex-gay Mormons had emerged from the church’s counseling programs cured, although the cure was “like the cure for alcoholism subject to continued vigilance.” His focus on this “cure” led him to write the LDS publication Letter to a Friend. The resource taught church leaders to assist gay members to recite scripture, appeal to their reason, encourage them to abandon their gay friends, pray with them and replace their gay lifestyle with positive action and straight dating. As a result the mindset of curing homosexuality was accepted among the membership of the church. Policy, not revelation drove this wagon on which so many members still ride.
Later, in 1992 the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from their list of mental health illnesses. Up until that time the American Psychiatric Association had classified homosexuality as a mental illness, further persuading church leaders to address homosexuality in that manner. After the 1992 declassification the church produced another booklet entitled Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems which removed every reference of homosexuality as a curable disease. The church later discontinued its printing of Letter to a Friend and has removed all reference of its creation.
In 1999 President Hinckley famously (and officially) welcomed gay people in the church. He affirmed them as “good people,” saying, “now we have gays in the church. Good people. We take no action against such people, provided they don’t become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we’d do with heterosexuals who transgress.” And so the gay welcome wagon rolled through the history of the church until November, 2015. A variety of talks have been given (and some deleted/altered/removed/shelved) regarding homosexuality in the church.
Yet, the November 2015 policy alters that edict that “if they do, we do with them exactly what we do with heterosexuals who transgress.”
I understand the lengthy nature of this post. There was a lot of history and some of it veered from the topic at hand. I don’t have the passion to debate the intricacies of the November announcement.
You are free to read the full November 2015 announcement here (and weave your way through the numerous clarifications and revisions)
In previous blog posts I have declared my belief in the 9th article of faith. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
Was the November announcement revelation, or a policy change? It is my belief it was a policy change. Shortly after the announcement the church was forced into multiple rounds of clarification and adjustment, which to me, is evidence that it was policy and not revelation. In January 2016, speaking at the Hawaii campus of BYU, President Russell M. Nelson proclaimed the power of revelation regarding the November announcement. He told the young adults in the first official explanation of the hotly debated policy’s origins “Each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation,”. “It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.”
President Nelson further explained that revelation from the Lord to his servants is a sacred process.
“The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel, individually and collectively,” he said. “And then, we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord’s will.”
This was hard for me to accept. The part of the November policy that disturbs me the most is the punishment of children for their father’s transgression…and that it was given by revelation.
And then this happened.
The church, as of today, scrubbed President Nelson’s Hawaii comments regarding the notion of “revelation” surrounding the November policy. A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has confirmed that the Nelson illustration has been removed from the lesson on “prophets and revelation” — as Mormon authorities continue to develop the new online training for teachers who instruct Mormon high-schoolers (in Seminary/Institute). It was removed for what purpose? Did the policy change come as a result of infallible men instead of a loving Father? I don’t know. But the whole thing hasn’t set well with me, or the undeniable number of people who have left the church as a result of its implementation.
I love the church. I have a testimony of the gospel. If it were not for my testimony I would surely be in a different life position. I have spent many tear-filled nights discussing this issue with my wife. It is not easy. She asked me what I am going to do? What’s next for me?
I do what I have always done: wait. Wait for the truth. Wait for genuine revelation. Wait for God to speak and his prophets to listen. I am confident that ‘He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.’
This wouldn’t be the first time something in my life didn’t make sense.