19 January 2011

ARG: Elder Oaks & Elder Wickman on SGA - Part 9

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: A little earlier, Elder Oaks, you talked about the same standard of morality for heterosexuals and homosexuals. How would you address someone who said to you, ‘I understand it’s the same standard, but aren’t we asking a little more of someone who has same-gender attraction?’ Obviously there are heterosexual people who won’t get married, but would you accept that they at least have hope that ‘tomorrow I could meet the person of my dreams.’ There’s always the hope that that could happen at any point in their life. Someone with same-gender attraction wouldn’t necessarily have that same hope.

ELDER OAKS: There are differences, of course, but the contrast is not unique. There are people with physical disabilities that prevent them from having any hope — in some cases any actual hope and in other cases any practical hope — of marriage. The circumstance of being currently unable to marry, while tragic, is not unique.

It is sometimes said that God could not discriminate against individuals in this circumstance. But life is full of physical infirmities that some might see as discriminations — total paralysis or serious mental impairment being two that are relevant to marriage. If we believe in God and believe in His mercy and His justice, it won’t do to say that these are discriminations because God wouldn’t discriminate. We are in no condition to judge what discrimination is. We rest on our faith in God and our utmost assurance of His mercy and His love for all of His children.

ELDER WICKMAN: There’s really no question that there is an anguish associated with the inability to marry in this life. We feel for someone that has that anguish. I feel for somebody that has that anguish. But it’s not limited to someone who has same-gender attraction.

We live in a very self-absorbed age. I guess it’s naturally human to think about my own problems as somehow greater than someone else’s. I think when any one of us begins to think that way, it might be well be to look beyond ourselves. Who am I to say that I am more handicapped, or suffering more, than someone else?

I happen to have a handicapped daughter. She’s a beautiful girl. She’ll be 27 next week. Her name is Courtney. Courtney will never marry in this life, yet she looks wistfully upon those who do. She will stand at the window of my office which overlooks the Salt Lake Temple and look at the brides and their new husbands as they’re having their pictures taken. She’s at once captivated by it and saddened because Courtney understands that will not be her experience here. Courtney didn’t ask for the circumstances into which she was born in this life, any more than somebody with same-gender attraction did. So there are lots of kinds of anguish people can have, even associated with just this matter of marriage. What we look forward to, and the great promise of the gospel, is that whatever our inclinations are here, whatever our shortcomings are here, whatever the hindrances to our enjoying a fullness of joy here, we have the Lord’s assurance for every one of us that those in due course will be removed. We just need to remain faithful.


ME: I absolutely hate that being gay is compared to someone who is physically or mentally handicapped. Why is this always the comparison made be leaders? The only answer could be that they view being gay as some "glitch." It is some sort of handicap. Let me just say, loud and clear, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. I am not paralyzed... I am not physically or mentally unable to seek a companion and then build a complete and loving relationship with him. Let me make an analogy with what Elder Oaks said:

People who are born left-handed are not in any unique position. They can't write with their right hand... that is their lot in life. But think of the people that were born without right hands.... or whose right hand has been permanently injured! They have no hope of using their right hand in this life. Of course using your left hand is wrong, and is not acceptable. If you are left-handed, you will simply have to make do with your right hand until you are made whole in the resurrection.

This is exactly like what Elder Oaks is saying. Of course it seems absurd because we all know that being right-handed is perfectly fine. You can be left-handed or even ambidextrous and that is perfectly acceptable. But wait... was it always this way? No. Words associated with the word "left" in different languages are/were: evil, unlucky, awkward, sinister, clumsy, adultery, infidelity, wrong, illegal, bad. Words associated with right: correct, proper, better, legal, righteous. Think about the associations made in the scriptures... if you are righteous, which side do you stand on? "The right hand of God."

Needless to say, with society and language attaching such negative meaning to "left," being left-handed wasn't always acceptable. Not long ago, children were punished for using their left hand. They were forced to use their right hand. Taiwan, until very recently, continued this practice. There are obvious disadvantages to being left-handed. There are less tools made for the left hand. Desks are made with right-handed people in mind. But does this mean that left-handed people shouldn't or can't write? No. They are just as capable of writing something profound as their right-handed friend. Their writing is just as legible. Ideas are just as expressible.

There are obvious disadvantages to being gay. There is a significantly smaller pool of people from which you can find a companion. You cannot reproduce naturally. Most the stories and songs and art out there are about heterosexual life and love. But does this mean that gay people are unable to love? Does it mean that they are any less capable of raising children? Does it mean that they are unable to build significant meaningful relationships? Does it mean they cannot have families of their own or experience happiness? NO. Gay people are just as capable (physically, mentally emotionally, and spiritually) of finding and loving a companion in this life as any physically and mentally healthy heterosexual person! I have no handicap preventing me from being with someone!

We can't judge when something should be called discrimination Elder Oaks?? Should we have never granted blacks freedom then? Should we have never decided that we were discriminating against them? We are all given the light of Christ to help us know right from wrong. I would argue that we are very capable of knowing when we are discriminating against someone. You are right, God is no respecter of persons and he does not discriminate. Why then do you?

As for Elder Wickman's statement, well this isn't about whose cross is heavier to bare. I am not claiming that being gay is the most difficult thing a person could possibly have to deal with. I am by no means trying to argue that my trials are greater than anyone else's. Is this what you would say to Martin Luther King Jr.? "Stop your complaining! Stop being so self-absorbed! Stop thinking that your problems are any greater than other people's problems! Think about other people for once! Think about my handicapped daughter!"

Being gay may not be the most difficult trial in the world, but it has definitely been my most difficult trial. Am I not entitled to speak up when I feel that the trials I experience because of my sexuality could be resolved? Being gay doesn't have to be a trial at all. Just like having dark skin doesn't (and shouldn't) have to be a trial. But if no one speaks up about it, it will continue being the cursed thing that society and religion have made it and I WILL NOT STAY SILENT.

Finally, being gay is not an "inclination" or a "hindrance" or a "short-coming." Just as you have said, Elder Wickman, orientation is indeed a "core characteristic." And according to the scriptures we both believe (Alma 41):

"And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature? O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful."

So it sounds to me that whether or not being gay is evil or good, it will be restored to me. Now if God is no respecter of persons and he does not discriminate and being gay isn't a choice... but is in-born, does it sound correct that it is evil, and therefore evil will be restored to me?

Elder Oaks apparently didn't want to live the last part of his life alone after his first wife died. Why? Why did he choose to remarry? I'm sorry if I don't believe that these married leaders really, truly understand what they are asking of me.


Steven Lester said...

Your left-hand vs right-hand logic is devastating, and really quite irrefutable. I am now convinced that Elder Oakes' is wrong, and if he is wrong about this, what else might he be wrong about? Or any of them? This is a valid question to ask.

Rob said...

I continue to be intrigued by striking similarities in the experiences, thoughts and even analogies of so many gay Mormon guys. I've thought of the left hand analogy as well. And I agree with you about Oaks' and Wickman's statements.

Here's the crucial point they miss. Handedness, or a physical handicap, are characteristics of the physical body. But as every gay guy knows, who you love and are attracted to is more a function of the heart, spirit and soul (though the body is important too!). To compare it with a physical handicap is to say that gay peoples' _spirits_ are defective. This, I think, offends every basic principle of Christian belief, including the Mormon version. And that's why I can't accept it.

FWIW, I agree with Steven too. It is very logical to ask what else they might be wrong about.

Jonathan Adamson said...

@Steven- I think the spirit is given to each man to know right from wrong. I don't think we were ever meant to simply accept anything that comes out of a person's mouth no matter how inspired. If we want truth, we have to do the work to find it. Furthermore, simply because Elder Oaks might be wrong about this issue, it doesn't mean he doesn't have some things right or that he doesn't have truth and light to offer.

@Rob- You are absolutely right, analogies always seem to fall short because homosexuality really is something completely different. It isn't just physical. The attraction is rooted deep within us. It is not that the body is overtaking the spirit. I too believe that being gay isn't simply a matter of this physical body. Of course what proof do we have? Only our word and our experience. Only the individual can know when things seem right with their soul.

Steven Lester said...

And here I thought I could get all the answers gleaned from your own hard work, for free, just because you're a nice guy. Nice handoff.

Post a Comment