PUBLIC AFFAIRS: So you are saying that homosexual feelings are controllable?
ELDER OAKS: Yes, homosexual feelings are controllable. Perhaps there is an inclination or susceptibility to such feelings that is a reality for some and not a reality for others. But out of such susceptibilities come feelings, and feelings are controllable. If we cater to the feelings, they increase the power of the temptation. If we yield to the temptation, we have committed sinful behavior. That pattern is the same for a person that covets someone else’s property and has a strong temptation to steal. It’s the same for a person that develops a taste for alcohol. It’s the same for a person that is born with a ‘short fuse,’ as we would say of a susceptibility to anger. If they let that susceptibility remain uncontrolled, it becomes a feeling of anger, and a feeling of anger can yield to behavior that is sinful and illegal.
We’re not talking about a unique challenge here. We’re talking about a common condition of mortality. We don’t understand exactly the ‘why,’ or the extent to which there are inclinations or susceptibilities and so on. But what we do know is that feelings can be controlled and behavior can be controlled. The line of sin is between the feelings and the behavior. The line of prudence is between the susceptibility and the feelings. We need to lay hold on the feelings and try to control them to keep us from getting into a circumstance that leads to sinful behavior.
ELDER WICKMAN: One of the great sophistries of our age, I think, is that merely because one has an inclination to do something, that therefore acting in accordance with that inclination is inevitable. That’s contrary to our very nature as the Lord has revealed to us. We do have the power to control our behavior.
ME: I guess I fundamentally disagree here with Elder Oaks when he says that feelings are controllable. In fact, I feel like the church itself disagrees with this idea. When we are taught about how the spirit (the holy ghost) speaks to us, are we not told by modern-day prophets that he speaks through our thoughts and feelings? If thoughts and feelings are controllable, that that would mean that we are the operator behind thoughts and feelings, not the holy ghost. Therefore, we (not the Holy Ghost) make ourselves feel and think that certain things are right or wrong.
When my sister got in a bad 4-wheeling accident, I couldn’t help the feelings of panic and fear that I had. I didn’t know if she’d live or if she’d be severely handicapped. If my mother died today, I couldn’t control my feelings of utter sadness and shock. I could not help feeling attraction to the guy that was sitting a table away in the restaurant I was eating at last night. Can a heterosexual help that he or she finds themselves physically attracted to an extraordinarily beautiful member of the opposite sex? No. Whether he or she acts on it or vocalizes that attraction is independent of the fact that the feelings of attraction are there.
Now, I do believe we can exercise restraint as we handle those feelings, but it doesn’t change the feeling. I could feel angry enough at someone that I want to punch them in the face. I can restrain myself from punching them, but that doesn’t mean I’ve changed the feelings of anger I have that make me want to hurt the person. (ps- I’m not a violent person. I’ve never punched a person in my life. I’m the kind of guy that sets an insect free outside after capturing it inside).