The Golden Rule and the LDS-LGBT conflict | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Golden Rule and the LDS-LGBT conflict

Posted By on October 12, 2010, 11:32 AM

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I'm pondering the Golden Rule--"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"--and whether the LDS Church bigwig Boyd K. Packer and others have considered this rule as it applies to their opposition to homosexuality. I suspect they have regarded it highly.---

If you're just tuning in, the LDS/LGBT dispute was reignited last week after church bigwig Boyd K. Packer--the #2 guy in line for the title of "prophet"--called homosexuality "impure and unnatural" and stated as fact that homosexuals can overcome their sexual orientation. At today's demonstration, in which Utah's gay community groups joined the Human Rights Campaign in delivering 150,000 signatures from people nationwide who are also critical of Packer's comments, Planned Parenthood Action Council executive Director Melissa Bird cited the Golden Rule, "To do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

But I imagine that if Packer ever has or does "struggle with same-sex attraction," he would most certainly want therapy to try to make him a hetero. Packer, the LDS Church leaders generally and its most ardent supporters are following the Golden Rule in a way, and yet you've still got activists who blame the church for contributing to the suicides of queer youth. So what's up?

Here is basically the LDS Church's position regarding the outcry, including a demonstration at Temple Square that attracted 4,500 people, as laid out by spokesman Michael Otterson today:

We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty, or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation, or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society. ... As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness.

But are those positions on their face unkind? Otterseon begs the question--which has been common lately--by simply stating without argument that those core principles themselves are not cruel, belittling and mocking. It takes no misquoting or selective interpretation to ask simply: are your core principles themselves cruel, belittling, mocking, or hateful of queer people?

Going further, using therapy to help the homosexuals repress those urges--as the LDS Church advocates--is that compassion, cruelty, something in between? The American Psychological Association and others have denounced the use of therapy tools to help homosexuals repress their natural sexual attractions, and urges caution in using such methods even with patients who seek it. Like Eric from Texas, who sought treatment for his homosexuality only to mature and later believe that his real problems were linked to his childhood sexual abuse not homosexuality, patients sometimes lack adequate awareness of their situation to determine what treatment would best help them.

I think most people believe as I do that the Church really believes it can change people's homosexuality and wants to love a new hetero butterfly that emerges from the queer cocoon. But just about every queer individual--LDS or otherwise--has for an extended period of their life tried to repress their homosexuality and most concluded that the endeavor was hopeless, painful, stressful and, for some, incredibly damaging. Thus, they worry about young gay kids who lose the queer lottery and are born into homophobic families, especially those families whose homophobia is reinforced and encouraged by their beloved church.

And so, just how harmful is urging a homosexual to repress his or her sexual orientation? Even if you put aside gay suicides, we know that for some individuals it is very damaging. Well, Packer, Otterson, et al, this is where I invite you revisit the Golden Rule. How would you feel if someone said, "Look, I love you but your religion is impure and unnatural. Maybe you should go to therapy and they can fix you. Oh, and don't forget, I denounce any efforts to belittle or mock you."

Many Mormons I know and love feel their faith is inseparable from their identity, a choice so central to their being that it doesn't feel like a choice and thus criticizing their faith can not be divorced from criticizing the individual. That being the case, I would think that Mormons would feel very threatened and offended by the suggestion that their faith should be corrected with therapy, and would feel probably damaged if, as youths, a prominent leader in their community suggested that therapy to wash away their Mormon faith was the only godly course of action. It's not so different for gay people, many of whom feel that attempts to erase their sexual orientation would erase a very important part of themselves. What was Otterson saying about belittling?

So, to Packer, Otterson, and those who support the anti-homosexual regime, be careful with the brief elegance of the Golden Rule. Its proper application is far more complex than its wee size might suggest. You might want therapy for your same-sex attraction, but if you continue to present gay Mormons with the dilemma of choosing their faith or their sexuality, you'll probably never escape the protests at Temple Square--and you'll lose a lot of your Saints, too.

Update 10-13-10 11:40 a.m.: I want to clarify only one comment in this; it's in the last paragraph. "If you continue to present gay Mormons with the dilemma of choosing their faith or their sexuality, you'll probably never escape the protests at Temple Square..." I don't completely stand by that. In fact, I think if the LDS Church promised to stay out of secular politics--no more Prop. 8s--they could probably remain a homophobic church and still not be protested, for better or worse. I think if they just stayed out of secular lives, gay Mormons could leave the church and pursue their happiness, and happy people protest a lot less than angry ones. I think what's really got the church in trouble in the last two years was its great lengths to impact the lives not just of members, but of non-members and former members.

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