I have never seen two Northern Lights contributors arguing and debating with each other on the North Star web site. So, when I thought of debating Ty Mansfield and his recent blog post, I wasn’t sure if that would be appropriate. But then I thought, heck, I’m a European. I’m supposed to break new frontiers. So here it is.
Ty fairly recently wrote an interesting Northern Lights piece titled “Mormons can BE gay, they just can’t ACT gay”. It is a great essay, although written in somewhat cryptic, academic style. So it took me several readings to realize that it might be – among others – myself whom Ty addresses as he writes: “When trying to understand homosexuality in general, or the Church’s position specifically, those who apply the cultural idea of ‘being gay’ with a broad brush to anyone who experiences homosexual feelings are being problematically reductionistic and in many ways create their own confusion.”
I’ve Never Thought of It That Way
In his piece, Ty claims that it is becoming increasingly popular among both Church members and in general public to believe that the brethren (meaning the Church leaders) think it is okay to be gay as long as one chooses not to engage in a homosexual relationship. He then claims that this may not necessarily be the case, and then gives some proof by citing the brethren. He goes on to say that there are not just doctrinal problems related to such “reductionism” as he calls it, but he points out that independent studies offer evidence that such approach to homosexuality isn’t supported by scientific data.
I find Ty’s approach interesting because I have never thought of homosexuality that way. I find myself increasingly comfortable labeling myself as gay or homosexual or same-sex attracted for various reasons in spite of the fact that I’m faithful member of the Church with the current temple recommend. I’m temple married (with the woman, of course), and with no intention to enter into homosexual relationship. So I found it little unsettling to see that Apostle Dallin H. Oaks discourages the usage of those words in a way I like them to use. Says he:
“We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.”
After reading this, I cannot happen but to ask myself if I’m not wrong in labeling myself against apostle’s suggestion, but with the full acknowledgement that I may be misinterpreting apostle Oaks’ words, let me write the following.
There Is No Fatality in Same-sex Attraction
I believe that the key word to understanding official church’s position on labeling oneself as gay is “choice”. Elder Oaks explains that nothing about homosexuality can or should be construed as fatalistic. At any point in our lives we can change the course of our destiny, for better or for worse. I read his words as a strong discouragement to use labels, any labels, as an excuse for sinning. Yes, we may have feelings of same-sex attraction without having them consciously invited or encouraged into our minds or hearts, and that isn’t problematic, and certainly isn’t a sin. But if we say that for the mere fact of having those feelings, we cannot happen but to indulge ourselves in a homosexual relationship, that’s entirely different cup of tea. That’s what we are warned against by the apostle.
And I find that warning completely justified. If we start to rationalize human urges which we experience in this mortal, imperfect state of existence, we may end up totally messing up with the ideas of what is right and what is wrong, including the concept of right and wrong itself. And that is exactly what is happening in today’s extremely permissive world.
Now, let me explain why I am increasingly comfortable with labeling myself gay or homosexual or same-sex attracted. We are in the middle of a war for billions of human minds. That war is the fiercest that has ever been in the history of man. And the forces of evil are seemingly winning, while forces of good are seemingly losing.
How is this apparent tactic retreat playing out? The adversary is injecting permissiveness and confusion into whatever he touches. He hates when things are clear and well defined. He cannot stand that whatever thing that exists is used for a good cause, and one of the ways how he destroys capability of us using things for a good cause is to corrupt them as much as possible, preferably to the core.
And then, we – imperfect, mortal beings – pick up those corrupt leftovers and engage ourselves with them, trying to make sense out of them without knowing – unless we understand the Gospel in it’s core – that it is impossible to find sense in corrupt things, because corrupt things are by definition meaningless.
Everyone Needs to Understand Where We Are Coming From
I strongly believe that God didn’t give us the feelings of same-sex attraction without a purpose. One may say that same-sex attraction has been given to us so that we are tested if we would be able and willing to let it go and not act upon it. And yes, that is true in general sense of the word, and I don’t argue against such a take on the issue. But I do argue that such a take on same-sex attraction is promulgated primarily by those who do not experience those feelings. Because when put that way, the counsel doesn’t offer much in terms of an action plan. And it does not take into account that we bear emotions of same-sex attraction – which are very strong and very real and very in our face – every single day of our lives. Emotions which beg myriad of questions that we feel urge to answer for ourselves.
So, what I suggest is the following. Gospel standards are loud and clear, particularly in the realm of sexuality. So, we have to make sure that we do everything necessary to keep those standards. However, we also need to make sure that we understand where we are coming from. If we don’t know that, we may find ourselves lost very quickly. If we don’t understand what same-sex attraction is all about, we may end up rationalizing that it is okay to have sexual relations with a member of the same-sex as long as we are committed to him for the rest of our lives, and then call that “the Law of Chastity”.
The best way how we can clearly state where we are coming from is that we unequivocally and straightforwardly name our experience. With a noun. By doing that, we own it and we define it. And I don’t have a problem if someone feels that his same-sex attraction does not stem from his gayness. But his story is not my story, and I want to have it crystal clear.
Aura of Unknown, of Total Mystery and Misunderstanding
There is another reason why I feel increasingly comfortable with labeling myself the way I explained. Just as I believe that the adversary tries to corrupt every single thing that exists to the core in order to undermine our capacity to use them for the good, I also believe that every single thing that exists, if purified and made whole, can regain the meaning and the power that has lost by the corruption. I believe that we who find ourselves in the position of experiencing same-sex attraction and consider ourselves gay or homosexual have a call to purify those things and allow the world to properly understand them.
If there is a thing in the world that is absolutely covered by the aura of unknown, of total mystery and utter misunderstanding, it is homosexuality. Even with all the public debate and display of gay issues in the media, with gay parades and what not, I believe we are just at the very beginning of understanding it. And I argue that homosexuality cannot and is not supposed to be understood and clarified without active involvement of those who feel they are directly affected. I would go even further than that and say that no scientific research can replace a personal insight and an account of those who experience it. And we are only beginning to let go of fear of being vulnerable.
I believe that the concept of gayness or homosexuality or same-sex attraction, once purified, will only lose the component of carnal sexuality – because it is senseless – but all other components will remain in place and intact. How that will play out, I don’t know. But I’m convinced that’s where the restoration of true & genuine brotherly love that is pretty much lost from this earth will begin.
Let me close by saying that I’m not sure if I debated Ty in this my blog post. Maybe we are on the same page, but we just need to clarify our positions in order to recognize them.