Second, as I was perusing lds.org (as I sometimes do) I noticed that the site no longer makes its position on same-sex attraction as visible as it once was. It used to be located on the right sidebar of the news room where the "spotlights" are located. So I thought I should comment on this interview before it fades away into the oops-we-might-be-wrong black hole that the church sometimes sweeps things into.
So I will break these posts down. One for each question. I will post the original dialog here, and then write comments below it. Also, realize that the interview was conducted by the church's PR department, not some third-party outside the church. So you can bet your life that these answers weren't just made up on the spot. The must have been carefully constructed, especially since it is now the "official position."
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At the outset, can you explain why this whole issue of homosexuality and same-gender marriage is important to the Church?
ELDER OAKS: This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like “homophobic.” In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with [not sent to] prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle. This is more than a social issue — ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach.
ME: How do you define normal? Does normal mean average? Typical? Does it mean that it conforms with social norms and standards? Does it mean natural? I wish Elder Oaks was more specific. In my mind, the church says a lot about being unique. Having unique gifts, being a unique spirit child of Heavenly Father. We often call ourselves “a peculiar people.” So from what I gather from our doctrine, his use of the word “normal” has nothing to do with being average or socially acceptable since we are taught to not get caught up in social “norms.” If he means natural... well, define natural. Does this mean existing or caused by nature? If so, how do we explain the hundreds of species of animals (in nature) who exhibit homosexuality? They are a product of nature, correct? Uncle penguin didn’t molest baby penguin causing him to be gay. And even if being gay was a product of nurture and you could come up with some equation (ie. molestation + distant father + over-powering mother = homosexual), would this not be a natural result of the combination of these circumstances? But I’m not sure this is what is meant by “normal” either since later in this discussion Elder Oaks says “Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.” The other definition of “normal” could be “free from physical or mental disorders.” Well, seeing as how, later in this discussion physical disabilities are compared to homosexuality, maybe this is what Elder Oaks meant by "normal."
The gay community has not only experienced “unrelenting pressure” from the church to prevent their union with their loved one, but anyone who disagrees with the church are villainized and given labels like, gay “extremists” or “activists.” Simply having the opinion that gay marriage should be granted makes them someone to fear- a gay “activist.” The church is quick to claim political neutrality, but equally quick to step in and take the lead on Prop 8- something that should be left to (and only to) the voters of California. So those statements by Oaks go both ways.
Elder Oaks, you should know better seeing as how you are come from a law background. The case to which you refer to is the Hugh Owens case in Canada. First off, anyone can be sued for anything. I can sue McDonalds for serving me coffee that is too hot. A single woman in my ward can sue for a bishop giving a talk about how marriage is essential to salvation and children are the greatest blessing the Lord can give us. She may call it hate speech, but she won’t win her case. Neither did the case against Owens come out victorious. Also, this case happened well before Canada legalized gay marriage. Furthermore, this man was not a minister. No minister has been convicted of a crime in the US or Canada for preaching against same-sex-marriage. What he did do was produce a bumper sticker that depicted two stick figures holding hands, covered by a circle and a slash, along with a passage from Leviticus which says that any man engaging in homosexual activity “shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them,” (more on Leviticus in another post). But, like I said, the case was overturned upon review. On top of that, the U.S. has far more liberal freedom of speech and religion laws than Canada (or pretty much any other country for that matter).
Finally, what does Oaks mean by this issue (that of gay marriage) being a “test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach?” What freedoms would granting gay-marriage take away from anyone? Would legalizing marijuana force the church to stop teaching that it is against God’s commandments? If so, why hasn’t the fact that it is legal to drink and smoke taken away the church’s freedom to preach against it? Furthermore, members don’t sue the church (nor can they) because they aren’t given a temple recommend. If they are drinking (even though it is legal) they will not be able to enter the temple. The church can’t be forced to allow someone into a temple.