Appropriate behavior for Sacrament meetings

As some of you may know, the Church has released a new pamphlet dealing with the issue of Same Sex Attraction. A copy of the new pamphlet can be found here.

The discussion of this new pamphlet sparked some interesting comments at T&S. (And I’m sure elsewhere — sorry, I have been on vacation for the last few weeks and haven’t been keeping up with my reading).

I’m not interested in re-hashing all of the old discussions on SSM. However, I am interested in a few comments MikeinWeHo made. (See comment #29 and subsequent comments, including a response from Adam G).

Basically, Mike, who is gay, would like to feel more comfortable in some hypothetical future coming to Sacrament meeting with his gay partner and their child. Is that appropriate?

Now, let me start out by saying that I have spent years visiting all kinds of people with all kinds of issues, and I always encourage them to come to Sacrament, no matter what the issues are. So, the first and most important answer to the question of “am I OK with two gay people and their kid coming to Sacrament” is an unqualified YES! In fact, I would be ecstatic to see them there.

Having said that, I think it is unavoidable to consider some related issues. What is Mike and his partner hold hands, or put their arms around each other or kiss? This kind of behavior (PDA) is increasingly common among gay couples these days, and I’m not sure how I’d feel about that in Sacrament.

It is worth pointing out that an actively homosexual person who has not repented from homosexual activity (not attraction — activity) cannot hold a Church calling and will probably be excommunicated from the Church or at least disfellowshipped. I doubt very much we will see a change in Church policy on that issue anytime in our lifetimes. It is worth pointing out that in my experience the Church does not hunt down people who display this behavior — the only people who would ever suffer from Church discipline would be people who actually come to Church and are relatively active. The people who stop coming to Church are usually left alone.

But I feel strongly that God loves all his children. I do not know why some people are born with same gender attraction, but I know that God loves those people and wants them to draw closer to Him. I also know that I have a responsibility to be tolerant and loving to everybody. For me, that means encouraging people to come to Church as much as possible and being a good example and a positive influence.

I’m wondering how others feel about this issue.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

86 thoughts on “Appropriate behavior for Sacrament meetings

  1. I agree with you on this one, Geoff. I, too, would invite any couple to church…gay or straight with open arms. As I read your post, I couldn’t help but think of the words to a primary song, “Jesus said love everyone; Treat them kindly too. When your heart is filled with love, Others will love you.”

  2. Geoff B.,
    I totally agree that, in Sacrament Meeting, gay couples shouldn’t participate in PDA. Of course, I feel that way about straight couples too.

    But maybe I define PDA differently than you: hand-holding, arms around each other (I assume you mean the arm of one person across the back of the bench behind the other) and even a quick good-bye kiss don’t qualify as PDA to me. (Although now that we have a child, my wife and I can’t generally sit close enough to each other to hold hands, etc.) I don’t see how any of that would be inappropriate. But making out (and don’t laugh: I was with my mom and sisters at the Marriott Center a number of years back for one of the broadcast temple dedications, and the engaged couple a couple rows up from us was totally making out, so it could happen)? Absolutely not. For anybody.

  3. Just keep a hymnbook between you (the long way) and your spouse or significant other at all times.

    (Just PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, don’t use your hymnbook behind your back to provide back support. That wrecks the book. Bring your own back support!)

  4. “What is Mike and his partner hold hands, or put their arms around each other or kiss?”

    I’d like to see heterosexual couples excommunicated for holding hands, putting their arms around each other, or kissing during sacrament meeting, so maybe I’m not the one to ask.

    (My point is that NO ONE should be doing these things in sac. mtg.)

  5. Sam B and Julie M Smith, personally, I see a difference between gay and straight PDA. I am OK with a straight couple holding hands, arms around each other and pecks on the cheek during Sacrament meeting. I’m not OK with a gay couple doing this.

    I know the above is not politically correct. We’re all supposed to see all sexuality as the same. But, sorry, I don’t buy it.

    Now, having said that, I would never say anything to a gay couple holding hands during Church. I am not a buttinsky, and I don’t go around picking fights. I don’t know how you prevent it, and I don’t want us to have “hand-holding police.” I’m just expressing my personal feelings and preference — I would prefer not to see gay couples holding hands at Church and I don’t mind straight couples doing it. My guess is that the vast majority of the people at Church would agree with me — even if they’re afraid to write these feelings in our current politically correct environment. I might even venture a guess that Sam B and Julie M Smith feel this way in their heart of hearts but of course it’s simply not something we’re allowed to say these days.

  6. Geoff B.,
    Nope, sorry. Even if the majority of the Church agrees with you (although I’ll bet a good portion of the kids 10 years younger than me would strongly disagree with you, but I don’t even have anecdotal evidence to back that up), I will, again, readily admit that I don’t like to see gay couples making out in public, but I feel the same way about straight couples (and I have no intention of being in private with straight or gay couples as they make out). Handholding is utterly innocuous and doesn’t bother me. And, frankly, arm around someone on the back of the bench doesn’t even strike me as the same ballpark: my dad would put his arm on the bench behind my mom, me, my sisters, or my brother, depending on who was sitting next to him.

    Although not as vehemently opposed to PDA as Julie appears to be (c’mon, Julie, how about just disfellowshipped?), I cannot see why straight handholding is acceptable while gay handholding is inappropriate to the degree that we should make the gay couple who wants to worship with the Saints uncomfortable.

  7. Geoff, I don’t think it’s really an issue whether they PDA at church. Somehow I doubt homosexuals are any more likely to engage in such impolite behavior than heterosexual couples.

    For me the issue is more about the simple message that the two of them sitting together sends. I’m not sure what that message is, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it being made in Sacrament meeting.

    Ultimately though, this is probably one of those areas where I will give in and allow it. Just the price we pay for living in a society of people I guess.

  8. Seth, I will take a probably feeble stab at trying to explain my feelings on this issue. I will try to compare it to the Boy scouts issue. Do I care if my boys are taught by a Scout leader who is gay? Couldn’t care less as long as sexuality does not become an issue during scouting. So if some guy who is gay – and who does not mention it and/or flaunt it and make it some kind of issue when the only issue should be scouting – is a scout leader, I am 100 percent OK with it.

    So, if two guys come to church together with a child and sit quietly during Sacrament – not holding hand, not being affectionate and announcing themselves as a “couple” – then I have absolutely no problem with it and in fact I’d celebrate it. However, if the two guys or women start making their sexuality an issue during Sacrament, they are distracting from the sacredness of the event by the very outrageousness of their actions. Sorry folks, but a husband and wife being affectionate simply does not have the same effect. You just can’t compare the two scenes.

    In the same way, a man and woman making out during sacrament is also disrespectful – and I think it’s wrong.

  9. I thought the topic here was making gay couples feel welcome at Church?

    You can’t do that, and then all of a sudden start establishing a bunch of rules and regulations about what you would consider acceptable or not. Let’s get off the topic of making out in Church, because no reasonable person, gay or straight, thinks that’s appropriate. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that gay people holding hands in Church is inappropriate. If straight people normally do it without thinking twice, no self-respecting gay couple would consider it a problem either. And by setting up some kind of rule that says, “Unless you behave in such and such a way (which by the way is different from how I myself or others think it’s acceptable for us to behave),” you’ve essentially said, “You’re not welcome.”

    I attend an inner-city ward in Minneapolis. I’ve seen people walk into our building and worship with us who were dressed in, let’s just say some very interesting garb for a Mormon meeting house. I’ve seen people with piercings and tattoos, odd facial hair, and one guy who blesses the sacrament while wearing a ring that has some kind of skull and crossbones or dragon claw or something kind of strange. People’s breath might smell of smoke (or booze), they might look like of odd. I’ve never seen anyone show them the door.

    My partner is deathly afraid of attending church with me because he really truly believes (and he may just be right) that if it were obvious we were there as a couple, he would be VERY unwelcome. I am going forward with faith, believing that he wouldn’t be, that people would rejoice to have him (and me) there. But I can say this… If the day ever comes, miracle of miracles, that I can convince him to come along, all it will probably take is a single unkind word and that would probably be the end of it, until Jesus himself comes and sets His Church right.

    If we want to welcome people, we need to roll out the welcome mat, and them be prepared for whoever strolls through the door, in all of their glorious imperfection and diversity. The minute we start appending the list of “Well you’re welcome, but…” Or “You can come but only if…” We’re not really welcoming, are we?

  10. I see hand-holding as appropriate, as it’s low-key enough that anyone who sees it has to be trying to see it.

    I’m wary of anything more from anyone, whether married, dating, straight, gay, whatever. One singles’ ward I attended had more than one girl with the habit of letting her current boyfriend put his head in her lap. I thought it was massively inappropriate — even more than the turning-off-of-all-the-lights thing that got me to decide to stop going to YSA dances altogether. Kissing and various levels of fondling (have any of you guys read the stuff they tell the youth about touching?) also seem really icky in public.

    But then I’ve usually gone on about fifteen dates before I let a guy hold my hand anywhere (let alone in public), and my own parents have never done more than hold hands in sacrament meeting, so.

  11. “The standards God has set [are] that sexuality be expressed ‘only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife’…. Our behavior in public must be above reproach…. It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion.” (“God Loveth His Children,” pp.5-9.)

    What if I sat in sacrament meeting next to my neighbor’s wife (no relation) and we held hands, or put our arms around each other, or kissed?

    I know my own children would be embarrassed and Ithink the neighbor children would be embarrassed also. Other parents in the ward would probably object.

  12. Wow, Julie, I’m lucky you’re not my bishop! I’m always holding hands with my husband, or putting an arm around him, or leaning on him, or kissing him on the cheek. It’s the very sacredness of the meeting that causes me to do so, making my love for him swell in such a way that I have difficulty expressing self-control (and really have no desire to as what I do seems pretty darn innocuous).

    Frankly, I think we should be making anyone who comes to church feel welcome. I don’t know how to specifically do that in a way that will make it clear that we love the people, if not their lifestyle, in the case of gay people in particular, but it needs to be done. It’s difficult to bring people to the Lord if they won’t even open up to the possibility because of being treated poorly.

    Geoff, I wish your experiences with the Church not hunting out those not following the commandments was universal. It definitely depends on the area and the bishop. My mom has a friend whose daughter is gay. She was 21, living with her girlfriend, and wasn’t interested in the church (and hadn’t been for years). The bishop of the friend’s ward sought out the daughter, even though she no longer lived within the ward boundaries, and proceeded to somehow get her excommunicated (I’m fuzzy on the details of how he managed this when she wasn’t in the ward boundaries anymore-perhaps she was still in the stake boundaries and got someone else to get things going). She was excommunicated in a surprisingly swift fashion.

    The friend and her family were devastated, even if the daughter wasn’t too much. Maybe things would have been blown over, but subsequent interactions with church leaders, including an area authority, in their attempts to understand why such a thing had happened when it really wasn’t supposed to happen that way (young girl, not in the ward boundaries, not active or trying to be active) just made things worse. Add in a mother bear complex, and now, some years later, all but one child of the family is completely inactive and none of them want anything to do with the Church.

    I don’t agree with their reaction to the situation, but just thought it was a related anecdote given Geoff’s comment. I really wish it hadn’t happened. It’s caused a hole in my mom’s life because of the changes in her friend, and obviously there’s an even greater emptiness in the friend, even though she doesn’t see it.

  13. John, #9, the reality of the world we live in is that there are certain unwritten rules for every social situation in which we engage. You don’t go to Miami, where I live, and start complaining loudly everywhere you go that nobody speaks English. Yes, it’s true that English is the dominant language of the United States and it’s ridiculous that people don’t learn English, but it’s simply rude to go around deliberately offending the people around you, and I wouldn’t recommend it. You’re likely to get a lecture from a bilingual person that will leave your ears burning. The same thing applies to people with same-gender attractions and Sacrament meeting. If you brought your partner to Sacrament and enjoyed the music, sang hymns, listened to the speakers and sat side by side, you would be heartily welcomed in 99 percent of the wards, I’d be willing to bet. If you came and started showing public affection, my guess is nobody would say anything but you wouldn’t be welcomed as much. The gracious thing to do, it seems to me, is to try to be polite and fit in as much as possible in the environment you inhabit. That’s just the way the world is.

    As for welcoming people with tattoos, weird facial hair and weird rings, well, it happens in my ward all the time. We’ve had several men who come to sacrament in flip flops and bermuda shorts and a lot of people with piercings, tattoos, etc. I’ve never heard an unkind thing said. Personally, my policy is to go up to any visitor, no matter what they look like, and shake their hand and welcome them to the ward. But it is worth pointing out that people who don’t fit in either begin wearing white shirts and nicer outfits or they stop coming to church. I know my bishop and all of the Church leaders pretty well, and I can guarantee you that nobody ever says something to these people — people begin to change once they start accepting the Gospel. So, if they stop coming is it the fault of the members who have never done anything accept welcome these people, or is it the fault of the people who begin feeling uncomfortable? Clearly, the latter.

    Firebyrd, #12, of course there will always be exceptions to any situation. There are a lot of bishops and stake presidents out there, and some of them may feel that for whatever reason they need to deal with such transgressions even if the person is inactive. But I have served on disciplinary councils and in bishoprics, and I can tell you that Church leaders are usually much too worried with other issues to start hunting people down. Just sitting here I can think of literally hundreds of people I know who have gone inactive for one reason or another, started committing sexual sins, including homosexual sins, and were basically left alone. Usually the process is that if a person comes back after committing such sin he must go through a repentance process and perhaps disfellowship as part of the repentance process. But if they remain inactive, they are usually left alone. But thanks for sharing that story.

  14. I think the example of excessive PDA is distracting from the issue here.

    I think we’d be better off boiling it down to a comparison more like this:

    Example 1: Husband and wife in Sacrament Meeting. Wife moves close to husband, husband puts arms around wife’s shoulders, wife rests her head on husband’s shoulder.

    Most wards, this is not a problem at all. It’s not blatant, excessive, or distracting to the meeting. In fact, it’s likely to evoke tender emotions in some of those who notice it. I don’t imagine it would bother people at all.

    Example 2: Husband and Husband (in a male homosexual partnership) in Sacrament Meeting doing the same thing.

    I don’t think it’s off-base to say that, whatever you think of the behavior itself, it’s going to distract from the meeting, and bother quite a few people.

    And just to mix things up:

    Example 3: Wife and Wife (female homosexual partnership) same scenario.

    Is it just as disturbing? Considering that I’ve seen sisters in Young Women and Relief Society meetings doing this same thing (without the homosexuality), is it fair to say it wouldn’t stand out as much? Maybe.

    But I think it’s best to focus on an at-first-glance innocuous scenario like this, and then question why exactly it is that one example does or does not bother us, and why it is different from the other situations.

    Why is one worse than the others? Is one worse than the others?

  15. I’d like to see heterosexual couples excommunicated for holding hands, putting their arms around each other, or kissing during sacrament meeting, so maybe I’m not the one to ask.

    (My point is that NO ONE should be doing these things in sac. mtg.)

    For serious?

  16. I thought the topic here was making gay couples feel welcome at Church?

    You can’t do that, and then all of a sudden start establishing a bunch of rules and regulations about what you would consider acceptable or not.

    Well . . . I think most of here would agree that, say, noisy marital union in the aisle would be a real bad thing to do, but that doesn’t mean heterosexuals feel unwelcome at church. I think the real point is that ‘gay couples’ aren’t what we’re trying to welcome, per se, but individuals of all stripes who are sinners. Just as Alma wouldn’t exclude the poor from the synagogues to make the Zoramites feel welcome, however much in need of preaching the Zoramites were, we need to think of ways to accommodate sinners without trying to accommodate their sin. Whoever said that above was right on.

  17. I think there is no better place for people to be than where they can feel the Spirit. If that means Sacrament Meeting (and/or other meetings), then I would hope they would come. I would hope they would find love and acceptance and warmth and spiritual refreshment.

    I would also hope, though, that there would be respect for the beliefs and standards of the community. Distracting displays of affection by homosexual couples seem to me to be a show of disrespect, unless they truly don’t know the Church’s stance on homosexual behavior.

    To make a community work as it should, there is usually some measure of give and take, and of forgiveness, patience and love. To demand that all standards and expectations be suspended in order to show love and acceptance seems inappropriate. But I doubt any one of us would advocate policing any behavior that might be a bit out of the ordinary, unless it was egregiously distracting.

    In a sense, we all self-regulate to some degree (we try to stay seated in the meeting, we try to keep our children quiet, we try to come dressed so as not to distract, we don’t yell out in the middle of a meeting when we disagree with something, etc.). It doesn’t seem inappropriate to hope that there be restraints for PDA (though I agree that the distraction level for heterosexual couples and homosexual couples will differ, and that should be no surprise given our doctrine).

    In the T&S thread, someone pointed out the scripture in 3 Ne. 18:28-32, which I think is relevant, for example, we are taught that we should not cast people out of our places of worship, but minister and care for them.

  18. Most likely if this scenario would actually ocurr it would be an act of protest or an attempt to mock our LOC standards. It would be to be honest offensive.

    Our standards are not a secret. Its hard to imagine a gay couple NOT knowing that PDA by them is inappropriate.

    I think a lot of the commentators above are being PC. I can tell you with confidence that if this happened in my ward there would be a disruption.

  19. bbell,
    Depending, of course, on what you mean by “a disruption” (I’m assuming somebody gets up, makes a scene, or intimidates), that would be really sad.

  20. I think a lot of the commentators above are being PC. I can tell you with confidence that if this happened in my ward there would be a disruption.

    My guess is that the vast majority of the people at Church would agree with me — even if they’re afraid to write these feelings in our current politically correct environment.

    I don’t think the various reactions have anything to do with being PC. Some of us may be younger, and may actually have gay colleagues and friends that are nothing more than regular ol’ people instead of some crazy sexual deviants trying to recruit the youngsters around us. I don’t like it when my heterosexual friends get too frisky in front of me, and the same goes for any homosexual I know. I think as my generation and the generation after me become a larger part of Sacrament meeting, you’ll see more people not freaking out so much at this kind of thing.

    I’ve seen young women holding hands, hugging, falling asleep against each other and laying on laps during Sacrament Meeting. I assume they’re just friends, but who knows? It never seems to cause a commotion. It would probably cause a commotion if two young men did it because as a society we’re all very uncomfortable with two men showing affection to each other.

    Public displays of affection for me are the same for homo and heterosexuals. In or out of sacrament meeting.

    Holding hands – ok
    Arms around shoulders – ok
    Hug – mmmhh, maybe a quick one
    Kissing – no
    bear hugs – no
    hugs with wandering hands – Yikes!
    Quick pinch on the butt when you think nobody’s looking – Ok, but then you have to deal with the thirteen-year-olds giggling and pointing as you usher them into class (and then teach them about George Albert Smith with a red face).

  21. I was actually thinking that heads would turn, tongues would wag, and the Bishop would would walk over there after the mtg was over for a chat about appropriate behavior which would probably end up in his office. Knowing this bishop and church policy he would also enquire about membership status and where they lived. This would then lead to potentially more actions by the Bishop/SP/High Council if they were members which would probably offend many bloggernaccle types.

    I am just keeping it real. The idea that Gay PDA during a LDS Church mtg would be OK is silly.

  22. bbell,
    Depending, of course, on what you mean by “a disruption” (I’m assuming somebody gets up, makes a scene, or intimidates), that would be really sad.

    I assumed by “a disruption” he meant talking loudly in the hall afterwards about how homosexuals are the devil and that was the most disgusting thing they’d ever seen and they were probably going to die of AIDS soon.

    Because that’s how it would probably become a disruption in my ward. Most people are too passive aggressive, especially in church, to actually get up in the middle of a meeting and do something like you’re describing.

  23. Most likely if this scenario would actually ocurr it would be an act of protest or an attempt to mock our LOC standards.

    I am not so sure this would be the case. I agree that an act of protest would be undesirable and likely would best be met by a talk with the bishop.

    3 Ne. also talks about not allowing those who are not worthy to partake of the sacrament, so that alone would likely be a reason for the bishop to want a chat.

    But I think that for the members, there would be little that should be done to police or say anything. Even IF something happened that was offensive, it’s not really our place to call someone on it. That’s the leadership’s role, IMO.

  24. To me, the main thing often overlooked is that sometimes it seems as those who argue that it would be okay for gay couples to hold hands and do quick kisses in sacrament meeting is that they treat the hand holding/etc. as though it is only epistemologically different than heterosexual hand holding.

    But the gospel, and I don’t know anyway to get around it, treats these things as ontologically different. In other words, the law of chastity allows for heterosexual affection because (withing certain boundaries) heterosexual affection and sex is a GOOD thing, a good in and of itself, and an essential part of the gospel. However, as it is currently taught, homosexual sex is not. It is an inherent “bad thing” that does not have place withing God’s plan.

    So, Geoff and other’s squeamishness about such affection taking place has a real base in the gospel. Homosexual and Heterosexual affection (even light affection like hand holding, etc.) are not parallel cases, different only in kind or whatever. They are essentially different in nature – ontologically separate acts.

    However, no matter what, they should be welcome in sacrament meeting. If someone started smoking in the middle of sacrament, I’d hope someone acted with charity, assumed a misunderstanding on the person’s part, and with love and humility explained that the church is smoke free building but they can smoke outside. I think a similar standard should apply in any similar case. Charity should be the basis.

  25. Geoff B: in response to #13… I thought the question here was how do we make people feel welcome. If that is really the question, then you are looking at it the wrong way if what you’re really saying is, “How can we force them to conform to our expectations of them?”

    You are right… When I am a guest in a different person’s home or in a foreign country (like Miami… or Utah) I generally try to be aware of the mores of my hosts and behave in a good guest-like manner and not do anything they would consider uncouth.

    But similarly, if I am a host, I do not humiliate my guests or show them the door just because their manners or ways of acting are different from the ones we’re accustomed to. To the contrary, as good hosts, we bend over to make them feel at home and to avoid embarrassing them by pointing out that we consider their behavior rude.

    OF COURSE there are limits. There are certain forms of behavior that are just so rude or beyond the pale that no host would tolerate them. Generally, everyone knows what those rules are, unless you are mentally ill.

    But you are talking about trying to make gay people feel welcome in our wards, right? Then why keep stressing about holding hands?

  26. OK, just to take this out of the realm of the purely hypothetical, here is a real, live, true story of gay PDA in a Mormon Sacrament meeting.

    My partner and I were visiting my parents in Massachusetts. At the time, I was still pretty alienated from the Church. We were there over a weekend, so my parents asked us if we would like to attend Church with them, and we agreed. This was a big step for me, and a HUGE step for my partner. Sunday morning, we put on our suits and ties, and all went to my parents’ ward.

    Now my partner and I tend to be about as physically affectionate with each other in public as just about any other average couple, gay or straight. When we attend the nearby UCC congregation, of which we are both members, like other couples (and like many Mormon couples in any given ward), we hold hands, or put an arm around the other’s back. An occasional peck on the cheek is also not unheard of. Not only is this not considered inappropriate, we have actually had straight congregation members comment that they are grateful to see us expressing the same kind of affection any other loving couple feels free to express. It makes them happy that the gay members of their congregation (which is 75% heterosexual) feel comfortable enough and at home enough not to feel they have to censor themselves or be afraid of how others react. Our pastor has actually encouraged us to hold hands, etc., because he wants other gay people wandering into the church to see that they are not only not alone there, but that they are welcome. That is the church culture we were accustomed to at the time we showed up at my parents’ LDS ward.

    We knew that we could not be as publicly affectionate in this setting as we were accustomed to. There were no arms around backs, no heads leaning on the partner’s shoulders, certainly no innocent pecks on the cheek. We were trying to be discreet. But at some point in the sacrament meeting – and to be honest I don’t remember who initiated it – we held hands. We did not do it in any way that was ostentatious or obvious. We were sitting in the pews, holding hands in between us, and it is doubtful that more than a few people sitting in the same row as us could see us. See us they did.

    No one made a fuss at the time, no one said a word. The ruckus ensued after we were safely gone, but it was a ruckus. It was later recounted to me by the wife of the man who was my parents’ bishop at the time. Apparently considerable outrage was expressed. “Do you believe what the Wrathalls’ boy was doing!!,†etc. The word spread, and apparently some very unkind things were said.

    My parents were humiliated. They never asked us to come to Church with them again. We eventually got word of what happened. My partner will probably never set foot in an LDS Church again as a result of that, and of other stories he’s heard.

    I guess my question is, What harm was done by this brief incident of hand-holding? And what harm was done by the (over)reaction to it? Two good, faithful members of the ward, whose only desire was for their son and his partner to come have an opportunity to feel the Spirit, were humiliated. My partner was, let’s just say, left with a very unpleasant, uncharitable impression of Mormons.

    I have since become reconciled with the Church, due in no small part to the loving, patient, kind attitude of my parents. I can only imagine my reconciliation might have many, many years earlier, if the behavior of the good folks in the Georgetown Ward had been a little different. But when people wig out about a little incident of hand-holding, it doesn’t communicate love or morality or concern. It basically left both me and my partner with the feeling that, if this is how they react to us holding hands, they must just hate us. They must just find the thought of us so disgusting and intolerable, we’d better just stay as far away as possible.

  27. John, I have.a suggestion for you: why don’t you try going to another ward some time and sit with your partner and NOT holding hands? I’m sorry to say this because again it is totally politically incorrect, but I’m not really surprised or shocked at the reaction of the people in your parents’ ward. Personally, if somebody came to me saying they were shocked by two gay guys holding hands, I’d avoid discussing it because I think prophets have made it clear that gossiping is wrong and, frankly, evil.

    John, at the end of the day, the church is either true or it is not. If you believe it’s true, then you should go to church and ignore the evil gossip of those around you. As elder bednar made clear in his oct 06 talk, you can make the choice not to be offended. It’s up to you.

    In the meantime, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I personally believe it’s rude to impose your vision of morality on people who don’t share it and expect all of us to be shocked when they react exactly as one would expect them to react. I see it exactly in the same light as my Miami example ot going to Watts and loudly praising the KKK. When you are in somebody else’s home, the polite thing to do is to obey their rules and expectations. This seems pretty obvious to me.

  28. “I see it exactly in the same light as my Miami example ot going to Watts and loudly praising the KKK.”

    Surely Geoff, you can find an example more analogous than that?

  29. What an interesting thread. I know this site really isn’t intended for people like me, but since I’m mentioned in the initial post….hopefully you will indulge me.

    Ivan and Geoff, you make strong arguments. However, ultimately you need to ask yourselves this question:

    Do you want non-repentant individuals to attend Sacrament meeting, or not?

    John and his partner were just guests that Sunday. They weren’t imposing their vision of morality on anybody; that’s a laughable assertion. They were nervously and reluctantly visiting with family, and ever-so-quietly being themselves. There’s no way one can reasonably interpret the response they received as anything other than gossip-fueled rejection and semi-covert hostility. They were made to feel very unwelcome. One of them will never be back. This is Christlike behavior to you?

    I appreciate your willingness to buck what’s PC and speak your heart: gay couples are not welcome in this Church without a clear call to repentance, even as guests. Why not confront them at the front door (“This is a gay-free building, but you can hold hands outside!”) or at least require them to sit in separate pews to avoid any possibility of offense? For that matter, why not do the same with the cohabiting straight couple that visits? Perhaps the visitor with the garish tattoo could be required to cover it up. Binaca for the smokers, anyone?

  30. Mike, yes, I want everybody to attend sacrament meeting. My personal feeling is that there are some rules that people should follow in any social situaution if they are truly interested in making others feel comfortable.

    Some of my comparisons have been over-the-top, so let me try it another way: if I went to the Unitarian church in San Francisco, it probably would be polite for me not to let everybody know I am a Republican. Well, why not? Can’t I “be myself?”. Yes, I can, but by saying that I’m spoiling for a fight and making others feel uncomfortable. Is that clearer now?

  31. I just have to say that the topic itself gives me hope. It suggests that the church is evolving along with its members. The notion of a gay couple in Sacrament meeting seems like one of those impossible dramatic set-ups where the situation keeps getting worse for the characters, like Geoff B’s hyperbolic example of “going to Watts and loudly praising the KKK.” And yet, this discussion has proved to be much different than that. Most people, like me, yearn for change. While not perfect, the church’s stance has softened and I believe it will continue to do so.

    I think everyone should hold hands in Sacrament meeting, starting with the bishopric.

  32. We had a recently married couple awhile back and they were inappropriate in their affection. It was quite embarrassing. But we were tolerant and they got over that.

    I think we should all be careful about PDA’s in church, but I really wouldn’t want a gay couple to express affection in church. That would bother me. That just wouldn’t be right.

    But if two gay guys, partners, came to church, that wouldn’t bother me.

  33. That’s certainly a less inflammatory comparison, Geoff, but I still disagree. Those SF Unitarians, if they are truly interested in welcoming people to their congregation and spreading the liberal word, would be unwise to ask you to hide who you really are in their presence. It’s about their obligation to welcome visitors, not their visitors’ obligation to make them comfortable.

    This has to be the most hypothetical, semi-fictional conversation I’ve ever read in the Bloggernacle. Anybody who is worried about throngs of hand-holding gay couples descending on their ward and making everyone uncomfortable…..fear not! One suspects that won’t be the biggest problem you face in the next 50 years or so.

    Take care you guys, and thanks for letting me crash your blog. I’m soon off to Sunstone to hang with the other semi-apostate liberals and maybe even attend my first sacrament meeting in almost 20 years! :)

  34. the comment: (sorry, paraphrasing) “what is wrong with gay couples being who they are in church?”
    My question is: why is it so difficult for gay couples to understand in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “gay”, “homosexual”, etc. is expressly considered a sin and one needing to be repented of….that is, the act/behavior of being gay…..
    behaving in what is described as a “loving” manner with a person of the same sex in Church is quite frankly, rubbing “behavior” in the face of members who are taught it is a sin, confuses children who are being taught by family and other adults at Church that it is a sin. Because the act/behavior of being homosexual is so strongly associated with sex and sexual acts, it is considered quite inappropriate for gay couples to be “loving” in Church.
    Too often, when I read posts on this and other sites by those who are defending the right to be “themselves” in Church, the tolerance and understanding is only to be on one side –
    Gay couples who attend church services at Church can be the ones who show more “tolerance” by showing the average member that they do respect where they are.

  35. I see gay men in church all the time. I have bever seen an inappropriate display of affection. (I have only rarely seen them with a partner.) If I saw them regularly there with a partner or in any display of affection I wouldn’t hesitate to make them feel unwelcome.

    I resent all the attempts I see (especially on LDS blogs) to try to make an equivalence between homosexual relationships and marriage or even putative marriages (i.e. engagements, courting etc.) There is none. The proclamation (revelation) on the family is brilliantly clear on this subject. Before commenting let me mention that I see no need for the redundancy heterosexual marriage. All marriages in God’s eyes are heterosexual as the proclamation says explicitly.

  36. Arrrrrgh! You people with your comparisons of English speakers in Miami and Mormons in a San Francisco Unitarian church are forgetting that John happens to BE A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH!! (Yes, I’m shouting!) He is not a foreigner encroaching upon your territory. He is your brother, and has as much right to be there as you do. Since when have we ever used the standard of whether someone is repentant or respectful to determine whether they belong in Church or deserve our kindness???

  37. At least Ivan Wolfe in #24, j. in #34, and georged in #35 have more intellectual honesty than Geoff B, who has gone on and on about being welcoming, but keeps rounding back to his discomfort at the sight of two people of the same sex holding hands. Who ever said that doing the right thing was easy or comfortable?

    I am a married straight man who has deep affection for some of my male friends. What if it were me holding hands with a man? Is this forbidden? Do Mormons never join hands to pray? How do you know which is which? Why sexualize a universal human gesture?

    Geoff’s Miami & Watts analogies are terrible. These urban communities are not self-described sanctuaries of healing and reconciliation! They are part of the cold, hard world of humankind. Being truly welcoming involves risking some discomfort with those whom you wish to welcome. MikeInWeHo has it exactly right: demonstrating welcome is the obligation of the host, not the guest.

  38. OK, it’s time for many people on this thread to hear from modern-day prophets, seers and revelators on this issue, and it is my pleasure to comply.

    Here are some quotations from May 1994 Ensign article “Teach Us Tolerance and Love” by Elder Russell M. Nelson:

    “I have been impressed to speak on the subject of tolerance—a virtue much needed in our turbulent world. But in discussing this topic, we must recognize at the outset that there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her license to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue.”

    And further:

    “While we strive for the virtue of tolerance, other commendable qualities need not be lost. Tolerance does not require the surrender of noble purpose or of individual identity. The Lord gave instruction to leaders of His restored church to establish and maintain institutional integrity—“that the church may stand independent.†“

    And further:

    “Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness.

    The Lord drew boundary lines to define acceptable limits of tolerance. Danger rises when those divine limits are disobeyed. Just as parents teach little children not to run and play in the street, the Savior taught us that we need not tolerate evil. “Jesus went into the temple of God, and … and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers.†16 Though He loved the sinner, the Lord said that He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.†17 His Apostle Paul specified some of those sins in a letter to the Galatians. The list included “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

    “Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, … wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

    “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.†“

    So, to sum up:

    “LOVE THE SINNER BUT DON’T LOVE THE SIN.”

  39. What is fascinating to me is to observe how normally rational, reasonable people begin to completely lose their ability to reason logically when confronted with the issue of the Church’s stand on homosexuality. Why? Because the incorrect standards of the world have confused so many people. It is completely obvious to me that people, especially the well-intentioned but misguided liberal Church members who appear to dominate the bloggernacle, are sitting around saying, “well, in my heart I know homosexuality is wrong, and it’s wrong to encourage something that is wrong, and I certainly wouldn’t want to encourage my children or people who are “questioning” to make a choice to experiment with homosexuality, and I’m uncomfortable with all of these things that are happening in our society to normalize homosexuality, but I can’t really say that because it’s just not done these days. I mean, what will all the other liberals think if I actually say the things about homosexuality that I really believe?”

    So, the result is that you get people saying things they obviously don’t believe in an attempt to twist logic and change the subject.

    Example number one is Julie M. Smith (#4) writing that heterosexual couples should be excommunicated for holding hands. I mean, come on! So, the two grandparents who have been together for 50 years should be excommunicated for holding hands??!!! Julie, give me a break. There is no way you believe that, but again you are a victim of rampant political correctness.

    Example number two is BIV (#36) saying something he/she does not believe, which is that there should be different treatment for people who are members and non-members. Again, BIV does not believe that, but there she is writing it.

    Example number three is Knight of Nothing (#37) pretending he doesn’t know the difference between two gay guys holding hands and announcing to the world “we are a couple!!!!!” and people holding hands to pray. As Knight of Nothing very well knows, nobody would have a problem with a guy holding hands with another guy who is, for example, suffering from an affliction, and you are offering him comfort. But two gay guys, such as John’s example above, coming to sacrament meeting and holding hands says: “we are a couple!!!” This is a different message altogether.

    So, let’s try to follow a basic pattern of logic here. Let’s see if all of our misguided (but well-intentioned) commenters can suspend the drama and outrage and start using their heads.

    1)Sacrament meeting is sacred.
    2)Everybody, no matter what sin they have committed, is welcome at sacrament meeting.
    3)Personally, I like to see people come to Sacrament who are trying to overcome sin (just as I am), so I celebrate EVERYBODY coming to Sacrament meeting.
    4)As the title of this post indicates, and as everybody knows but some people like to occasionally forget for dramatic effect, there are certain standards that everybody must live up to when attending a sacred event. (No smoking, drinking, screaming, yelling, talking politics, openly flaunting of sins, etc).
    5)In addition, there are basic rules in polite society of what you do and do not do when you are entering a new group. You don’t go to Watts and start praising the KKK or Miami and complaining about all the Spanish or to a SF Unitarian church wearing a “I love W” T-shirt. And, you don’t go to an LDS Church are start announcing to the world “we are a gay couple and we are holding hands.” It is not done because it is not polite.

    So, the main point of this post, which has not changed up to now, is that everybody should be welcome at Sacrament meeting, but if you are going to come there are basic rules you should follow out of 1)respect for the sacred nature of the event and 2)out of basic politeness.

    Thank you all for playing.

  40. Geoff,

    I hesitate to offer my opinion here because I don’t wnat you to dismiss it as unfaithful, wishy-washy, as as something I don’t really believe. However, I think your comments # 38 and 39 are beneath you.

    In your original post, you said:

    This kind of behavior (PDA) is increasingly common among gay couples these days, and I’m not sure how I’d feel about that in Sacrament.

    If you aren’t sure how you feel about it, how can you be so sure of yourself in condemning those who have a differing opinion? Are you aware of the arguments made by Hugh Nibley and others (and which are very persuasive) that the sin of Sodom that was most offensive to God was not homosexuality but the lack of hospitality to strangers? Those arguments apply perfectly to this thread, in my opinion. You stated in a previous comment that gay people can choose to not be offended by their reception at church. Fair enough. Does not the same logic apply in reverse? Do church members have the right to take offense, or can they simply choose to not be offended by the sight of two men holding hands? You seem to be arguing that people have every right to take offense when none is intended. If that is true, I think you are on very shaky ground.

  41. Geoff, I respect your point of view. But it is wholly different than my own. I happen to think that homosexuality is no sin at all. But for the sake of argument, let me put it to you another way: is it possible for a gay man to hold hands with another gay man, or to embrace him, or to show any form of physical affection, and for this physical affection to be a sign of friendship, chaste love, kindness, comfort, or basic humanity? In other words, can it ever be “holy”? Or, does the fact that these hypothetical men have same-sex yearnings preclude them from experiencing this form of human contact?

    What I am arguing is a universal imperative: human beings need physical affection of all forms. Most of it is not sexual in any way. Why do we hold babies, shake hands, embrace, pat each other on the back, high-five, kiss each other on the cheek? There is not enough of this in our fractured existence! I might add that in other parts of the world, men kissing other men is a common form of greeting and farewell. It has nothing to do with sex or sexual orientation. So much for “ontological difference” between men kissing men vs. men kissing women. It is a cultural norm.

    Inviting homosexuals into your sanctuary, then holding them to an inhumane standard of conduct just seems unwelcoming to me. This is your post and your discussion, however, so as a guest I defer to you for the last word.

    Regards, KoN

  42. Mark IV, by Hugh Nibley’s standards (or your interpretation of them), we are all Sodomites now!!! (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    But seriously, without trying to offend you, I think you’re falling into the same trap as others on this thread — writing things you don’t even believe. Do you really mean to say that #38, in which 95 percent of the comment simply quotes a modern-day prophet, seer and revelator, is “beneath” me? Did you bother to actually look at the quotations and put them in context? Based on past comments, I assume you are an active Church member. How can you so blithely ignore his very specific comments that are exactly pertinent to this issue?

    Again, Mark, and I’m sorry to say this, but you are taking “the world’s” current attitude toward homosexuality and applying it to your comment, rather than studying what modern-day prophets and apostles have said about this issue. It seems to me that modern-day prophets and apostles have said very nearly what I say at the end of my #39, which is “welcome everybody because they are all sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father, treat them with love and kindness, but don’t tolerate sin and don’t allow a sacred event to be used for the wrong purpose.”

    I have read all of the FARMs collected works of Hugh Nibley several times. He was not a prophet and/or apostle. 90 percent of the things he wrote were brilliant. As a scholar I am not fit to even buckle his shoes. But the other 10 percent was completely wacky. Hugh Nibley basically believed that the only honorable and acceptable careers were being teachers/university professors or being a farmer. He condemned every other career as destroying the Earth and/or contributing to a capitalist system he considered abhorrent. Now, there’s a caring, tolerant leftist for you!

    As for choosing not to be offended, I address this in #5, in which I discuss how I would respond. Personally, I don’t have authority or the keys over two homosexuals who come to Church and start holding hands. I would say nothing to them. I am against gossip and would avoid discussing the issue with others at Church. However, my guess, based on spending a lot of time with my bishop, is that he would, after Sacrament, call the two men into his office and tell them that such displays are inappropriate. And he does have authority over them. And I support my bishop.

  43. KoN,

    Thanks for visiting.

    I would urge you to read what the Church has to say about homosexuality. Let me quote from the pamphlet I link above in the first paragraph:

    “Our bodies are sacred; they are sometimes referred to in the scriptures as “temples of God.†Many people with same-gender attraction respect the sacredness of their bodies and the standards God has set—that sexuality be expressed “only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife†(“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,†Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). The lives of these individuals are pleasing to our Father in Heaven. Some, however, cross this boundary and indulge in immoral conduct. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone.

    True happiness depends on more than the expression of physical urges. These urges diminish as more fundamental emotional needs are met—such as the need to interact with and serve others. True happiness comes from self-control, self-respect, and positive direction in life. It comes from a testimony of true doctrine—including who you are and who you may become—and from living according to God’s plan of happiness. ”

  44. Okay, here’s a nonsensical hypothetical situation for people to consider. You are strictly forbidden from trying to throw any of this back in my face, because as you have noticed I have an iron-clad get out of jail free card in my first sentence.

    First, let me say that I am homophobic. I don’t mean to be and I don’t go out of my way to dislike people who are gay. I’ve known only a couple of gay people in my whole life and I had no ill-feelings at all towards them. I just find myself inadvertantly shuddering when I see two gay people showing affection. I also feel that as the Lord has so specifically said that only heterosexual marriage is pleasing before the Lord. The whole ‘a man must cleave unto the woman thing.’

    Having shown you where my point of view is starting from, here is the situation. You are somehow trapped in the wilds of downtown San Fancisco. You have wandered the concrete wilderness with the woman you love above all others. You find the only LDS chapel in a hundred mile radius. You walk in and realize that you are in the only all-gay ward known to man. Here you discover that the teachings are that heterosexual love is an abhorent sin before God. You of course do not believe this, but you are grateful to have found someone teaching from the Book of Mormon so you sit quietly and listen. During the meeting you reach down and hold your dearly loved (opposite gendered) partners hand, because she feels lost and desperately wants to cling to you in someway for reassurance and love. You know full well that the people here would find that inappropriate and sinful. However, you do it anyway, because your love for her is greater than your love of these strangers. Hmmmmm.

    Keeping in mind how I feel, even I would see that if the situation was reversed you would feel that you have done nothing wrong. So, when the good people in that all-gay ward harshly whisper about what you have done and your actions are nothing more than a hissed by-word. And in no uncertain terms you hear, by way of a third party that what you had done was grossly uncalled for and indeed even condemened. Do you think you would ever go back to that ward? Ever? EVER?

    Probably not, and of course the situation is nothing more than absurd fantasy. However, it does make a person stop and think.

  45. cew-smoke, I grew up in San Francisco and have spent literally thousands of hours in conversations with people on hypotheticals just like this one. I understand the comparison you are trying to make. I understand you are trying to get people to think about this from another point of view. I know that the comparison is absurd, but that you are trying to provoke “outside the box” thinking.

    So I won’t even get into all of the absurdities of your comment. But I will say one thing: there is nothing anybody could say to me that would prevent me from going to Church and taking the Sacrament. I’m sure I could be physically prevented. But I don’t care if people are screaming in my face, insulting my parents, insulting my wife and kids, and physically threatening me. I will still go to Church every Sunday and take the Sacrament because I made a covenant with the savior when I was baptized that I would do this. How’s that for an answer?

  46. #27
    Very revealing comments, insightful even:

    I personally believe it’s rude to impose your vision of morality on people who don’t share it and expect all of us to be shocked when they react exactly as one would expect them to react.

    Indeed! It really is rude for LDS members to impose their vision of morality on people who don’t share it, by lobbying to enact a constitutional amendment denying basic civil rights to homosexuals–and then to be shocked when homosexuals react exactly as one would expect them to react to this injustice.

  47. Geoff,

    It isn’t just Nibley who makes that argument. If you don’t like what he says, how about Ezekiel?

    “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

    I did read your quotes and I’m pretty sure I understand their context. I continue to think you are wrong to single out behavior by gay people as being egregiously offensive, that’s all.

    I could provide you with 10 pages of quotes from conference where irreverence is decried as an offense to God. If I wanted to get offended by it, I have probably 15 or 20 opportunities yesterday. The deacons goof off half the time. One of the counselors thinks he is being funny when he conducts by referring to the rest hymn as “the seventh inning stretch” or “halftime entertainment”. People wander in and out of the chapel all meeting long.

    My point is this. Just as charity is the greatest of virtues, my understanding of the gospel tells me that a lack of charity is more outrageously offensive than gay people acting like people. A hypothetical a priori justification of offense falls into the category of “seeking occasion against one another” in my opinion, and is specifically condemned in the D&C.

  48. #42:
    Exactly what authority do you believe your LDS bishop has over two non-members who happen to visit an LDS sacrament meeting? He has certain authority with regard to the building property, by which he may ask someone to leave the premises, but somehow it appears that’s not what you refer to.

    I understand that some LDS teach that a bishop has “stewardship over” all those persons who live in his ward boundaries, whether they are LDS or not. This is a matter of him having a responsibility to minister, from the LDS perspective. It does not, however, mean that he has any “authority over them,” as you suggest.

  49. Nick, John and MikeinWeHo are presumably members. The bishop has stewardship over all people in his ward boundaries and will be held accountable for what he did to help them progress in the Gospel. He also has responsibility for creating a reverent Sacrament meeting. I have never been a bishop, but I have served in a bishopric and had other close contacts through PEC and other meetings with several bishops. My feeling is that they would consider it part of their responsibility to create the right environment during Sacrament.

  50. Mark IV:

    Jeremiah 23:14 “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.”

    Jude 1:7 “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

  51. Here’s another hypothetical for you—perhaps not even so “hypothetical” at all.

    I have five daughters, all of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When they marry, I will likely not be allowed to attend the wedding itself. I accept that fact, as I voluntarily had my name removed from the records of the LDS church. I will, however, be expected to attend their wedding receptions. As is customary in American culture, I will even be expected to pay at least some of the expenses of their wedding receptions. They will almost certainly be held in LDS cultural halls, but even if they are not, the overwhelming majority of attendees will be LDS.

    Questions:
    (1) My partner will likely attend with me. Am I supposed to pretend he’s some mere acquaintance, never holding his hand or putting an arm around him, lest some LDS attendee (no doubt wolfing down refreshments I paid for) be offended?
    (2) My partner and I love to dance, and do so regularly. We’re rather good at it. Am I supposed to refrain from celebrating the event with my partner in the same way that others—including my ex-wife and husband, if she has remarried—lest someone consider our dancing together “sinful?”

  52. Nick, I can’t answer any of these questions for you because this thread has to do with Sacrament meeting. I don’t feel qualified on commenting on your personal situation. I sincerely hope you will take the opinions of your daughters into account and discuss it with them and then act as they wish because their weddings are for them, not for you. But that’s just my “Dear Abbey” advice.

  53. #49:
    Nick, John and MikeinWeHo are presumably members.

    I think you presume wrong, in at least one case.

    The bishop has stewardship over all people in his ward boundaries and will be held accountable for what he did to help them progress in the Gospel.

    Just so you don’t think the LDS bishop has authority over all people in his ward boundaries. The rest of your comment is just fine.

  54. #52:
    Understood, Geoff. I mainly wanted to see how far you were willing to take your ideas of “politeness.”

    I recently attended a Brad Paisley concert with my partner (highly recommended, btw). We were surrounded by several male-female couples who were actively…ahem…”expressing their affection for one another publicly.” My partner and I held hands, and at some times, had an arm around each other. We did not kiss, or make any particular “show” comparable to others around us.

    A married couple sat to our right. Because of the proximity of the small seats, we did happen to brush up against each other two or three times during the evening. Shortly before the end of the concert, he stood up and ordered his wife, “Let’s get out of here. These damn faggots have ruined my concert!” His wife apologized for his behavior as she passed in front of us.

    Who would you suppose was “rude?”

  55. Geoff,
    Where do you come up with the idea (expressed at least twice) that those of us who say we don’t object to gay couples in Sacrament Meeting holding hands are expressing views we don’t agree with? This discussion, as Mike points out, is probably moot, but it’s difficult to have when you claim to know my thoughts better than I do, and you claim to understand prophetic and apostolic statements (which have never once referenced gay couples holding hands at church, to the best of my knowledge) better than I do.

    I understand that it would make you uncomfortable; I actually believe we’ve been asked to be uncomfortable for the Gospel’s sake. That discomfort is sometimes financial, sometimes political, and sometimes interpersonal. If the sin of Sodom and Gommorah was inhospitality (which a strong argument has been made in various places that it was), we risk violating those laws when we tell people that they are unwelcome if they do certain things.

    That’s not to say that we should encourage gay (or straight) couples to hold hands in Sacrament Meeting. That, it seems to me, is irrelevant to our worship. But if I’m unwilling to face a certain amount of discomfort so that some of my brothers and sisters, who are presumably less attached to the Gospel than I am, feel comfortable worshipping, too, then I’m not living up to the standard I should live up to.

  56. Sam B, I think I explain myself pretty well in #39. If you don’t want to accept it, well, that’s up to you.

    I grew up in San Francisco, had a gay roommate in college and have many gay friends. This has nothing to do with my personal feelings of discomfort. This has to do with, as I have said now several times, what is appropriate for sacrament meeting and what is considered rude behavior by many people. You think it is appropriate and not rude — good for you. When you are a bishop you can implement your new ideas in your ward and see how it goes. Until then, you’ve made your points clear.

    The whole thing about Sodom and Gomorah being about inhospitality is patently absurd and completely rejected by the scriptures (see my number 50).

    Sam B, we’re all trying to work out our salvation as best we can. I happen to disagree with you on this issue, but I wish you all the best in your quest.

  57. Geoff,
    Outside of not knowing what you mean by my “quest,” I appreciate it.

    Pursuant to your #39: You’ve made the point that there are shared norms that people should follow when they enter different social spaces. I agree. You’ve asserted, further, that one of those norms, at an LDS sacrament meeting, is that gay couples shouldn’t hold hands. There, I think, your argument breaks down. That’s not to say that you aren’t correct; it is to say that I don’t see where you’ve supported that. You’ve argued that homosexual sex is against the commandments. Again, I agree with you. But homosexual handholding is not, except by some sort of logical extension. It may be that such logical extension is right; I’m not in a position where I really care (i.e., I’m neither gay nor in a position where I have any kind of stewardship over people who would be interested in knowing the answer).

    You argue that it’s not about personal feelings of discomfort, and I’m more than happy to believe that. You finally say that it is considered rude behavior by many people; I’ll even grant you that. My argument, though, is that, even if we find it rude behavior, and even if we think that everybody (straight or gay) who holds hands in Sacrament Meeting should be excommunicated, we, as active and believing members of the Church, shouldn’t add any rules to keep people away.

    I don’t have any dog in this race; you asked the opinions and I offered mine. I wouldn’t have bothered coming back, except that you asserted (not implied) that I was lying either to you or to myself about what I felt. In that, you were out of line and off base. You further imply that I have “new ideas” I want to implement; frankly, if you hadn’t asked the question, I wouldn’t have answered. I respect that you find in inappropriate, and have tried to explain why I don’t. I’m not in love with having my integrity impugned because I don’t see things they way you do. I know I’ve said that several times in this one comment, but it’s what keeps me coming back: I disagree with you, but don’t consider you a bad person for that, and I’d appreciate a reciprocal acknowledgment

  58. Geoff,
    Thanks. Don’t feel any need to respond, though, if you don’t want to. I recognize that I was venting, and I recognize, too, that you were dealing with a lot of disagreement, and maybe even attacks.

    Largely, what you said in 56: I disagree with you on this point, but I’ve laid out my reasons for disagreement, pursuant to your request for thoughts. I recognize that you have valid reasons for your opinions, but I feel mine are more valid ( :) ). I know I’m probably in the minority in my opinion (which, FWIW, is a pretty moderate opinion: I’m not asking people to come to church and deliberately make others uncomfortable, and I think most people would be hesitant to deliberately make others uncomfortable). I’m just saying that we shouldn’t have a rule, written or unwritten, that would cause such people to leave. Furthermore, you’ve said you wouldn’t go to them and ask them to stop, so effectively, we’re in the same place. I would just add that I don’t like the idea of the underlying (un-)written rule.

    If you have further ideas, I’m interested in reading them, but please don’t feel any obligation to respond to me further on this; I think I understand your position, and I hope I’ve explained mine with some amount of clarity.

  59. #60 Adam:
    Thanks for answering my question. I’d be interested in your reasoning, as well as your ultimate answer. Personally, I felt my partner and I were far, far more discrete than the male/female couples surrounding us. Are you saying that any sort of affectionate touching, by anyone at all, was rude? Or are you saying that the enthusiastic overtures of the male/female couples were okay, but my partner and I were rude?

  60. Geoff, # 56,

    The whole thing about Sodom and Gomorah being about inhospitality is patently absurd and completely rejected by the scriptures (see my number 50).

    That is a very interesting assertion. Maybe you could take the time to look up Hospitality in your topical guide. The first reference is to the sins of the inhabitants of Sodom who refused hospitality to strangers.

    In addition, please consider these statements.

    But the Lord did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of sexual impurity alone. The inhabitants of those cities were, in the eyes of the Lord, also guilty of an even greater evil, which was made clear when the prophet Ezekiel pronounced his prophecy of coming doom upon Jerusalem. “…Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy….Sodom and Gomorrah and later Jerusalem were destroyed as a result of pride, selfishness, and the haughtiness of otherwise good people.

    Elder Theodore M. Burton, Ensign, March 1971

    The scriptures abound with evidences of the severe consequences of the sin of pride to individuals, groups, cities, and nations. …It destroyed the Nephite nation and the city of Sodom. (See Moro. 8:27; Ezek. 16:49–50.)

    Ezra Taft Benson, April 1989 general conference

    When love waxes cold, let the poor and the needy beware too, for they will be neglected, as happened in ancient Sodom (see Matt. 24:12; see also Ezek. 16:49).

    Selfishness likewise causes us to be discourteous, disdainful, and self-centered while withholding from others needed goods, praise, and recognition as we selfishly pass them by and notice them not. Later on come rudeness, brusqueness, and the further flexing of elbows.

    Neal A. Maxwell, April 1999 general conference

    Geoff, you don’t strike me as a guy who goes around telling general authorities that what they say in conference is “patently absurd”. Perhaps you might want to withdraw that statement?

  61. Mark,

    I can post a similar list of GA quotes from Prophets that describe Sodom and G. as being destroyed for sexual sin. That is the standard LDS position.

    Other sins were also present there of course. go to LDS.org and search Sodom.

    Then search Sodom in google.

    Case closed.

  62. re: 60

    I totally disagree with you, Adam. If Nick’s description of the concert in #54 is complete, he and his partner did nothing wrong. The guy next to them probably would have been just as offended if a black/white heterosexual couple were next to him. That’s just rank biggotry, and it requires a robust response whenever it occurs. Calling two guys holding hands “damn faggots” is hate speech, pure and simple. Personally, I would have confronted the guy on it.

    I’m frankly appalled that any thoughtful Latter-day Saint would consider Nick and his friend co-culpable in that particular scenario.

  63. bbell,

    Are Elders Burton, Maxwell, and Benson patently absurd to have said what they did? Yes or no? Is the topical guide patently absurd to list lack of hospitality as one of the sins of Sodom?

    I’ll admit I might have a minority view. So what? That doesn’t mean that it is ridiculous. Geoff was pretty dismissive of Nibley’s position. I’m interested to see how he responds to these statements.

    Since this thread originally started out asking just how courteous we are required to be to people who offend us, I think Elder Maxwell’s statement about rudeness, discourtesy, and the flexing of elbows is especially germane.

  64. If I may, I’d like to amend my statement # 66, addressed to bbell. It came out sounding harsher than I had intended.

    I cited those sources from the topical guide and conference in order to demonstrate that my position was legitimate, even though most other LD saints might not agree. Sexual transgression is certainly a very serious sin and I don’t minimize it. However, I think that there are times when a lack of charity is even more offensive to God.

  65. Pity the “standard LDS position,” as bbell phrases it, isn’t the position taught by Joseph Smith.

    “And, in consequence of rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Prophets whom God hath sent, the judgments of God have rested upon people, the case with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that were destroyed for rejecting the Prophets.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 271.)

  66. Wow, a lot of comments while I was getting some actual work done. Too bad I don’t get paid for blogging!

    OK, Mark IV,

    Here is a screen shot of the Topical Guide on “Homosexuality.” Sodom is mentioned several times:

    TOPICAL GUIDE
    Homosexuality
    See also Chastity; Sexual Immorality
    Gen. 19: 5 bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
    Lev. 18: 22 (Lev. 20: 13) Thou shalt not lie with mankind . . . it is abomination.
    Deut. 23: 17 there shall be no . . . sodomite of the sons of Israel.
    Isa. 3: 9 (2 Ne. 13: 9) declare their sin as Sodom.
    Rom. 1: 27 men . . . burned in their lust one toward another.
    1 Cor. 6: 9 nor abusers of themselves with mankind.
    1 Tim. 1: 10 them that defile themselves with mankind.
    Jude 1: 7 as Sodom and Gomorrha . . . going after strange flesh.
    2 Ne. 13: 9 doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom.
    See also Gen. 13: 13; Gen. 18: 20; Isa. 3: 9; Ezek. 16: 50; 2 Tim. 3: 3; 2 Pet. 2: 10; 2 Ne. 9: 40.

    Note that even the BoM references to Sodom are considered references to homosexuality.

    BUT, for the sake of harmony, I will admit that you have convinced me to consider that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah do not ONLY have to do with homosexuality. So, you get a big gold star for your work today.

    What is absurd, and I should have been more precise about this, is the modern-day attempts to try to re-write the scriptures so that suddenly there are no negative references to the homosexual act. That is what I thought you and Sam B were trying to do, and I stand by that: it is absurd. But you have taught me something today, and I appreciate that, so can we agree to disagree or even agree on some things?

    Sam B, #57, by “quest” I mean everybody’s quest to become better people and get closer to God. I sincerely believe that most people who comment on this board are trying to do that in their own way. Intentions matter with the Lord. I am trying to do it (draw closer to God) the best I can. Please note that #39 does not refer to you, although I do refer to three other commenters.

  67. Just as it would be inappropriate for me to walk into a mosque eating a pulled pork sandwich, any homosexual PDA is inappropriate at sacrament. Period.

    I have a gay cousin who comes to church (all meetings) often and brings his partner. My cousin grew up in the church and understands well the church’s position on homosexuality and all of the notions, attitudes, and prejudices its members hold. His partner seems to understand this as well. When you see them at church, the only way you’d know they were a couple is that they– ok, how do I not offend here– look gay. But other than that, they’re just two dudes at church.

    The last think they’d ever do, given the circumstances, is hold hands or anything that would bring their relationship out into the open at church. Most members of their ward, which I often attend, know they’re gay. And I believe because they respect the LDS mindset, they are well accepted. My cousin has repeatedly been asked to pray at non Sunday church activities.

    Gay people want to be accepted, and I think most church members are eager to do so. But gay couples are wrong to expect any tolerance for their relationship by church members or the church as an establishment. I hate to burst some of your bubbles (John Gustav-Wrathall), but I don’t think the Church will change positions on homosexuality ever. Ever.

    My cousin happens to understand this. He’s not coming to church in hopes that someday Jesus will set all us bigots straight (no pun intended) and allow practicing homosexuals full membership rights. My cousin comes to church because he feels the spirit there. He feels it’s good for his soul. His ward (an extremely conservative Utah ward, I might add) loves him. He respects them and they respect him.

    In the end though, as much as we may love to see more gay people coming to church, deep down we’re hoping they will someday repent. I have a close relationship with my cousin. Deep down he knows his relationship is wrong. That is clouded, of course, with a lot of confusion that he’ll have to work his way through. But he knows he can rely on me- a bigoted, nativist, closed-minded conservative- for spiritual support. So we’re good.

  68. “Pity the ‘standard LDS position,’ as bbell phrases it, isn’t the position taught by Joseph Smith.

    ‘And, in consequence of rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Prophets whom God hath sent, the judgments of God have rested upon people, the case with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that were destroyed for rejecting the Prophets.’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 271.)”

    I’m missing the part in this quote which rules out the possibility of Sodom being destoyed for sodomy.

  69. WoW. I don’t see anything wrong about two people holding hands in sacrament meeting. So when I saw the Prophet gave a kiss to he’s wife ( long time ago ) for a Conference here in FL, that was extremely inappropriate I suppose? That should be encouraged in married couple, as there is nothing wrong ( in my opinion ) to express afection tours each other, let it hold hands, or hugh. The holy spirit and love is what’s in the hearts in a Sacrament meeting. A kiss in the Cheek, nothing wrong with that ! I don’t see anything wrong on a couple that has dated for a while either!.

    Now on the Gay’s thing. If a Gay couple goes to a Church and does that I think they should know better for the sake of respect. I totally would welcome to Church, but they should respect the belief that there is about if they so desire to come and take part of a sacrament meeting.

  70. #26 I am very glad your partner will never set foot in an LDS meeting again. I am glad that there was a ruckus. I wish you had been escorted to the door. I am very sorry for your long-suffering parents.

  71. #71 If the prophets speak out against homosexual behavior (i.e. sodomy) and that message gets rejected then what is the difference?

  72. georged,

    Your comment # 73 pretty much proves my point beyond any doubt – your uncharitable self-righteousness is much more offensive than seeing gay people at church. These people were holding hands in the pew, not tongue-kissing on the stand. For that, you would make a ruckus, escort them to the door, and hope they never come back?

    Geoff, this is your thread. Please do not let comment # 73 go without a challenge.

  73. Mark IV,

    georged is clearly on the fringe of this discussion, and while I agree with the gravamen of Geoff’s original post, I find georged’s views disturbing. But I’m not sure that georged’s comments proves your point (as per 75), as you’d have to assume that all members felt the way that georged does, in spite of the fact he seems to be an outlier in this debate.

  74. Mark IV, many people here know GeorgeD is a long-time troll. I’m not sure anybody takes him that seriously. His feelings, although completely politically incorrect for the bloggernacle, represent a lot of members, however. For the record, I find his comment #73 very uncharitable and in appropriate for two guys holding hands.

  75. I’d like to say that I especially liked comment #70 and thought it well-reasoned and widely representative of both Church teachings and what everyday members tend to believe. Thanks Tossman.

  76. #71 jimbob:
    “Rules out?” No. On the other hand, you’d have to extrapolate mightily to claim that Joseph “really meant” homosexuality.

  77. Re 79:

    Would I? If we’re right about homosexuality, wouldn’t engaging in the practice necessarily mean you weren’t following the prophets? Does that seem a “mighty extrapolation” to you? It doesn’t to me.

  78. jimbob, I understand what you’re saying. However, it seems you’re trying to take a very broad statement, i.e. “rejecting the prophets,” and say that it means a very narrow thing, i.e. homosexuality. If Joseph Smith simply meant that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality, he would have said so (though he would have used the term then common, “buggery”). Instead, he made a far more broad statement.

    There’s simply no way to identify exactly what specific behaviors Joseph had in mind. He didn’t provide a laundry list. He may have meant “rejecting the prophets” in a very literal, narrow sense, teaching that the inhabitants of these cities utterly refused to accept these individuals as messenges of deity. On the other hand, he may have been referring to one or more specific behaviors in which the citizens failed to follow the teachings of the prophets sent to them.

  79. “I understand what you’re saying. However, it seems you’re trying to take a very broad statement, i.e. “rejecting the prophets,” and say that it means a very narrow thing, i.e. homosexuality.”

    Actually, my thought is that if this story and the scriptures are true, he probably destroyed SG for several things, one among them sodomy/buggery. I read JS as giving me a broad term which probably encompassed the behavior at issue in this thread.

    “There’s simply no way to identify exactly what specific behaviors Joseph had in mind. He didn’t provide a laundry list.”

    Is it your position that we should ignore all other speeches and scriptural inferences suggesting that SG was destroyed for at least sodomy/buggery because JS neglected to provided a laundry list of sins in this particular speech given on one particular day? I don’t think I’m going to agree with you here if that’s the case.

    Consider this example: JS also taught that Cain’s sin was knowing disobedience, clearly a broad statement. Should we ignore, then, that the scriptures say it was because Cain brought fruit rather than meat? It seems to me that the better interpretation is to try to read them together, as they seem to be harmony without much effort: Cain was disobedient (broad statement) because he was asked to bring meat but instead brought fruit (specific statement). Siimilarly, God destroyed SG because it failed to follow the prophets (broad statement) by practicing sodomy (specific statement).

  80. I just wandered upon this site and I feel sad after reading so many of the comments. If you have ever tried to understand the pain and spiritual suffering our members who struggle with SSA (as it is called in the church)have felt, I would think there would be much more charity than I have seen from those who think themselves faithful. Gay members have to struggle with enough to remain faithful as it is. They choose to commit themselves to a church that asks them to be celibate, to never truly love or be loved, to live a life of loneliness in many respects, to never be able to talk about something that has pervaded their thoughts, their feelings, their desires and has been impossible to reconcile with what they have been taught and believe.

    So if there are actually gay couples that want to worship in our church, I say, good for them. I don’t think they have come to make a mockery of the service. They are there to hopefully feel love and the Spirit. We have asked them to live a higher standard than most of us have ever been asked to live (celibacy, never date, never show affection in a way that feels natural and even healthy,listen to harsh rhetoric (“It’s a choice. It comes from selfishness.”), feel judgement from others and frequent condemnation even when they have lived as they have been asked.

    Some have tried and couldn’t find any peace. They made a choice to seek someone to share their life with. So if they want to come to church to feel the spirit, I hope my feelings or possible predjudices will not make it impossible for the Spirit to be there.

    If I am wrong, I hope to always err on the side of love and compassion. Only God knows their pain and their desires.

    So I guess I have thrown my hat in the ring.

  81. Suzan- Which scripture asks SSA members not to love or be loved?

    Your statement leads me to assume you are reducing the term “love” to define only a sexual relationship with by a member of a gender somebody find attractive. I love my wife, my kids, my friends, my dog, my co-workers, and neighbors. I only hold hands and have sex with one of the above.

    The church doesn’t prohibit dating, sex, or showing affection. They prohibit SSA. So if the only “love” in your life must be somebody of the same sex, you are holding yourself to this “higher standard,” not the church.

  82. “I only hold hands and have sex with one of the above.”

    Tossman-That’s the point:You have someone to love, hold hands with, have sex with. The love you feel for each of the others, I am going to assume, is not as intimate, deep or meaningful.

    As Mormons, we are prepared our whole lives to become part of a family, to have a relationship with our spouse that should transcend all others. The eternal family is the ideal we strive for. When one recognizes one’s homosexuality, that dream is snatched away. For many that is depressing enough.

    All I can say is given the depth and pervasiveness of their struggle, I am learning to try not to judge. It is for that person to wrestle with God, to find peace. I think there is much we do not yet understand about this. Believe me, I wish it was black and white.

    “So if the only ‘love’in your life must be somebody of the same sex, you are holding yourself to this ‘higher standard,’ not the church.”

    I don’t understand this comment unless you assume they choose their sexuality. Should someone who struggles with SSA and has no feelings of attraction for the opposite sex, marry them. Why? Would this be fair to the spouse? Shouldn’t they tell them before they marry? So when marriage as the church has established is not possible and only celibacy is, that’s a higher standard than you have been asked to follow. In the interview with Elder Oaks/Elder Wickman,they address this. If you look into it, you will find quotes from church leaders asking people who struggle with homosexuality to remain celibate if they are not attracted to someone of the opposite sex.

    I am not arguing against the doctrine, I am only hoping that church members who do not have to struggle with this would recognize the huge amount of faith, discipline and sacrifice it requires for a gay church member to remain committed to the Gospel. Heterosexuals take for granted the blessings they have. Do not assume your thinking would be so clear if you had the same struggle

  83. Suzan, if you read several posts back you’ll see that I have a loved one in this situation- or who will be if he ends his relationship and decides to come back into the church. I’m not ignorant to these things.

    I don’t know the answer, but I am familiar with the struggles and the hardships that come with the mix of LDS and gay. From what I’ve seen, very few gay members (and I’m not going to use your PC term for it anymore. My cousin calls himself gay, not ‘SSA’) actually remain celibate and hold themselves to this high standard you speak of. This faithful elite group you’re talking about, I believe, is statistically very small.

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