09 November 2010

ARG: Elder Oaks & Elder Wickman on SGA - Part 2

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Let’s say my 17-year-old son comes to talk to me and, after a great deal of difficulty trying to get it out, tells me that he believes that he’s attracted to men — that he has no interest and never has had any interest in girls. He believes he’s probably gay. He says that he’s tried to suppress these feelings. He’s remained celibate, but he realizes that his feelings are going to be devastating to the family because we’ve always talked about his Church mission, about his temple marriage and all those kinds of things. He just feels he can’t live what he thinks is a lie any longer, and so he comes in this very upset and depressed manner. What do I tell him as a parent?

ELDER OAKS: You’re my son. You will always be my son, and I’ll always be there to help you. The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.

The New Testament affirms that God has given us commandments that are difficult to keep. It is in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

I think it’s important for you to understand that homosexuality, which you’ve spoken of, is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior. I encourage you, as you struggle with these challenges, not to think of yourself as a ‘something’ or ‘another,’ except that you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you’re my son, and that you’re struggling with challenges.

Everyone has some challenges they have to struggle with. You’ve described a particular kind of challenge that is very vexing. It is common in our society and it has also become politicized. But it’s only one of a host of challenges men and women have to struggle with, and I just encourage you to seek the help of the Savior to resist temptation and to refrain from behavior that would cause you to have to repent or to have your Church membership called into question.

*italics added


Me: My first beef with this is the wording of the question that is posed. Rather than say that this hypothetical son comes to the parent and says “I’m attracted to men,” they phrase it so that “he believes he is attracted to men,” and “he believes he’s probably gay.” Ok. This is a simple yes or no question people. If you were to ask a heterosexual man if he was attracted to women, he wouldn’t say, “I believe I possibly could be.” The question itself is phrased to take out any hints that homosexuality is real.

Second, sadly the answer that Elder Oaks gives stops shorter than what is really meant. To be consistent with what the church teaches and has taught, the reply should go something like this:
“You’re my son. You will always be my son, and I will always be there to help you as long as you are trying to do what the church and I know is right for you.” 
My evidence of this comes from comments made later in this interview (sorry for skipping ahead):
“But if you choose to go that way, we will always try to help you and get you back on the path of growth.”
This completes this response that parents are encouraged to give. You should always be there to help them get “back on the path of growth.” If the child isn’t trying to get back on the “right path” parents aren’t obligated to help their children. Furthermore, I’ve witnessed this response by the parents of various friends and acquaintances.
“You haven’t failed until you quit trying”
Here, it shows that the mentality of a parent should be that once a child decides to give up the fight to try and be heterosexual, or at least try and rid him/herself of the desire to be with a member of the same sex, they can be considered a failure. Wow.

So once your child has “failed” and has decided to follow their desires and feelings for the same gender and he/she wants to be a part of your life as a parent, which includes their loved one, this is how you should react:
"'Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position,'" or, "'Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.'”
This breaks my heart. And it shows that yes, the help and love a parent is being told to extend by church leaders is conditional. How is a gay child supposed to feel welcome or love from a family that treats the child as if they are an embarrassment to be hidden away? How is the family’s arms extended to the child in this case? How does this translate to “we will always be there to help you.” It doesn’t. This help is conditional which is made obvious by these comments by our leaders. How sad.

Furthermore, while the church says that by not acting on your homosexual impulses insures that you are worthy, they don’t practice this. I know people who have worked for the church in high places who were gay, but never acted on it. Yet when it was revealed that they were gay and conversed with other gay members, they were fired. Pre-missionaries who have homosexual feelings (even if they have never acted on them) must go through an intense interview process and must be evaluated before they are given the okay to go. I have several friends that have gone through, or are going through this long process. That doesn’t sound like the church really believes that “It’s no sin to have inclinations,” for these people are treated much differently than their straight counterparts.

Once again, church leaders try and make the homosexual a figment of our imagination. That there simply is no such thing. Elder Oaks says, don’t “think of yourself as a ‘something’ or ‘another,’ except that you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Read my post on SSA and SGA for more on this.

Finally, let me say something about Elder Oaks. I fear readers may feel like I hate the man. I don’t. I used to work in a job at BYU where I was in pretty close proximity at times with general authorities. I remember one night (it was some special dinner) Elder and Sister Oaks were greeting people as they found their seats. When Elder Oaks got to the table, he pulled out a chair for his wife and stood behind it. But Sister Oaks, apparently, is a talker. She was still several feet away actively engaged in conversation. Elder Oaks waited patiently behind her chair. He would not sit down until she had been seated. It took several minutes before Sister Oaks finished talking and took her seat. Elder Oaks scooted her chair in, and then took his seat. I thought “what an example. What a gentleman. That right there shows me what kind of man he is.” So the truth is, I love the man. I respect him. I do, however, disagree at times. He is just as human as you and me and he makes mistakes. His life experience is limited, just like ours. Thanks for reading.


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