On Being a Believing, Traditional Mormon in an Amoral, “Nuanced” World

By any standard, I am still in the bloom and pluck of life, being only 35 years of age currently.  My physical health is outstanding, my hair is not going prematurely gray, and by contemporary American standards I am fit and within my recommended weight limit.  Financially I am fine (although “secure” is probably not the appropriate word).  I have a brilliant, loving wife and special children.  Truly, there is much to be thankful for.

And yet…I have sobering moments of reflection in which I survey the climate and landscape and resist shudders of despair.  By nature I am not overly pessimistic; I truly believe that over time, the good guys eventually win.  I look forward, with an eye of faith, to the time when righteousness will cover the earth as the waves cover the sea.

The current moral climate in America (and by extension, to the rest of the industrialized world) gives me tremendous cause for concern, even momentary moments of alarm.

You see, gentle reader, I cannot accept the sanguinity that goes along with what passes as “progress” in recent years.  We are led to believe by punditry and elitists that the gay lifestyle does not merit any form of discrimination; that, forsooth, the lifestyle is beyond any form of reproach or criticism no matter how gently proffered; that traditional marriage norms unjustly and grossly violate the “rights” of gay people to marry; that it is “hateful” to even suggest that gay sexual behavior does not lead to happy spiritual outcomes.  In short, if you don’t drink the Pride Kool-Aid, you, sir, are a bigot.

As a student of history, I cannot accept the premise that every “progress” is actually a step in the “right” direction.  Proponents of homosexual behavior testify that those of us that stand for traditional values are on the “wrong side of history”.  I would like to meekly suggest that they actually wait for some history to develop before they issue pontifications and histrionic projections about the forces of historical validation.

The real question that we should seek to ponder upon is this: does the gay lifestyle lead to happiness?  My answer is this: no, it does not.  It may very well lead to quiet, cozy divans of carnal security.  It may satiate the flesh for a season.  But as Latter Day Saints we know that “wickedness never was happiness” and it is absolute folly for us to pretend otherwise.

My intent here is not to censure or judge ANY homosexual man or woman.  If you are gay or lesbian and not LDS, then all I can do is invite you to consider the message of the Church and gospel.  I can tell you that sexual purity has its own rewards.  If you are Mormon and self-identify as gay or lesbian, then you should know that the Church, institutionally speaking, has no overt or covert desire to cause you harm.  Like Christians in all places, Latter Day Saints do not perfectly reflect the pure love of Christ.  But by golly, a whole lot of us are trying.  And our hearts do reach out to our brothers and sisters who struggle with same sex attraction.

I was struck by the recent gay Pride march in Salt Lake City.  Actually, the pictures of the event struck me.  Let me tell you why.  To march, as active believing Mormons, with people in solidarity is perhaps noble.  To do so while selectively misquoting Jesus (“Jesus said love everyone”; touché, but what about “keep my commandments”?) while the person right next to you is carrying a gay marriage flag is downright insidious, in my view.

You may think my last paragraph rather harsh.  I certainly don’t deny anyone the right to freedom of political expression.  What strikes me in this case is the fact that I am pretty sure that very, very few of the Mormons that were in the Pride march will actually vote for a Mormon who happens to be running for office this year.  Please don’t misunderstand: I am NOT suggesting that a vote for Romney is a litmus test that “faithful Mormons” must pass.  What I am suggesting is that, as Mormons, we are a terribly fractured lot in these early decades of the 21st century, and I don’t see things improving anytime soon.

The current moral climate is rapidly approaching a type of moral nihilism. Instead of an immoral world, we are approaching an amoral one.  If you dare to stand up for traditional values, you are ironically branded as an intolerant oaf.  Apparently, freedom of opinion in contemporary American only extends to those who have the “correct” opinions.  It is “bigotry” to suggest that there are moral principles.

Yet the great irony, referred to subtly above, is that those who raise a hue and cry over people standing up for traditional values are seeking to impose their moral vision on the rest of us.  Accuse me of intolerance while you yourself are practicing it.  Apparently, the hypocrisy is lost on them.   And they are supposed to be the smart folks!

We are told that we live in a world of nuance, shades of gray, of situational ethics. There are no eternal standards; morality is in the eye of the beholder.  And here we are, we believing Mormons, actually daring to go around and proclaim “the truth”.  As Elder Dallin H. Oaks said at a CES devotional address on 11 September 2011, “We believe in truth, including the existence of God and the right and wrong established by His commandments…we know that the existence of God and the existence of absolute truth are fundamental to life on this earth, whether they are believed or not” (emphasis mine).

As faithful, believing Mormons, we reject the notion that some things in life can only be measured or apprehended by nuance or some kind of social sleight of hand.  And so we sincerely hold fast to principles of righteousness found in the scriptures.  We are seeking to love God with all our heart.

Elder Oaks has given us a charge: “In this circumstance, all of us – and especially you of the rising generation – have a duty to stand up and speak up to affirm that God exists and that there are absolute truths His commandments establish” (emphasis mine).  To love our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters without also loving God and His truth is not really love.  It would be a transmogrification of love into something totally selfish, even devilish.  And that, sir, would truly be hateful.

22 thoughts on “On Being a Believing, Traditional Mormon in an Amoral, “Nuanced” World

  1. A few questions come to mind: Why hold everyone to a Celestial Law when they have not been given one? On what grounds do you call them “wicked” when they have not been given the law, nor made covenants Mormons have made? What constitutes wickedness? “Does the gay lifestyle lead to happiness?” Maybe we should ask some gays this question. And if ultimate goal is mere happiness, why are Mormons no happier than anyone else, and what of our great example, the man of sorrows who said “blessed are they that mourn?”

    Maybe Mormonism is the real cross to bear, the lonely road of Sainthood. Maybe we are called to obedience and sacrifice, to leave our nets, to drink a bitter cup. Why force this cup down the throats of the Gentiles? Christ never did. He only said, “come follow me” and those who had ears to hear, followed. If our kingdom is not of this world, why are we getting hung up on it?

  2. I am one of the many members of the church who “suffer with same sex attraction.” The irony of this expression is that our suffering would be a lot lighter if members of the church had a more nuanced view of the situation. For reasons unknown (and perhaps unknowable) to us, our Heavenly Father has allowed us to develop a homosexual orientation. Some of us have the entire celestial law revealed to us, others have less. Some of us have benefited from therapy to help us live celestial law, others of us have not. Some can change in this life, others cannot. The Lord would not remove Paul’s thorn even though he repeatedly prayed for its removal.

    What does it mean that your “hearts reach out to us”? Will you recoil and withdraw when you learn that we are your brothers, your sisters, your parents, your friends? Will you support us in our decision to be chaste by helping us to bear our burdens of loneliness and misunderstanding? Will you invite us into your homes that we do not have to dine alone every night of our lives? Will you stand up and defend us in church and in life when overzealous Christians charge us with iniquity simply for having a different sexual orientation? Will you proactively reach out to youth who have been allowed to carry this cross so that they don’t learn to hate themselves and choose suicide? In short, will you hold our hand and walk with us to the end of our days?

    And perhaps importantly, when others who are gay and lesbian cannot bear the crushing weight of a life alone and choose to partner themselves, can you leave their judgment to Christ instead of taking it upon yourself? Can you truly love them by granting them their agency? Can you teach the law of chastity with compassion and commitment to help them live it? Will you allow yourself to empathize with their situation? Will you use the law of chastity as an excuse for mistreatment of gays and lesbians? If progress=fewer gays and lesbians mistreated, I welcome it. Let us not strain at a gnat (gay marriage) and swallow a camel (mistreatment of our gay brothers and sisters). Surely Christ would be dining with them were He on the earth today.

  3. Any and all sin disqualifies us for exaltation. If we look the other way while our political leaders commit war crimes, are we guilty of some sin there as well? Why isn’t there as much focus on that as there is on homosexuality? Because it’s easier pickin’s?

  4. Mark N, you and I probably agree 100 percent on our immoral wars. But it is a lot easier these days to express opposition to the wars than it is to express opposition to events you may feel promote homosexuality. One is politically correct, the other simply is not. So, saying it is “easier pickins” is simply not accurate. It takes guts to write was Mormonchess has written. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says or the way he says it, but I don’t think he is alone in such feelings among church-goers.

  5. Jeremiah: “Surely Christ would be dining with them were He on the earth today.” Agreed. Definitely.

    Would he also tell them: “go and sin no more?” That is really the issue, I think.

  6. Geoff: Certainly Christ would ask those who have committed sins against the Law of Chastity to sin no more.

    Unfortunately, one of the false traditions of our fathers is to charge those who have a homosexual orientation with sin–abominable sin, whether they have committed fornication or not. The problem of using sexual orientation as a proxy for “all the evil in the world” is that those whom God has allowed to develop a homosexual orientation learn deep in their bones that they are trash, and members of the church who fail to make a distinction between orientation and behavior encourage the spiritual death of these children of God. Ratcheted up rhetoric that is heavy on “our heart goes out to you, but…” does nothing to love and save these special souls.

  7. If they have not committed that sin, the is no reason to tell them to sin no more. I have no patience or sympathy for those who pre-judge, and i certainly try to avoid it. Only the Lord knows our sins. But let’s be honest, most people today want tolerance for both orientation AND behavior. That really is the issue.

  8. Could you explain what you mean by “gay lifestyle”. There are a lot of different lifestyles adopted by gay men and women, just as there are among heterosexuals. I don’t think that the term means anything, just as the term “heterosexual lifestyle” is also meaningless.

  9. My gay nephew and his partner seem pretty happy. They’re infinitely more functional in their lives than his heterosexual siblings.

    How do you know about the Mormons who march? Were you advancing your own opinions?

    I’m personally troubled by my own personal inability to come to a conclusion re gay marriage and gay rights. This post has not helped me one bit.

  10. “But it is a lot easier these days to express opposition to the wars than it is to express opposition to events you may feel promote homosexuality.”

    That’s certainly not the case where I live–and I’m guessing that’s not the case throughout most of the Mormon corridor.

  11. I know gay couples that appear as happy as any straight couple. I think it’s rididuclous to tell them they’re not “really” happy. Do you like it when people say Mormons are deluded and only *think* they know that God exists?

    I think my biggest problem with this post is the lack of charity and introspection. If we’re gonna throw bombs in an act of self-righteous martyrdom, let’s first ensure that the logic we’re employing can’t be used against us.

  12. “I think it’s rididuclous to tell them they’re not “really” happy.”

    That’s exactly what we do when we preach the Gospel. We essentially tell people that we have something more to offer them. The implicit message is that we have a plan of happiness that they do not possess. Therefore, it’s not inconsistent to, at the very least, postulate a concept that folks that end up deep in the “gay lifestyle” are not on a path that leads to the fruit of the Tree of Life. An honest look at disease and drug use rates among active gay men, for example, is ample witness to that fact. Not politically correct, by any means, but I don’t care about political correctness. Hence, my post.

    Lack of charity and introspection? You didn’t actually read the post then. It is the result of a very long time spent pondering this socially divisive issue among the faithful. Charity actually starts with honesty, and my post is an honest statement of how I feel about the morally ambiguous nature of the current gay debate among us. Sorry you weren’t impressed, Trevor, but I’m not impressed by a discourse that uses words like “love” and “charity” as easy methods of avoiding the real debate and discussion points.

  13. I dunno brother, if your strategy for sharing the gospel is to insist that the other person isn’t truly happy, I suspect your rate of continued discussions is much lower than it could be.

    I think what you’re reacting against is an inaccurate conflation of gays and the dangerous lifestyle *some* gays live. Not all of them are into drug-induced dungeon sex, you know. If we held Beverly Hills 90210 up as the model of a “heterosexual lifestyle”, we’d have to conclude that all straight people are shallow, materialistic hedonists that sleep around and never amount to much in life.

  14. And yes, I think the paternalistic tendency to insist I know what’s best for another intelligent adult and that I am in a place to make sweeping judgments about his/her carefully considered decisions, well, even if it were true, it is a pretty bad missionary tactic.

  15. You are making a whole series of assumptions about my post that are not based on anything I said above. Let me know when you’re really interested in talking, Trevor.

  16. Chess, I’m not specifically referring to private, individual beliefs. I’m talking about taking those beliefs public (aka “standing up for them”), which implies some sort of conversation between parties.

    You stated in the OP: does the gay lifestyle lead to happiness? My answer is this: no, it does not. It may very well lead to quiet, cozy divans of carnal security. It may satiate the flesh for a season. But as Latter Day Saints we know that “wickedness never was happiness” and it is absolute folly for us to pretend otherwise.

    Hence my response about presuming to be able to judge someone else’s happiness. There is a reason this kind of thing does not go over well in conversations, whether the Mormon is the one doing the judging or the one being judged. I fail to understand what incorrect assumptions I made here.

    RE: paternalism, I’m talking about insisting that I know what’s best for someone else’s life better than they do. Again, I don’t care what people think privately, but once they take this paternalistic belief public and start crafting legislation or public policy with it, it is a whole separate ballgame.

    If you’re really interested in discussion, I think it’s important to consider were the other side is coming from.

  17. Trevor, I totally get where the other side is coming from. “The other side” is blasted from the airways, the magazines, MSNBC, print, media, music, politians, etc., etc., etc., etc.

    Not all “lifestyle choices” are of equal value. This goes along with the philosophical notion that not all ideas are of equal value. Some ideas are actually better than others. We can, as rational human beings, actually come up with a hierarchy of ideals.

    Yes, I am well aware that there are “happy” gay folks. There are “happy” folks in just about every segment of society. There are also extraordinary sad folks. And in some segments of society, the sad folk predominate.

    If stating for the record that I support traditional family values (man marries woman/they have children) is just too much for some people to hear, I refuse to apologize for it. Consider my “paternalism” blow back in the face of what I perceive to be excessive “gay is good” discourse in our society. I don’t believe that homosexual behaviors lead to the best outcomes in life, whether we are talking emotionally, physically, or spiritually. This is where I stand.

  18. Mormonchess and Trevor, good debate. It’s true that there are some politically incorrect arguments against homosexuality that are censored by the liberal media, like the potentially unhealthy nature of homosexuality, the predominance of promiscuous behavior within it, etc. I think this should be a forum where those arguments can and should be discussed. Thanks for having the courage to bring it up Mormonchess.

    Fundamentally, your conflicts with fellow Mormons on this subject will boil down to philosophical differences about these nuances, shades of gray, and situational ethics. How “universal” are God’s commandments as defined by Mormons? Do they apply only to people who have made covenants in the church, or do they apply to Gentiles as well? Or are there some commandments that apply, and others not as much, and how do we know which? How can we show to the Gentiles that a particular commandment is in force upon them? How does God show them? And even if some do apply to everyone, what is the role of Mormons in advocating our “universal” commandments? Do we advocate through the sword, politics, public condemnation? Or do Mormons stick only to proselytizing one on one, inviting those who have ears to hear?

    I think these are the difficult questions that must be answered in order to find common ground on this hot button issue. It’s not fundamentally about homosexuality. It’s about the role of the Mormon church in the world of Gentiles. Should we join Apostate Christianity on their big crusades against whatever the latest perceived moral threat? Or do we stand above the fray, working within our smaller minority advocating an even higher, Celestial Law?

  19. Nate raises good questions, and gets to the heart of the matter. When the majority of society no longer believes that homosexual relationships are intrinsically wicked, what must be done?

    Mormonchess, you “don’t believe that homosexual behaviors lead to the best outcomes in life, whether we are talking emotionally, physically, or spiritually.” OK, fine.

    What therefore would you propose? Is there anything beyond stopping the advance of gay marriage that should be done? Should the policies and laws of the past be re-implemented? Not long ago homosexuals were confined to the darkest corners of society by means of sodomy laws and strict social taboos. Should the bearers of higher truth once again roust homosexual couples from their cozy divans of carnal security? It has been done before.

    When the rhetorical argument has been lost, what is a person of your views to do? It probably won’t help to throw out critical generalizations about an undefined “gay lifestyle” that are readily contradicted by the testimony of millions. That, sir, is how one gets labeled bigot.

    Hopefully I am not coming across as disrespectful, and I appreciate being allowed to comment here. I find your post fascinating, but from my perspective it does seem as if you’re trying to close the barn door long after the horses have already escaped.

  20. Mike – interestingly the BoM gives us pretty good detail about how this plays out. I find it interesting that it comes forth in the “latter-days” in this area of the world, where so much of this turmoil is happening before our eyes. I don’t suggestion the BoM is talking specifically about gay marriage, but we have multiple narratives of the people in God’s church operating in the midst of a greater society with varying degrees of righteousness… not only that but the people of the church ebb and flow with varying degrees of (un)righteousness (I’d tie immigration into this mix and point out that the movement of people seems to strengthen the growth of the church).

    The overarching narrative of groups of people in and out of society is a predominant theme in the BoM in ways not even closely matched by the OT and NT. I think this is because it’s got a common narrator putting it all together in a compressed time (not that these issues weren’t dealt with in reality in OT or NT times, but just they weren’t give as much page time).

    So the point of me saying this is that when you ask “what is a person to do?” I think the answers are found by seeking revelation while studying the BoM.

  21. “Hopefully I am not coming across as disrespectful, and I appreciate being allowed to comment here. I find your post fascinating, but from my perspective it does seem as if you’re trying to close the barn door long after the horses have already escaped.”

    Mike I appreciate your comments and concerns. I know where you are coming from.

    I would say that as Latter Day Saints, we are in a constant state of barn door closing. That’s what Zion is all about. I mean, we can also make the same excuse about pornography: those barn doors were flown open and the horses escaped decades ago. But that doesn’t mean we go around extolling the benefits of porn, right? Uh, right? There is a lot of damage and harm that is caused by rampant pornography.

    Oh but wait, that’s not a politically correct topic either. Porn is popular too.

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