The New Boy Scout Admissions Policy

The Boy Scouts have recently changed their admissions policy. If you haven’t heard about this, and the firestorm of controversy surrounding it, you’ve probably had your head in the sand. And you can consider yourself lucky. Basically, here’s the scoop:

The prior BSA policy explicitly prohibited “openly gay” young men and boys from participating in the Boy Scout program. The new BSA policy states that sexual orientation is not a factor in the admission of young men and boys into the program.

That’s the long and the short of it. I’ve been reading online, and there are a lot of members of the Church who are irate over this policy. They feel that the BSA has abandoned its commitment to moral teachings. Some LDS scouters in various parts of Utah have already made websites where they claim to be starting their own version of Boy Scouts. Here’s why I think this is absolutely ridiculous, and completely unbecoming of Latter-day Saints. Most of the ire is due to one of two reasons: (1) a misunderstanding of Church teachings, or (2) a misunderstanding of the new BSA policy.

History

First of all, the term “openly gay” is problematic in the first place. When this policy was first written, when someone would openly announce their same-sex attraction, it was usually because they intended to act and behave accordingly. There was no such thing, really, as someone who publicly commented on their same-sex attraction, but who was committed to remaining true the law of chastity. It simply didn’t happen back then. And so anyone who was “openly gay” was, by virtue of that fact, likely violating the standards of the Scouting organization.

The same is not true anymore. Whether for good or for ill, many young men are learning to be open about their same-sex attraction, but who wish to remain committed to law of chastity. In the Church, for example, there are thousands of young men and women who experience same-sex attraction, and who have committed themselves to either marry a member of the opposite sex or remain celibate. In this way, it is possible to be openly gay but morally chaste. Now, I personally believe that same-sex attraction should not be such a large part of these young people’s personal self-identity, nor do I believe it is always healthy to broadcast these attractions to the world. But the Church teaches that these attractions themselves are not sinful, and that it is possible to remain chaste while nonetheless experiencing attractions to members of the same sex (and publicly talking about them). So, the old BSA policy is simply out-of-date and poorly worded in the first place.

The Policy and Church Teachings

The Church has consistently taught that it is not immoral to have such feelings, so long as individuals commit to never act on them and remain chaste. The Church policy states: “The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.” The Church has, for several decades, invited youth leaders everywhere to openly embrace and include young members of the Church who experience these attractions, and to teach them that they should not feel less worthy for experiencing them. Further, the Church has specifically instructed its leaders to ensure that no individual with SSA feels ostracized for it.

The new BSA policy reflects what has always been the policy of LDS Boy Scout troops. Young men and boys who think they are attracted to members of the same sex have never been systematically excluded from participating in any Church youth functions. The Church’s official press release on the matter states: “Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops.” The new BSA policy has simply made this explicit, and in no way whatsoever contradicts Church teachings, policies, or doctrines. In fact, the Church explicitly teaches that those with SSA should not be excluded from youth programs and social groups, and so this new policy actually institutionalizes a longstanding Church teaching and policy. Further, the policy explicitly states that sexual activity, of any kind, is simply unbecoming of a youth member of the Boy Scout program. This indicates that they are not allowing sexually active homosexuals into the youth program, but simply youth attracted to members of the same sex but who live chastely nonetheless. So why boycott the Scouting program for simply mimicking already existing Church policy?

Further, why would we even want to exclude these young men from the very context in which they can learn more fully what it means to live a moral lifestyle? Why would we even want to exclude a particularly vulnerable group of our youth from the youth organization designed to help them build character and spiritual fortitude against temptation?

Now, it is true that the BSA policy says very little about what young men should do about their same-sex attractions beyond their Scouting years. As it should be. BSA’s stewardship over member boys ends when the young man reaches the age of 18. But it does emphasize the importance of life-long duty to God and moral commitments connected to that duty to God. Young scouters who experience SSA are taught by the Scouting program to commit themselves to God and His moral teachings, and for Latter-day Saints, that includes chastity as defined by the Church. And so young scouts in the Church are in no danger of being indoctrinated by any agenda alien to the teachings of the Church, and the BSA has no desire whatsoever to contradict or supersede those teachings.

Now, it’s also true that activists and lobbyists want the BSA to abandon completely its commitment to morality and its emphasis on our duties to God. And these activists have made headway and have persuaded many officials in the BSA of their position. But notice that their voice did not carry the day. The change in policy does not actually threaten the BSA’s commitments on these regards. So the BSA should be praised for navigating murky and dangerous political waters to produce a policy change that can be accepted and celebrated by Latter-day Saints as appropriate and necessary. This was a thoughtful — not reckless — endeavor, and it’s clear that BSA officials have carefully remained true to their deepest obligations. That deserves our applause, not scorn.

Official Church Reaction

On top of all that, the Church has explicitly praised the new policy for allowing youth of all sexual orientations to participate and learn what it means to fulfill our duty to God. In several statements, the Church has said that the new policy simply reflects already existing Church policy. An official spokesman for the Church submitted an editorial to the Washington Post praising the new policy and explaining all of these details.

For members to rebel against their own Church in the defense of what they (ostensibly) believe to be the teachings of their Church is simply inappropriate. It reflects poorly on us. Let’s open our ears to what our prophets and apostles have been teaching. They teach explicitly that same-sex sexual relationships in any context are morally wrong and forbidden by God. They have repeatedly reassured us that this is never going to change. They are also teaching us that same-sex attraction itself is not a sin, should not result in social ostracism, and those who experience it should be embraced in full fellowship in all Church youth programs. This is what they are teaching us. Are we listening?

And there is nothing in the new BSA policy that contradicts the teachings of living prophets and apostles on this regards. They have, in fact, welcomed it, and have signaled to the members of the Church that they should welcome it too. That is, after all, why the Church has made repeated statements in praise of the policy, and why the Church’s spokesman, on behalf of the Church, published an editorial on why Mormons embrace, and should embrace, the policy. Why are we ignoring them? Why must we, in our stubbornness and pride, block our ears and dismiss their gentle invitation?

For more on what the Church teaches in regards to same-sex attraction, visit here.

On Fear

I want to acknowledge that we are living in an increasingly hostile world, one that seems intent on imposing on us its values and criminalizing our own. We are fighting a war against evil, a war against sin, and a war against deception. We are called to stand with God and fight in His royal priesthood army. But nonetheless, we see the midst of darkness and confusion leading many of our friends and associates astray. As one person put it, it seems like we are losing the culture war.

For this reason, there is a lot of fear out there. But in the midst of this war against evil, our hearts should be at peace with our fellow man. For a heart at war does not see truth. When our hearts our at peace, we can see through the darkness and see evil for what it is. When our hearts are at war, we begin not to see evil for what it is, we begin to see evil in everything. We begin to jump at shadows, and suspect malicious intent in every action of others. And for this reason, it is easy to see this change in policy as one more concession in our gradual defeat against the forces of evil.

We must be vigilant and wary, but forever and always, our standard bearer should be Christ and His spokesmen. Prophets and apostles have signed off on this policy, and for that reason, we should not fear it. Yes, false ideologies are saturating the political landscape, and the cards seem decked against those who wish to defend religious liberty and moral truth. But this time, we have won the day — the BSA administration carefully weighed the issues, and decided to mimic the LDS Church’s policy, and to reassert its allegiance to our duty to God. That is a victory.

If we slacken our commitment to the BSA, fail to magnify our callings, or use this policy change as a justification for despair, we are actually doing two things: (1) we are failing to heed the teachings of our leaders on this matter (for they have taught us not to exclude same-sex attracted youth in our programs), and (2) we are allowing the adversary to fill our hearts with fear, and for all of the wrong reasons. If we study the teachings of the Church on these matters carefully, we will see constant reassurances that the doctrine and policy of the Church has not changed.

One of the adversary’s tactics is to deceive us into thinking our very own Church is giving up the fight. What can be more disheartening than that? But thoughtful observers will see no evidence of that whatsoever. They will just see that God’s servants are not allowing themselves to be distracted by battles that shouldn’t be fought in the first place, and this being one of them. Exclusion from youth programs of SSA youth is not, and has never been, the Savior’s way. Including them, and teaching them chastity, is the Savior’s way — and that is exactly what the BSA and the Church have jointly committed to do.

61 thoughts on “The New Boy Scout Admissions Policy

  1. Exactly! The LDS members who are upset about this policy are putting their own views above the views of the prophet and apostles. A dangerous place to be.

    (They are also incredibly embarrassing to the rest of the Church! They are showing the “world” that many LDS are judgmental and bigoted.)

  2. This is what happens when you mix religion in politics. Ideally, your religious values shape your politics. But for most people, their personal preferences muddy their religious values which then become the smokescreen for for their political preferences. It’s a heady cocktail.

  3. DavidF, while I understanding what you are saying, I fully believe in mixing religion and politics. At least, I believe that we should be meticulous to ensure that our approach to politics, and the political positions we adhere to, reflect our deepest religious sentiments. So you are right — our religious values should shape our politics. But too often, I hear the cry, “Stop mixing religion and politics,” used to mean that we should stop injecting our political beliefs with religious values.

  4. To me, the emphasis of this announcement was that boys (under 18) have no business having sex of any kind. The Church, of course, extends that to anyone who isn’t married (to someone of the opposite sex). But for BSA’s mission this fits. And I hope this means an end to picking on young men for not being “macho” enough, or excusing raunchy behavior because “we know they’re not gay”.

  5. It may have been the right decision, but this is still playing into the hands of the gay lobby, who are doing everything they can to divide conservative coalitions and get conservative groups to split their support.

    This is already fracturing the BSA. My concern isn’t the policy “change” per se (or announcement); it’s the fact that the BSA was the target of a national campaign.

    Ultimately, it’s not about whether or not the BSA softens its stance on homosexuality. It’s about whether the camel nose gets into the tent. The gay lobby’s ultimate goal is to divide and conquer and get the BSA to eventually drop any reference to chastity at all.

    I don’t have a beef in this particular fight. I am not impressed with modern Scouting. It’s a pale shadow of what Scouting was all about one hundred years ago. But the gay lobby is playing a long game with this, and I just hope people realize that.

  6. LDSP, honest question: what do you think will happen when several “openly gay” teenagers are kicked out of the Boy Scouts because they are sexually active?

  7. Nice write-up, I agree with you that exclusion is not Christ’s way, and I applaud the BSA for their realization and policy which is in line with this.

    I had three points I did want to bring up, however:
    1) “The Church has consistently taught that it is not immoral to have such feelings.”
    That’s not entirely accurate. Any consistency in this regard has only happened in the last decade. To allude that the distinction between feelings and guilty behavior has always existed is to misrepresent history.
    2) “I personally believe that same-sex attraction should not be such a large part of these young people’s personal self-identity…”
    Does it matter to you that you’re heterosexual (I’m assuming)? If it doesn’t, and it’s not a large part of your identity, would you be okay only having homosexual intimate relations from now on?
    3) “The BSA administration…decided to mimic the LDS Church’s policy.”
    They did? Can you provide evidence that they decided to look to the church and follow their policy? From my (admittedly limited) knowledge of how the decision was reached, they got input from many supporters and discussed/reasoned the implications and morality of the issue as an independent organization. The fact that they may have ended up with a similar policy of inclusion doesn’t mean that they arrived there by following the church.

  8. LDSP, there are bigots everywhere, but most thinking people, especially on this blog, understand the Church’s policy very well. They understand that same-sex attraction is not a sin but same-sex activity is. Personally I can’t think of anybody who thinks that a celibate same-sex attracted youth should be excluded from the Boy Scouts.

    The issue becomes how we deal with the phrase “openly gay.” Pure hypothetical: let’s say your scout program has an “openly gay” 16-year-old who spends all of his time during Scouting events talking about his same-sex attraction. He is asked to concentrate on merit badges, his Eagle project, etc, but he really wants to spend his time talking about sex. And he is still celibate. How would you propose to deal with this teenager? Now, you say, “well, the same way you would deal with a heterosexual kid obsessed with girls and sex.” And you may be correct. But the problem becomes: all of the sudden this is potentially a national issue. If you push too hard with the kid and he goes and complains that he is being discriminated against because of his sexuality, you as a Scout master are in big trouble.

    I want to make it clear that my hypothetical is only intended to make the point that the Scouts cannot and should not be about sex. They should be about Scouting. Many people have honest concerns about this policy change because it creates the potential for new problems.

    People who express those concerns are not all bigots, anti-gay homophobes out of step with the Church’s policy. I support the Church’s policy. I don’t know anybody who does not. But the potential concerns about a change in Scout policy are valid. Some people are afraid of change and what it may mean for them.

  9. That’s not entirely accurate. Any consistency in this regard has only happened in the last decade. To allude that the distinction between feelings and guilty behavior has always existed is to misrepresent history.

    It’s far more accurate than you imply. All the way back in 1992, the Church made this distinction clear in a letter sent to congregations. I have quotes from Elder Packer making this distinction in the early 1980s. I have statements from Elder Oaks making this distinction in the late 1980s. Almost every statement people have given me from before then that doesn’t make this distinction clear, it’s clear to see that they actually do make the distinction, but were just sloppy about their language.

    Has the language we’ve used to express ourselves been more clear in recent decades? Yes. But has the doctrine changed? No.

    Does it matter to you that you’re heterosexual (I’m assuming)? If it doesn’t, and it’s not a large part of your identity, would you be okay only having homosexual intimate relations from now on?

    I’m glad that I don’t struggle with same-sex attraction, but I don’t walk around calling myself a “heterosexual.” I’m a child of God. I’m a priesthood holder. I’m a husband. A potential father. Etc. My identity is not defined by my heterosexuality. Just because I prefer to have sex with women than men, and find women attractive rather than men, does not mean that my core identity is colored by those attractions. Neither should those who experience same-sex attractions feel that way. We shouldn’t go around defining ourselves by our attractions. I want to tell people, “You are not gay. You experience same-sex attraction, and that is a real part of your mortal experience. It’s not something you can wish away. But it does not define who you are. The word “gay” as a social category is a social construct.”

    Prophets and apostles have taught this plainly. Elder Holland offered this advice to a young man who described himself as “gay”: “You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.”

    As Elder Oaks has said: “We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons . . . . It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.”

    No, I would not be ok having homosexual relations from now on, because God has forbidden it, and I don’t prefer it. But I’m not defined by my preferences in that regards. And were God to command it (instead of prohibit it), my preferences would not dictate my actions: God’s commands would. Because I am first and foremost a disciple, not a sexual being defined by my sexuality.

    They did? Can you provide evidence that they decided to look to the church and follow their policy?

    I’m sure they didn’t do that. But whether intentionally or unintentionally, the result mimics the Church’s policy.

  10. To document your claim that “[s]ome LDS scouters in various parts of Utah have already made websites where they claim to be starting their own version of Boy Scouts”, you provide a link to a website by a non-Mormon Orlando attorney?

  11. I think Geoff B. has a point. I suspect it would draw national attention and a lot of spin, but it wouldn’t destroy the BSA. Let’s keep in mind that a lot of gay people are responsible and level headed. I hold my breath a little when I hear people talk about the “gay lobby” as if it is this group of anti-religious men seeking to push society towards hedonism. So I suspect that the BSA would survive; parents/guardians with SSA would have to decide whether they want their youth involved; some would, some wouldn’t; and two weeks later it will all be old news. I just don’t see the BSA capitulating its moral standards to appease a small number of would-be supporters.

  12. Michael Towns, what is it about the “gay lobby” that bothers you? What do you think “they” have planned for society?

    (I use scare quotes because I don’t know how much I buy into this “gay lobby.” Of course there are people advocating gay rights, but I sense you think they, the lobby, have more than equality on their agenda, and I’m not sure I share this notion)

  13. Sorry guys, I can be a hothead, particularly on days when I’m in a bad mood. I’ve deleted the more contentious portions of our conversation.

    I think I’m reacting to what I sense to be a disconnect: Even those who approve of this policy change, and admit that the resulting policy is pitch perfect and exactly what it should be, are still holding a funereal attitude as if the BSA has met its doom by capitulating to pressure from lobbyist groups. And that seems rather incongruous, and strange. I keep asking, “Why are we not celebrating this victory? Why are we acting as if the BSA has committed some dastardly wrong act? Why is this even an act of capitulation?” And further, why are we blaming it on the “gay lobby”? Even if they were part of the motiving pressure for this change in policy, it doesn’t tar the victory — a good policy is a good policy.

    It seems in this case, they were “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” They managed to make a move that was pitch perfect in its results, balancing its obligations to moral values against a newer distinction between same-sex attractions and immoral sexual behavior.

    People on both sides aren’t satisfied. On the one hand, you have people who are wary and suspicious of those with same-sex attractions, and would just rather not face them in their troops. They fail to distinguish fully between attractions and behavior. The BSA has wisely decided that the fears and concerns about have same-sex attracted youth in BSA troops do not themselves warrant exclusion. They have wisely decided to extend the fellowship of the BSA to these youth, who, more than anyone else, need that fellowship and could benefit from being trained in their duty to God. On the other hand, yes, you have gay lobbyists who want the BSA to abandon its values altogether. The BSA has wisely decided to disregard their voices for now, and to maintain and re-emphasize the importance of our duty to God and our moral commitments.

    Will the battle continue? Indefinitely. But let’s celebrate victories when they happen, rather than hang our head in defeat in the face of potential (but yet unrealized) future capitulations. This isn’t even a capitulation.

  14. Arguments and accusations against the original post and the original poster, seem to be based on not understanding the LDS perspective and the teachings Christ has given to (admittedly mortal) prophets throughout history. In short:

    – It has never been a sin to be tempted. That has been a fact before Earth even existed.
    – It has never been a sin to have weaknesses. This has been stated as long ago as the fifth century A.D., and is made plain in chapter 12 of Ether.
    – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is either led by Jesus Christ instructing prophets, or it is not. When and if prophets misinterpret or lead us astray, the Savior corrects or removes them. (Correction of prophets by the Lord is not only a long-standing tradition, but has led to at least one humorous conference talk by Brigham Young, in which he confesses he was wrong in his morning talk, and the Lord chastised him and gave Brigham the correct principles to preach in the afternoon session. There are even much more modern instances, but this is my favorite.)

    None of these principles are new. It is only seeing the events from a non-LDS perspective that makes it look like a defeat. The Lord has a talent for turning things that the World sees as a victory for Evil – into good and powerful opportunities to teach, instruct, and bless. The camel has not poked its nose into a tent. Only a dog has poked its nose in the tent, and a dog may be hungry for the food that Christ offers.

  15. @ldsphilosopher: Thanks for your responses.

    I’d love to see some of these quotes you refer to – I’m not arguing that they don’t exist, but from my personal studies on the subject I’ve not come across clear distinctions in this regard in the 80s, 90s, or earlier. And if the distinction is clear to you yet it’s not clear to the reader from ‘sloppy language’, what is the cause of that, then, if not an unclear understanding of the subject matter? It does no harm to the church, in my opinion, to have an example of ‘further light and knowledge’ on our understanding of where guilt resides in issues of homosexuality. Why would the language become clearer for reasons other than because we’ve understood the subject better? That doesn’t necessarily imply that doctrine has changed.

    We’re arguing past each other with my second point – I agree with you that no one, gay or straight, is a product of that one aspect of identity. There’s much more to a person than sexual orientation. But orientation is a very important part of one’s identity, no less for someone with same-sex attraction than it is for you. It’s not a matter of if God told you to be gay if you would – my point is that if homosexuality were the norm and you were heterosexual, or if, like you say, God commanded it, you would still be you – heterosexual. Sexual orientation is one of many important aspects of identity, for straight and gay alike. Like you say (and I agree), it should not be magnified as the expense of all else that a person is, but neither should it be minimized when it’s a defining factor in relationships and sense of self. You should allow a homosexual individual’s sexual orientation to mean no less to them than your heterosexual orientation means to you.

    Mimic is defined by the OED as “to imitate or copy”. If you don’t want to imply that something was copied or imitated, mimic is not the right word to use. What you probably want to say is the BSA policy aligns with the church policy, or another word that doesn’t include the derivational aspect.

  16. I want to make it clear that my hypothetical is only intended to make the point that the Scouts cannot and should not be about sex. They should be about Scouting. Many people have honest concerns about this policy change because it creates the potential for new problems.

    I agree that scouting should not be sexualized in any way. I fail to see how this new policy introduces this danger. Under the old policy, the 16 year old boy you describe could be barred from the group. Under the new policy, the 16 year old boy you described could still be barred from the group, if he does not focus on his scouting activities. Policies against overt sexual behavior, sexual harassment, sexualized conversation, are still in force. So I really don’t see what has changed in this regards, and particularly for LDS scout troops. I don’t see how this policy will affect on-the-ground behavior of LDS scout leaders or their ability to maintain order and discipline in their troops.

  17. While I understand and agree with the church’s position on this topic, what remains to be seen is what’s next?
    BSA has said (and the church quoted them on it) that there is no intention of changing the standards to allow Gay Leaders. Talk is cheap.
    Just last year BSA put out basicly the same statement about reaffirming the old standards. Then just 6 months later they get caught trying to do just that, change the standards, all under the table.
    After the initial outrage, they pretended that it was their intent to “discuss this further”. So this “compromise” was taken up, and presto it passes by over 60%! (even their own survey said that over 60% of membership and families were against it).
    Now many are happy that this went so well, that this was “done for the kids”, and “now we can get back to scouting”. How naive can you be?
    The GLADD groups are not stopping there. They want not only Gay adults to be leaders, but open and practicing too (in ALL units of Scouting, regardless of sponsor). Plus the next battle after that will be about the Atheists. That has already been brought up, along with statements that the withheld donations would not start back up until these thing happen.
    This should be no surprise to anyone who has seen how the GLADD groups operate.
    So much for tolerance.
    When these things come about, the church will have to leave Scouting.
    This saddens me to no end.
    I hope and pray that my Grandsons are able to have the same experiences that my Father and myself as well as my Sons have had in the Boy Scouts.
    Despite all of this, I believe in our Prophet, President Thomas Monson. And that he does God’s will on earth.
    So come what may, I will follow the Prophet.

  18. LDSP, I sincerely hope you are correct. I have a very strong feeling that we will be reading from outraged people on Huff Post, Daily Kos, etc, about how gay scouts are *still being kicked out of the Boy Scouts* without context and without an explanation that they were either sexually active or behaving inappropriately. This appears to be a feature of our Age of Outrage. My only point is that it does not mean you are a homophobe to bring up this issue as a potential area of concern.

  19. “It’s not a matter of if God told you to be gay if you would – my point is that if homosexuality were the norm and you were heterosexual, or if, like you say, God commanded it, you would still be you – heterosexual.”

    I disagree. I actually don’t think we should use “heterosexual” or “homosexual” as nouns like that. I think it’s an artifact of language, and one that obscures important truths about sexuality.

  20. “Arguments and accusations against the original post and the original poster, seem to be based on not understanding the LDS perspective and the teachings Christ has given to (admittedly mortal) prophets throughout history.”

    Um, wrong. I am not aware of anyone here who is questioning the wisdom of the Church’s position on the issue. What some of us are concerned about is what comes after. I personally believe it is foolhardy in the extreme to assume that this is the end of the matter. It is merely the opening salvo in what will be a bloody affair (virtually speaking). Think Fort Sumpter, which I had a the delight to tour just last weekend.

  21. I personally believe it is foolhardy in the extreme to assume that this is the end of the matter. It is merely the opening salvo in what will be a bloody affair (virtually speaking).

    Nobody thinks this is the end of the matter. We just want to treat it like the victory that it is, rather than imagining it as a defeat it isn’t.

  22. In other words, I would rather the policy have changed than stay the same. I think most of us should feel the same way, given the Church’s position on these matters.

  23. @ldsphilosopher:

    I disagree. I actually don’t think we should use “heterosexual” or “homosexual” as nouns like that. I think it’s an artifact of language, and one that obscures important truths about sexuality.

    They’re not nouns, and were not used as nouns. They’re adjectives and were used as such. What’s the important truth of sexuality that nouns describing sexual orientation obscures? You are attracted to women. Some men are attracted to men. That’s a fundamental and important distinction in individuals. Can you clarify what you’re trying to say?

  24. I guess I meant adjectives. I think that SSA is something we experience rather than something we are. Like pain, or heat, or cold. We experience heat. We experience cold. We experience color. We experience sexual attraction. But we aren’t any of those things. When we use the words to describe conditions rather than experiences, we imbue it with a sense of permanence and identity. It leads us to think, “It’s the way I am” rather than, “It’s what I currently experience.” The first is a description of immutable identity, the second is a description of experiences had by an “I” that is not defined by those experiences.

  25. I think Ron’s remark illustrates what I said earlier. There is a disconnect between the cognitive and affective content of our communications. Saying, “I think it was good policy,” but in a context that communicates that you think it really was just one more capitulation in a long line of capitulations past and future, is cognitive dissonance.

  26. LDSP, I think if we are to look at the issue charitably that most people in the Scouts just wish the issue would go away. They are not, for the most part, anti-gay or scared of people with same-sex attraction. They are people who love the Scouts for what it used to be for them, ie, a crucial part of their growing up process. There was a time when people could join the Scouts and never hear about sexual issues at all. (I can tell you that in the young men’s in my ward the young men were way, way, way too shy to discuss sex at all, and I can honestly say that I never heard them even mention a girl they liked or thought was pretty, etc. They spent their free time discussing video games or sports or, yes, even merit badges and Eagle Scout projects). So, what people are yearning for is a simpler time when the Scouts were about scouting, not about sexual issues.

    So, when you hear people complain about this change it is not necessarily a dig at the Church or even necessarily the new policy. It is angst that the culture wars have come to the Boy Scouts. I don’t think there is any way around this, unfortunately. The culture wars have come to just about every area of our lives.

    I think most loyal latter-day Saints are going to be OK with this new policy. The reality is it will only affect a tiny number of troops. But there are plenty of valid concerns about what comes next, and those concerns are not unreasonable.

  27. BRAVO LDSP!! Excellent points. The problem with church members who are irate over the church’s support of the BSA stance, is they assume they are linked in a hive mind with G-d. They think their thoughts are G-d’s thoughts. A complete shock to them to find their thoughts are their own. ;)

  28. Like others here (Michael is the only person with a name, so I need to fix that in my own signature) I am also curious about what comes next, for certainly wicked people will not be satisfied with not crushing good and grabbing power. Unlike some here and in the not-blogosphere, I’m not worrying or panicking, precisely because the Lord has said this works for Him. Evidently He plans on making this work to the benefit of His children and His church, since He has a pretty good track record. Why, He even made the murder of the Prophet Joseph turn out to benefit the church and the world. Who’d have imagined that all that pain, despair, extermination order, banishment, and further death would bring about so much good? Thinking like that would be crazy talk, in mortal views!

  29. Interesting points and historical context. I disagree that the church position has always been to fully accept those that experience same-sex attraction. A review of some of President Kimball’s books, for example, sure makes it sound as if it was once felt that even having feelings of same-sex attraction was sinful enough to prevent holding a temple recommend or being considered for many callings. The church’s statement may be technically correct with respect to official doctrine, but it does not completely match past practice.

    I agree with Geoff B. when he says that the dissonance many are experiencing has more to do with how they feel about the culture wars in general rather than this single episode. People do not look at something like this in a vacuum. They try to fit it into their understanding of the larger picture. The concerns being expressed demonstrate that some see their side constantly losing ground in the overall culture wars.

    Traditionalists smart when they hear others gleefully sing the refrain that traditionalists are “on the wrong side of history,” which is simply an echo of “vox populi vox dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God—in essence, the majority is God, might makes right, etc).

    Failing to appreciate the concerns of traditionalists is as myopic as failing to consider the experience of those that struggle with same-sex attraction. This issue can only be well understood when these and other views are properly considered.

  30. BSA has apparently (I haven’t read the new policy or announcement) stated that chastity is expected of _all_ scouts.

    So… essentially, what is banned for homosexual-oriented scouts, is also banned for heterosexual scouts. If a scout has sex (same sex or opposite sex), they get booted out, or at least suspended for a time, right?

    Now lets look at the flip side of the coin. Won’t what is _allowed_ for heterosexual scouts now be _allowed_ for homosexual scouts?

    If a 16 or 17 year old heterosexual scout has a girlfriend, can a 16 or 17 year old homosexual scout have a boyfriend? If not, then isn’t that “discrimination” ? (And for the sake of discussion, let’s assume a non-LDS afilliated troop.)

    If a 16/17 year old heterosexual scout is allowed a modicum of public-display-of-affection (PDA) with his girlfriend (holding hands while walking down the street, arm around shoulder in a movie, a kiss goodnight after a date), and can be in full fellowship with the BSA, when won’t a homosexual scout expect the same acceptance of equivalent PDA with his boyfriend?

    How detailed is the BSAs’s definition of chastity and what exactly are the limits? That leads to the next question… (I am currently ignorant of what BSA’s old and new policies are in regards to the technical details.)

    What about the next step after minor PDA? Is a consentual make-out session between a 17 year old scout and his 17 year old girlfriend within the chastity guidelines of the scouts? Does a scout get booted out or suspended for french-kissing or sucking face with his girlfriend? Is that “sex” in the BSA’s definition of chastity? (Honest questions, as I do not know the current BSA policy.)

    And therefore, if a heterosexual scout doesn’t get disciplined for a make-out session with a girlfriend, I can foresee a homosexual scout expect to be treated in a likewise manner, claiming he should not be discriminated against for making out with his boyfriend.

    If a 17 year old heterosexual scout can have a girlfriend, then I foresee the “gay lobby” demanding that a 17 year old homosexual scout be allowed to have a boyfriend. Otherwise, it would be discrimination.

    And that leads to the next question, if a 17 year old homosexual scout can have a boyfriend, what if that boyfriend is in the same troop? And that leads to the next question, would the boyfriends be allowed to share a tent?

  31. Correction to paragraph #5 above:

    “when won’t a homosexual scout expect the same acceptance…”

    should read:

    “then wouldn’t a homosexual scout expect the same acceptance…”

  32. “Evidently He plans on making this work to the benefit of His children and His church, since He has a pretty good track record.”

    MormonYoYoMan,

    You’re absolutely correct. We know, of course, what the final score will be. There is no need for fear, although I have always maintained that a healthy worry is appropriate. For example, I am not *afraid* that my kids will go astray, since I teach them properly and am doing all that I can do on that account. However, I still *worry* about my children, which is a normal parental thing to do.

    I don’t fear the future of the BSA, nor do I fear the future for the Church. It will be, in the end, glorious.

    However, the worry that myself and a lot of other people have is that before the ultimate triumph, there will *unnecessary* numbers of collateral casualties. And honestly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing to worry about, since it’s both a proximate and ultimate charity of my fellow human beings that’s at play with my concerns.

  33. Lots of people seem concerned about the next step, as well they should be. If openly gay scouts who are chaste can practice, does that mean we can have openly gay leaders who are also chaste?

    What are the questions surrounding this “next” issue? Is a hetrosexual adulterous scoutmaster kicked out for infidelity? If so, should gay-married leaders who are faithful to their partners be able to participate? If not, and if they want to include gay, but chaste leaders, like Catholic priests for example, would BSA be able to demand chastity within the traditional marriage model, even if gay marriage becomes completely legal?

  34. Michael, you’re talkin’ to a man who just had one of his best friends, a man with whom I served when he was our high priests group leader (but haven’t seen since we left Arkansas a few years ago) turn anti-Mormon. He’s phoned me, tried to convince me the church is a fraud, etc – wants me to read “some literature” which turned out to be the same things I read when I was trying to get my wife and daughter out of this Mormon cult thing. (I’d seen “Paint Your Wagon” three times and read Sherlock Holmes, so I knew all about Mormons.)

    His reasons for apostatizing and taking much of his family with him (save for his oldest boy, who rebelled by leaving on a mission) and his actions pre-date the BSA policy, but not by much. This is just one more reason he gives now.

    So I understand, almost bitterly, how this will shake up those who put their faith in our mortal leaders, each and every one of them who can, have, or will let us down at some point. I am grieved even though we have been warned, over and over and over, that friends and family will abandon Christ in these days. That WE stand a good 50% chance of screwing up, unless our testimonies are in Christ and everything else is gravy. (MMMmmm – gravy!)

    I wish I could say my testimony and wisdom is such that I’m not shocked and surprised by my friend’s actions. I wish our oldest daughter and youngest daughter would become active again.

    But I hold onto the Lord’s promise that they shall yet return. Saw it happen with one of our other daughters, and am seeing it happen with the other two. The youngest WAS anti-Christ completely, up to and including trying to destroy Christianity itself.

    And now she’s regained much of her faith, and is currently an active Protestant – who asks us twice a year what the prophet has said in Conferences.

    The oldest has remarried — to a Jewish doctor! And both of them keep finding that, as they challenge their respective heritages, that scriptures are more accurate history than they thought. They’re struggling, and currently worship Obama instead of Christ, but we see real progress over the past ten years.

    So this long, long post is just to explain why I’m not as fearful as I could be, and why I have complete faith that this is gonna be a great blessing. I grieve for those who fall away, and pray they hold on and see for themselves.

  35. @ldsphilosopher: Thank you for the clarification.

    I think that SSA is something we experience rather than something we are. Like pain, or heat, or cold. We experience heat. We experience cold. We experience color. We experience sexual attraction. But we aren’t any of those things. When we use the words to describe conditions rather than experiences, we imbue it with a sense of permanence and identity. It leads us to think, “It’s the way I am” rather than, “It’s what I currently experience.” The first is a description of immutable identity, the second is a description of experiences had by an “I” that is not defined by those experiences.

    I understand your point, but you disregard two critical facts: first, that our experiences very often permanently affect us and thus serve to define us. The second is that sexual orientation has shown to be immutable in most cases and doesn’t change. In addition, your linguistic argument doesn’t hold – no one would think that someone that says “I am cold” is saying something with the same permanence value as “I am straight.” The English copula doesn’t contain any information about permanence, merely description of the subject.

    If we’re going to take your stance that experiences do not define or identify, then a person is only defined by their physical traits that do not change, because you’re essentially arguing that likes/dislikes/tastes/attractions are all impermanent and/or transient and thus not valid in defining oneself. What traits are there of a person that aren’t likes/dislikes/attractions that don’t change? Eye color, I guess. Gender is another. I can’t think of many more. That doesn’t go very far with identification.

    Let’s go further with this rationale… you’re stating that you, ldsphilospher, aren’t Mormon since you aren’t defined by your experience of belief in your religion. You experience a belief in Mormonism – you can’t say “I’m Mormon” using your reasoning any more than you can say “I’m gay/straight.” Furthermore, it’s not important to who you really ‘are’ by your reasoning.

    You’re also denying that you’re heterosexual – you merely experience heterosexuality (or opposite-sex attraction), and potentially won’t one day. If you’re in a intimate relationship, do you find your attraction to your partner as a transient or non-defining experience? Do you not find your belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS as an important, defining factor of who you are? To me, both experiential aspects (of my belief in the church and my attraction to my wife) are incredibly defining yet they’re still only things I’ve experienced (and could have potentially not experienced had I been born in other circumstances), no different than other likes and dislikes.

    I understand that your stated stance is a popular one in the church. It just doesn’t hold, though. We are very much defined by what we experience, both what happens to us and what comes spontaneously from us. I think you’d agree that homosexual individuals, in general, don’t choose their orientation any more than you woke up one day and chose yours.

    Filing orientation away as something impermanent is a convenient way of getting around what is the crux we don’t know about the issue of homosexuality in the church – how will it work out? It seems fine on the surface, but to group it and other ‘experiences’ as factors that don’t define a person is not only incorrect, but unhelpful and sometimes harmful. Furthermore, there’s been no revelation and no statement from the GAs that backs up your claim that sexual orientation is transient, in spite of the widespread cultural belief that it is.

  36. Furthermore, there’s been no revelation and no statement from the GAs that backs up your claim that sexual orientation is transient, in spite of the widespread cultural belief that it is.

    No official revelation, no — but quotes from GA’s regarding their opinion, yes. And the majority of research shows that sexual orientation is far more subject to cultural attitudes and self-identity than not.

    I reject the idea that it is harmful to believe in the transience of sexual orientation. I submit that it is more harmful to insist we treat our sexual self-identity as immutable.

    I don’t have time to delve deeply into it, but you are actually describing a central difference between Greek/Indo-Eurpean languages and Hebrew/Semitic languages. In the Greek language, persons and things are defined by what is immutable about them. A pencil is long and makes use of graphite. A father is someone who contributed genetic material to a child. Etc. In Indo-European languages, a father is always a father, even when he isn’t acting fatherly.

    In the Hebrew language, in contrast, persons and things are defined by what they do. A pencil is something we use to write with. A pencil set on the shelf in a museum is no longer a pencil, but a museum piece. To change one’s activity is to change one’s identity. The Hebrew word for father is literally means “the one who gives strength to the family” and mother means “the one that binds the family together.” These are descriptions of activity, not of “essence.” And so a man who ceases to give strength to his family ceases to be father to them — because he is no longer acting as father. The identity of nouns is transient and fluid, and depends always and ever on the activity of the persons.

    This, actually, helps to clarify differences between Latter-day Saint thought and some fundamentalist Christians. Using the metaphor of adoption, when we become followers of Christ, we become children of Christ, and He becomes Father to us. This is taught both in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible. But the difference is that for many Christians, that adoption is permanent — once father, always father. There is no “fall from grace.” For Latter-day Saints, however, once we cease to draw strength from Christ, He ceases to be our Father, and we are no longer part of the fold of the Good Shepherd. This is what King Benjamin taught. This is what Alma taught. This can be described in Greek/Hebrew terms — in Indo-European languages, we see nouns as conveying an essential, permanent identity, while in Hebrew terms, nouns convey activity and action. In the Hebrew world, our identity as persons is bound up in what we do.

    In a way, yes — those who entertain sexual thoughts about members of the same sex and who behave sexually towards them are homosexual. But I see that identity as fluid. As soon as they stop entertaining those thoughts or behaving those ways, they no longer have need to identity themselves that way. If they, instead, focus their thoughts on Christ and their behavior in His service, they can self-identify as disciples instead. Our identity is forever bound up in what we are doing, and not in what is essential to our nature or what happens to us.

    Our language, being Indo-European that it is, emphasizes stasis instead of activity. It defines persons and things by what doesn’t change about them, rather than by what they do. So in English, without further clarification, using the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” as nouns, or using them as descriptive adjectives of persons, rather than behaviors, usually conveys a permanence about it that we simply do not know exists.

    Elder Oaks taught:

    We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.

    I believe him — I believe that our doctrine dictates this usage, and so does wisdom and prudence. If a person is not behaving homosexually, or thinking homosexually, but instead thinking and behaving as a disciple, they are a disciple, not a homosexual (even if, in settings where they allow themselves to think about it, they are still “aroused” by members of the same sex). I find that much of the turmoil and pain and confusion that results from same-sex attraction stems from your usage, where people make the attractions a salient part of their self-identity, even if they do not behave or think accordingly.

  37. I’m really skeptical about this Hebrew claim. I don’t speak Hebrew, but I do Arabic, and this certainly isn’t true with Arabic. Every language uses concepts of permanence. I can’t even think of what it would mean to be, say, a boy only when you are doing boyish things and then a girl when you’re doing girlish things, which itself would indicate something non-transient about the acts which identify gender.

  38. Elder Oaks is on record as saying that same sex attraction will be cured in the resurrection. I don’t have the link handy. Holland may have said something similar.

    I parse that to also mean that there won’t be any homosexuality or homosexual attraction in any of three kingdoms of glory.

  39. @ldsphilosopher:

    We’re not talking about actions or behaviors, nor have we ever been. Attraction is not a conscious choice/behavior and has nothing to do with ‘doing’ or your Semitic vs. IE language encoding examples. One needn’t ‘do’ anything to be attracted to someone or something.

    How sexual orientation is expressed is affected by culture, undoubtedly. How a person self-identifies is also affected by many other factors. But recognizing innate attraction is not ‘doing’ anything, and absolutely no harm comes from being cognizant of what is felt and giving it an appropriate name. If you’re male and you are attracted to other men, then you’re homosexual. That’s what the word means. The word isn’t defining what one feels or is, rather it’s describing what exists or is experienced. Furthermore, it doesn’t mean anything else beyond that one is attracted to members of the same gender. It doesn’t matter what language one uses to describe oneself, what matters is the fact that some men are consistently and immutably attracted to other men. Whether that’s expressed in Hebrew or English or not expressed at all – it exists (or is experienced) independent of the language used to describe it. And it rarely, if ever, changes.

    That’s the reality. It’s harmful to treat something as impermanent and transient when the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that it isn’t. It’s harmful to take anyone’s opinions as truth because of their calling in the church. It’s harmful to not see what there is to be seen. It’s harmful to rewrite history, ignore inconvenient facts, or put one’s faith and trust in anything but truth.

    Our understanding of many things is limited. I’m not arguing that one need treat sexual orientation as transient or immutable, just that we observe and call it what it is – constant in most people. If we take the fact that there has been no revelation on the permanence (or lack thereof) of sexual orientation plus the preponderance of evidence that it’s more constant than transient, then one isn’t making it a salient part of self-identity – it simply is. Until more definitive revelation is received on the matter, the harm comes from viewing it as something contrary to what evidence shows.

    I have no qualms with people describing homosexuality as ‘experiencing same-sex attraction.’ What irks me, though, is when they use that terminology to imply that sexual orientation is not an important part of an individual’s identity or something that’s chosen and/or changeable. And, like you illustrated with Elder Oak’s quote, that’s exactly what the church does.

    He errs in his reasoning, unfortunately, by including ‘feelings’ (synonymous to ‘attractions’ that we’ve been discussing) along with thoughts or behaviors. Feelings/attractions are critically different from behaviors and some thoughts in that they are not chosen. To describe behaviors and chosen thoughts in a stative manner, is, as he concludes, inappropriate and harmful as it ignores our agency in choosing regardless of situations/attractions.

    We can even move past the discussion of whether sexual orientation is experienced or just ‘is’ at this point. Because it doesn’t matter whether attractions are temporarily experienced or just are, they are not chosen and that’s what really makes the difference. Contrary to what Elder Oaks says, people are exactly consigned by circumstance or birth to innate feelings and attractions. Like I said in a previous comment, people who are homosexual (or that experience same-sex attraction) didn’t choose that anymore than you chose opposite-sex attraction.

    To recognize and identify something that is felt is never harmful; to be dishonest with oneself always is. To examine evidence that overwhelmingly shows that what gender one is sexually aroused by doesn’t change in most cases and conclude in the absence of revelation on the matter that sexual orientation is, in general, immutable is not harmful. To ignore such evidence or put your trust in someone’s opinion that goes contrary to observed reality is risky at best and potentially very harmful as well. It also goes contrary to the open-mindedness, critical reasoning, and rationale that define ‘philosopher.’

    (And just so you don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying that a philosopher can’t believe in knowledge obtained by revelation. Just remember that there is no revelation on the permanence of sexual orientation. Thanks for the thought-provoking discussion.)

  40. That’s the reality. It’s harmful to treat something as impermanent and transient when the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that it isn’t.

    False. False. Absolutely false. All evidence does not indicate that same-sex attraction is permanent and unchangeable. To say this ignores entire swathes of research that indicates otherwise. The research, if anything, leans the other direction. What you say is blatantly false.

    Contrary to what Elder Oaks says, people are exactly consigned by circumstance or birth to innate feelings and attractions.

    He never said otherwise.

    What irks me, though, is when they use that terminology to imply that sexual orientation is not an important part of an individual’s identity or something that’s chosen and/or changeable. And, like you illustrated with Elder Oak’s quote, that’s exactly what the church does.

    You apparently didn’t read Elder Oak’s quote. He didn’t say sexual orientation was chosen or changeable. He simply said it is not our identity, regardless. And he’s right about that.

    preponderance of evidence that it’s more constant than transient

    Preponderance of evidence says the opposite.

  41. This is much like the global warming debate — people keep claiming a consensus and a “preponderance of evidence” that is largely fictional or grounded in shoddy research. I’ve looked into it. The evidence is inconclusive — but it does lean heavily the opposite direction. And, further, the evidence in incontrovertible that many people can, indeed, change their sexual orientation. Nobody claims that all who try will be successful, but the evidence shows that many who try will.

  42. @ldsphilosopher:

    Yikes. Alright.

    In your quote, Elder Oaks says that “We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors… It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.”

    He’s arguing that people are not consigned by birth to have no choice in their sexual behavior, a sentiment I agree with. But he also includes feelings (attractions) in the list of things which shouldn’t be called homosexual, and by grouping them with behaviors that’s where he goes wrong. Feelings are not a choice, one is consigned by birth to them, and are an important part of identity. Otherwise, define identity.

    The OED defines identity as “The condition of being identified in feeling, interest, etc” and “Who or what a person or thing is; a distinct impression of a single person or thing presented to or perceived by others; a set of characteristics or a description that distinguishes a person or thing from others.” (definitions 6 and 2b).

    Feelings are included in identity, be they transient or immutable. Furthermore, in the quote you gave, Elder Oaks said nothing about identity, he said that we have a choice over our sexual behavior regardless of attractions and feelings. Do you truly think I didn’t read his quote?

    As far as the evidence goes, here’s one example on whether or not sexual orientation is transient from the APA, a large, scientific, neutral organization:

    To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective.

    (link: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx)

    Do you think that the American Psychological Association is also ignoring “swaths of research” as I am? Can you provide statements that show otherwise from a similar, scientific and neutral source?

    I’m not trying to make you angry. Maybe now is the time to either provide evidence or let the dialogue end.

  43. But he also includes feelings (attractions) in the list of things which shouldn’t be called homosexual

    Weirdly, you are still not reading Elder Oaks very carefully. He says the exact opposite: “We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.” He said the term homosexual SHOULD be used to describe feelings — just not persons.

    Do you think that the American Psychological Association is also ignoring “swaths of research” as I am?

    Yes, actually, they are. indubitably so. Their statement was motivated by political concerns, and not objective evidence. There is much discussion about these matters. I’ll provide sources later when I get home. But it is absolutely clear that the APA has consistently ignored research on these positions and has tried to advance causes motivated by political interests.

  44. Also, you should note that just a few years earlier than the statement you quote, the APA officially issued a statement that said the exact opposite: that evidence shows that many of those with SSA have been helped by therapist, and no evidence shows this therapy to be harmful. The body of evidence hasn’t changed since that statement a few years prior — simply the political inclinations of the leaders of the APA.

  45. I stand corrected regarding Elder Oaks’ statement with regard to calling feelings homosexual. That’s besides the point, though, because it doesn’t help your case. If one says “I am gay” it’s not evident that that statement is saying “I experience feelings of gayness” or “I am in the state of being gay.” As I’ve said, the English copula gives no information regarding permanence, which is what the state vs. experience distinction is about.

    And because attractions and feelings are very distinct from behaviors, there’s no danger that he alludes to in removing the component of choice from using a certain label as they’re not chosen to being with. That’s why he errs in including feelings in his argument about labels potentially taking away aspects of agency.

    Your view of the APA smells very strongly of conspiracy theory. You’ve got to provide some legitimate sources when you are able to.

    It also seems very unlikely that if there was an earlier, contrary claim regarding the transience of sexual orientation that no further experiments were done or additional data collected. Furthermore, being helped by a therapist doesn’t mean that orientation changed. And whether or not it’s harmful is not an argument I’m making. Couldn’t it possibly be that they changed their stance (if they really did, I need to have this verified) from performing additional, better experiments and realizing that the previous world-view was incorrect? That happens all the time in scientific inquiry.

  46. It also seems very unlikely that if there was an earlier, contrary claim regarding the transience of sexual orientation that no further experiments were done or additional data collected.

    And yet it happened. Conspiracy theory? No — there’s documentation.

  47. I’ve looked into the research myself, and am pretty familiar with the body of research. Much of it simply gets ignored. I wish wish wish people would realize that these so called “scientific” organizations are driven just as much by politics as science. Science is not some systematic, reliable means of sifting truth claims. It’s a discourse between people — people with philosophical and ideological predispositions, and those predispositions inevitably filter into the conclusions they draw in their research and their survey of the research.

    We cannot treat the statements of these organizations as if they were the voice of God — we must dig into the research ourselves and find out what’s really been done. I’ve done that in this case, and the APA’s statement is just plain false. It’s an affront on reality itself, and unless the individuals who crafted the statement have literally had swathes of research hidden from them, it’s just downright deceptive.

  48. “I wish wish wish people would realize that these so called “scientific” organizations are driven just as much by politics as science.”

    They are driven by funding, too. They will say whatever they need to say to get funding. That’s another little dirty secret of the “objective” scientific community.

    My wife was a scientist, worked in a lab for many years. She holds a masters in bioengineering. Science is totally political these days. I don’t know if there was a time when things were “better”, but the way she described many of the battles that went on between professors, department heads, and their turf wars, it sounded a lot like high school.

    Oh, and scientists aren’t afraid to lie to get that funding, either.

  49. On this, we can definitely agree. Psychology particularly is a discipline rife with ideological bias — psychologists, for example, that research theistic approaches to therapy are often barred from publishing their results, even if their results were statistically significant and revealing. Researchers that want to investigate reparative therapy are often denied funding if it appears that the researchers might be predisposed in favor reparative therapy — but not if they might be predisposed against it. These sorts of things really do happen.

    Consider Brad Wilcox’s experience getting tenure. He’s was publishing as much or more as any of his colleagues, and producing stellar academic results. His record was stellar, his research was sound. Yet, his colleagues blocked his tenure. It was later revealed — through documented evidence — that the decision of his department was grounded in his religious beliefs, and the fact that much of his research supported traditional marriage norms (even though it was sound research based on sound statistical methods). Their complaint was not the quality of his research, but the fact that he was publishing conclusions that contradicted the consensus they were trying to cultivate among scholars. This evidence was brought to the attention of the university, which eventually granted him tenure, concluding that his research was, indeed, solid, and that the department’s decision was politically and ideologically motivated.

    This is just one example among many, many examples. What research gets published, what research gets counted, what research gets funding, which researchers are shunned and silenced, often comes down to ideological grounds as much as anything.

    When I teach classes in the field, the first thing I tell students is to never trust a word they read from psychologists. Rather, first, find the original research studies they reference. Look at the methodologies. Study the details. Query the claims. Check the funding. Etc.

  50. @ldsphilosopher:

    And yet it happened. Conspiracy theory? No — there’s documentation.

    Please do provide it then. I am no expert in this field, but I’ve yet to come across this documentation. I’ve sincerely enjoy seeing it.

    Science is not some systematic, reliable means of sifting truth claims. It’s a discourse between people — people with philosophical and ideological predispositions, and those predispositions inevitably filter into the conclusions they draw in their research and their survey of the research.

    But the swaths of scientific evidence ignored by the APA that fits your claims are reliable? If you’re arguing that we can’t trust data drawn from observations or experiments, then what foundation do you have? My sexual orientation has never changed. It doesn’t sound like yours has. That’s at least 2 for 2 that sexual orientation seems to be an immutable aspect of an individual.

    We cannot treat the statements of these organizations as if they were the voice of God — we must dig into the research ourselves and find out what’s really been done.

    On this I totally agree with you. It’s of critical importance to know if the data and results have any potential bias, and to get a large number of independent experiments as well to minimize the unavoidable effects of error and bias (intentional or not). But when God’s been silent on the matter, conclusions drawn from rational observation are better and safer than things one merely wants to believe to be true, no? Otherwise we’re guilty of doing exactly what you say psychologists do – letting their ideological foundation color what they see.

    We’re left even more without recourse when we can’t trust the science, as you now argue. Where is your support then for your belief that sexual orientation is not an important part of one’s identity and transient?

    I’ve done that in this case, and the APA’s statement is just plain false.

    Again, please provide some evidence from some unbiased studies into the transience of sexual orientation. I don’t know of any and I would sincerely like to be able to see their methodology and results myself.

    And one last question, if reparative therapy works because sexual orientation is changeable and not an important part of one’s identity like you say, why does the church not advocate it? Your claim that sexual orientation is not an important part of one’s identity is not echoed by the church.

  51. But when God’s been silent on the matter, conclusions drawn from rational observation are better and safer than things one merely wants to believe to be true, no? Otherwise we’re guilty of doing exactly what you say psychologists do – letting their ideological foundation color what they see.

    I draw my conclusions from rational observation. So there you go.

    And one last question, if reparative therapy works because sexual orientation is changeable and not an important part of one’s identity like you say, why does the church not advocate it?

    It doesn’t discourage it either.

    Your claim that sexual orientation is not an important part of one’s identity is not echoed by the church.

    The Church has, and still does, teach that those who experience same-sex attraction should not avoid intensely self-identifying in those terms. I’ve already provided you two quotes from current apostles teaching just that. Elder Holland, Elder Oaks, Elder Hafen, and others have explicitly stated that those with SSA do themselves a disservice by making it a primary component of their self-identity. Elder Oaks said outright we shouldn’t use “homosexual” to refer to persons, but instead to acts, feelings, and thoughts. Elder Holland said that we shouldn’t make it a central part of our identity. Elder Hafen has made similar remarks. Others have too. So yes, leaders of the Church are teaching this. You just happen to think they are wrong.

  52. I don’t have access to any studies right now, but it is inconclusive as to whether homosexuality is immutable. There are plenty of studies going both way though. The generally accepted view about homosexuality is that everyone is on a spectrum. I’m skeptical of this approach, but if we assume it’s true, it explains how both conclusions about immutability could be true. Some people start towards the middle and change quite easily, whereas people on the edges are extremely unlikely to change, even with influence/therapy.

    I would lean towards treating sexuality as an essential characteristic though because it so clearly is for most people. In some ways there is nothing more defining for a transgendered person then the fact that they feel like their gender clashes with their sex. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to identify as a woman in a man’s body. From segregated toilets, differences in fashion, advertising, and so forth, sexuality is a tremendously important part of our culture, and it always has been. And this is not just about anatomy, but tied very closely with sexual attraction. I just don’t see how we can possibly downplay sexuality without diminishing people’s identity. Nor do I see why we should (not to say that a person’s sexuality is their only important characteristic though, which would swing too far to the other extreme).

  53. The fact that the church doesn’t discourage reparative therapy doesn’t support your stance, whereas the fact that it’s not supported shows some acknowledgement on their part that effort needn’t always be made to change sexual orientation. If sexual orientation was appropriate to attempt to change and capable of being changed, would not a church that views homosexual behavior as sinful and homosexual attraction as difficult to bear recommend that efforts be made to remedy the affliction?

    You’re correct about the church teaching that sexual orientation is not the only aspect of a person, and that it shouldn’t be viewed as the end-all of an individual’s identity. I agree with those teachings and that’s not what we’re debating about.

    But to say that one’s sexual orientation should not be the only defining aspect of an individual is not the same as saying that one’s sexual orientation isn’t a defining (and even important) aspect of a person. The Elder Holland quote we’ve been discussing doesn’t imply anywhere that one’s sexual orientation isn’t an important part of one’s identity – he simply saying that it’s not all we are. Which, and let me make this very clear, is something that I agree with.

    I believe that people do truly do themselves a disservice by overemphasizing any aspect of their identity, sexual orientation included. Nothing I’ve said has stated otherwise. That’s not what we’re debating. But some parts of who we are, including our attractions, likes, and beliefs, and very central to identity. Sexual orientation may not be an important part of your identity, but it is to most people. Furthermore, it’s not something that changes easily (or at all) for most people. No church leader has stated (that I can find) that sexual orientation isn’t an important part of one’s identity – only that it’s not all that one is and that it shouldn’t be made into something larger than it already is.

    Let’s put your stance into some analogous terms: if a person has empathetic feelings towards another, is it wrong to describe that person as empathetic? If a person experiences empathy for others consistently and frequently, is it wrong for the individual to recognize this and call themselves a empathetic individual, or are they just a person that experiences empathy, with the unstated implication that this could change and one day they wouldn’t be empathetic?

    Switch it to a ‘negative’ adjective and it still seems crazy – if a person often feels feelings of selfishness, and experiences it consistently and frequently, I don’t know of anyone that would make a stink about calling such an individual selfish and insisting upon a ‘person that experiences selfish feelings’ work-around. A quick search on LDS.org provides many examples in which people are referred to as selfish.

    If a person experiences consistent and frequent attraction to their same sex, is it wrong to call that person homosexual or gay? In spite of what you say and Elder Holland in his quote, the church doesn’t seem to think so.

    Just look at the church’s new website: mormonsandgays.org. How does the title of their site intended to clarify their position on homosexuality not go counter to all you’ve been arguing? ‘Gay’ is used as a label throughout the site along with the ‘those who experience same-sex attraction.’ Why would the church use such a categorical label if it goes so contrary to the correct sense of one’s identity?

    We’ve reached an impasse, I think. You’ve continued to fail to provide any evidence other than a few sentences of a quote that doesn’t even directly address the matter we’re discussing – feelings and attractions as being an important, immutable part of an individual’s identity. You’ve repeatedly avoided requests for documentation. You’ve avoided the majority of my questions. Your tone has become snappy. We’re not going to get much further like this.

    It’s an understatement to say that we appear to disagree, ldsphilosopher. I’ve done my best to elucidate inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations in your arguments. I’ve asked some questions which really sink right to the heart of the issue. I appreciate the discourse we’ve been having, as it’s helped me to better understand the subject matter myself. And, I really would love see some evidence that contradicts anything I’ve said – I have absolutely no desire to have a misconstrued or incorrect understanding of such an important and charged matter and I’d love to be made aware of additional, trustworthy sources that can expand my understanding. Furthermore, though I disagree with your conclusions and lines of reasoning used to arrive at such views, I respect your divergent opinions and I hope that I’ve not come across as belittling of you or your ability to believe what you will.

  54. Brother Philosopher doesn’t seem the type to rise to his own defense, so Big Mouthed Grandpa will point out that the very sentence “I respect your divergent opinions and I hope that I’ve not come across as belittling of you or your ability to believe what you will” (How I wish I could italicize or otherwise stress the last five words!) is about as sarcastic and belittling a statement that I want to read. Claiming that Brother Philosopher is purposely believing falsehood destroyed any chance for actual discussion. This has now become contention for contention’s sake, with a demand that “MY WAY IS CORRECT and ANYONE WHO DOESN’T AGREE WITH ME IS LYING.”

    For the record, neither Brother Philosopher nor Brother David nor Brother Michael were speaking falsely by referencing the shift in the psychology field, due to (and admitted in 1971) grasping for federal funding. You may demand they produce the precise papers at once, but I was and am not surprised that they didn’t have the documents at their fingertips. Even the 1972 college manuals that we studied in Psych 101 and 201 (Yes, we used archaic numbering systems then.) were destroyed. Heck, I don’t even have my copy of Burke & Burke any more, and I had intended to take that to my grave.

    You won’t be convinced, and you don’t want to hear any facts to the contrary, dismissing them as “Those aren’t facts. No one said that. Dead prophets really were bigots.” So nothing is gained by listening to this. No one is edified and good works are being set aside so that time can be devoted to these arguments. Robert Heinlein was correct when he described these internet arguments – and he described them 60+ years ago.

    Bye, y’all.

  55. I tend to be a follow the prophet type but I am not fully committed to BSA. It isn’t a worlwide program for a worlwide church but…

    The openly gay thing bothers me. I find it unlikely that anyone is openly gay but not sexually active. My concerns are mitigated by the reality that most LDS scouts are really only deeply involved in scouting at ages 12-13. 14-15 is basketball and 16 up is work at the grocery store etc. I have difficulty imagining an openly gay deacon. So I don’t see a lot of significance in this.

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