What is/was your relationship with Mormonism?

This is a question I just had for everyone…because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this blogging, it’s that people have such widely differing relationships with Mormonism. I’ve taken for granted that people are looking for the same “things” from it as I was/am, but that is not the case.

So, my question is: what is (or was) your relationship with the church and Mormonism? (I asked this question on my blog too, and there were a few answers, but I wanted a different audience.) What purpose did it/does it serve…what do you look for (or what did you look for) from it?

To give an example of what I’m trying to think about, let’s take three different people, whose positions I hope I have correctly surmised:

Person A:

Person A looked for something that spoke out to him internally. Subjective experience and validation were principally important to him. He wasn’t concerned about historical issues or theological issues, because those weren’t what he got or was looking from Mormonism. Rather, a pursuit of personal authenticity, personal peace and joy was what he was looking for. To the extent that the church did not lead toward these things, this disharmony was a dealbreaker.

OK; that’s person A.

Person B:

Person B had a different view from Person A. The subjective experiences person B got from Mormonism weren’t necessarily all that good, but these weren’t the matter of principal importance to him. Rather, he dealt with whatever personal discomfort that came by recognizing that the church is simply true, so it is a “necessary” (as a result of its facticity) “evil” (as a result of the personal pain it causes). However, if the church were not true (or if Person B sufficiently doubted such), then it would not make sense to continue to bear the burden.


Person C:

Person C had a different view from both Persons A and B. For C, again, the actual truth of historical events or theologies weren’t vitally important…and neither was personal peace…so to the extent that there were uncomfortable or controversial parts in either of these, the “reason” for being Mormon woudn’t be threatened. Instead, Person C’s relationship with Mormonism was that it was his community first and foremost. As a beneficiary of that community, he owed an allegiance to the community.

Now, I’m sure I could come up with quite a few more scenarios…(and maybe the people who represent these anonymous archetypes will post [hopefully they won’t come and say, “No, you’ve got it all wrong!”])…so my question…does your relationship fit into one of these or is it different? If it is different, what is your relationship with Mormonism?

Andrew S

Andrew S grew up in a military family, but apparently, that didn't make much of an impression upon him because he has since forgotten all of his French and all of his Hangungmal (but he does mispronounce the past tense of "win" like the Korean currency and thinks that English needs to get it together!) Andrew is currently a student at Texas A&M who loves tax accounting, the social sciences, fencing (epee), typography, presentation design, and public speaking, smartphones, linux, and nonparallel structured lists.

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76 Responses

  1. Madame Curie says:

    I responded on your blog, but I will respond here as well. I fit squarely into Category A.

  2. Goldarn says:

    I’m definitely Person B. I had born testimony more than once that the reason I was in the church was because it was true. When I finally admitted it wasn’t, there was no reason to go back. No reason at all.

  3. I suppose I was a Person A, but I left the Church when I was a teenager, so I was still forming my subjectivity. Now, when I engage in Mormonism (as a scholar/writer/Mormon-interested person), I try to put myself in the shoes of Person C, to play devil’s advocate for the sake of the community. The historicity of the Church will probably always prevent me from being personally Mormon (I’m not interested in doing the postmodern or theological work to make this historicity “true” for myself; the idea that other faiths have “a piece of the truth” I find insulting). Basically, I see myself as getting in touch with my roots so that I can have a richer adult life. The distance I have from the faith prevents me from any personal distress (e.g., I’m gay), but the closeness allows me some introspection (e.g., I’m not anti-Mormon).

  4. Andrew S says:

    Alan, that’s actually pretty interesting “Getting in touch with your roots so that you can have a richer adult life,” yet noting that the distance you have from the faith prevents any personal distress.

    When I originally wrote this (and I had a particular person for C in mind), I thought I was far away from C. And yet, I can see, looking at it from your perspective, that that’s probably the way how I engage with Mormonism now.

  5. Measure says:

    Person B here, with a dose of person C. I saw the burden of the church as worth it in part because of the benefits offered as person C.

    I threw away person C when my person B figured out there wasn’t actually a God.

  6. Hypatia says:

    Hmm… I’m having a hard time deciding between A and B. I think I was/am mostly a B type person growing up and into early adult-hood, but when I discovered certain things about the church that made me think it was no longer true, I tried to be the A type mormon for a short while… but that didn’t work out too well.

  7. aerin says:

    I commented on your blog, but I agree with Alan. A person who is raised mormon/LDS (and usually under the age of 18) doesn’t usually have a choice about which person they get to be – how they feel about historical issues or personal discomfort or truth.

    Being born into a particular community, a person doesn’t really get to choose how they enter or support that community until they reach adulthood (or get to really choose to leave it). When your food and shelter is still coming from one place – it makes the bargain difficult.

  8. Andrew S says:


    I don’t get how you got that from what Alan was saying, but maybe I am misunderstanding you, or Alan, or both.

    A person who is raised/LDS doesn’t usually have a choice about which person they get to be; I agree with you. But I think it’s because NO ONE gets a choice about which person they get to be. Do you get a choice about your personality? About what things you like, you dislike? About your inclinations and disinclinations? So, a person doesn’t get a choice about which person they get to be because it relates to their personality and how they interact with the world.

    I’m not quite talking about “choosing how to enter or support a community.” Rather, I’m talking about an internal attitude or inclination. What was it that was MOST troubling about the church (regardless of if you could or could not do anything about it)? I think that is one way to find out what kind of person you were.

    People talk about being troubled by historical issues. They think, “Well, if this is historically false, (insert terrible conclusion regarding to the church.)” I never thought things like that. Instead, my trouble was, “If I don’t have a burning in the bosom; if I can’t trust that burning in the bosom; if I don’t feel right in Mormonism and I feel right elsewhere, (insert terrible conclusions.)”

    I don’t get to choose whether my issue is history or personal, subjective feelings or community. But I do have a particular “thing” I’m looking for, and if not met, then that isn’t good.

  9. Rob G says:

    I think that I’ve been through all three, and in order. I was raised in the church, and was an A. It was my identity, it gave me validation and a sense of purpose. Two years of trauma and abuse as a missionary took that sense of comfort in my identity away from me, and I became a B. The church may not have been good, but it was true, and it was my duty to put up with it until it (and I) became what God expected. Several years later, when the exclusive truth claims no longer sat well with me, I became a C. The church may have been flawed and the doctrine nonsense, but it was my nonsense and my people. I imagined that there was nowhere else that I could get the support and community that the church offered. I soon found, however, that the community does not tolerate dissent, and that I could not be authentic to myself and be welcomed at the same time. When my wife confided that she had been through a similar process and felt similarly miserable in the community, we left. Still haven’t told the family, and we aren’t looking forward to it. I stay connected because the church is my psychological inheritance, and I understand parts of myself best through the lens the connection affords me.

  10. Wayne says:

    “A” resonates with me. And I left when I felt the experiences I had in church were cheapened outside of Church.

  11. profxm says:

    I’d say I’m similar to Rob G. The subjective experiences were more important than anything else, initially (so an A). Then I started questioning (before my mission, but heightened by my mission). I remember drawing a very clear distinction between “the church” and “the gospel” during my mission; the first was flawed, the second was not (snicker!). When I finally left, the only thing I thought I was really losing was community, so I must have been pretty close to a C at that point.

  12. chanson says:

    I was essentially a “person B” when I was a believer (up until age 17). I wouldn’t have called it a necessary evil, though, because I didn’t think it was that bad. I had totally bought into the church’s “It’s not the church, it’s you” message for all those who are miserable in the church. So I participated out of a sense of necessity (since it was God’s will), but I didn’t like it.

    As I’ve said before, it’s a one-size-fits-all church that fits some better than others. I think that the LDS church has a more limited/rigid set of roles than many other religions, hence there’s a particular set of random personality traits that will help you fit into Mormon culture well and excel there (and a corresponding alternate set that will ensure that you never fit in). And that’s what makes the difference between the “person B” (who’s relieved) vs. the “person B+” (who’s sad) to discover it isn’t true.

    (If the above paragraph doesn’t make sense, the novella Bordeaux Mission is all about being a believer who doesn’t quite fit the Mormon mold, and this post explains my own love/hate relationship with Mormon culture.)

    As for today, I’m at basically the same place as Alan — interested in Mormonism as a part of my past, but from a position of emotional distance.

  13. aerin says:

    #8 Andrew – like Alan, I left when I was a teenager, and would have considered myself in camp a. I did believe that mormonism was something that was true, so I had to suffer through it as much as I could – everything was simply a challenge to my own faith. It was true because my parents said it was true, and I had to rely on their testimony until I got my own.

    I respectfully disagree with you that no one gets a choice about which person they get to be. I might have misunderstood what you were writing here and in your post…

    There are many things that humans do not get to choose; where they are born, what they look like, what type of education (if any) they receive, who their parents are. Some people don’t even get to choose to make it to adulthood (sadly).

    But as an adult, there are things that a person does get to choose. Some get to choose how they support themselves – what job/career they choose. What type of education/higher education they get..if any. Some things a person has control over, some not – and that can also change from year to year. And I also believe that tastes, preferences (what a person likes or dislikes) change with age. For example, I didn’t like coconut when I was under ten. But I’ve tried it again, and I like coconut now, as an adult.

    I believe personalities can change with age. One person might be idealistic or open as a younger person, but as they age, they might become more pragmatic or private. Or they may not. What might have kept someone awake at night when they were younger might not any longer; or something that didn’t worry them then is very difficult now. Life experiences are also a major factor of change and changing perceptions (to my mind). If you have a handful of devastating experiences – sudden death of a parent or partner, life threatening illness – it may change the way you perceive the world, and how much you value various things (like openness, honesty, political leanings, etc.)

    Now, the question of what is most troubling about any particular religious community or community in general is an interesting one. And (I agree) tells quite a bit about a person and their values and inclinations – what will be troubling to them and what won’t be.

    As far as people’s various relations to mormonism, I feel like quoting Mao’s letting a thousand flowers bloom speech – over the years I think there are many different relationships. I think your categories work but it’s also hard to narrow it down. I don’t know that people had one way of relating to mormonism.

  14. Suz says:

    None of the above. I was born into Mormonism, so my relationship with it was always, ‘I want out’.

  15. Andrew S says:

    re 13


    When I say, no one gets a choice about what person they get to be, I mean it in the sense that you don’t get a choice about what you believe. If you believe 2+2=4, you can’t just say, “OK, today, I’ll believe that 2+2=5.” This will directly sound incorrect to you. If you are in an environment where you are expected to believe 2+2=5, you might force yourself to keep on saying it and saying it until it doesn’t bother you as much, but your beliefs are something that come from something other than choice.

    Note that you get to choose *actions*. Actions like how you will support yourself (what job you will take). You don’t consciously choose your tastes and preferences though. As you say, they may change, but this change is not something you consciously do. If you like coconut now but didn’t like coconut before, there was — at no point — a conscious decision, “OK, I will like coconut now!”

    So, when you say “I believe personalities can change,” you contextualize it. “…with age.” Things changing with age or with time is a passive change, not an active, conscious choice. If you are idealistic when young and pragmatic when older, then *yes*, this is an example of change, but you wouldn’t say that you had a conscious choice in either case. If you change as a result of a major experience, then this is a change, but you wouldn’t say you had a choice…either in your major experience or in the way you interpreted and changed because of it.

    I didn’t mean for these categories to be all-comprehensive. Rather, what inspired me to write this post was *thinking* about three people in particular who have such different ways at looking and interacting with the church and world, and then seeing if others resonated with any of these three types or if they had their own type of their own.

  16. Andrew S says:

    re 14:


    I guess my question is: for what reason was your relationship always “I want out”? Because many people could each say, “I want out,” and have completely different reasons why.

  17. Suz says:

    Thanks for asking, Andrew. I finally wrote my ‘out’ story on my blog. Just click on my name and its the latest post there 🙂

    In general answer to your question though, I suppose I wanted out of the Mormon religion because it always felt so stifling and guilt ridden.

  18. Paul says:

    chanson Says:
    “As for today, Im at basically the same place as Alan interested in Mormonism as a part of my past, but from a position of emotional distance.”.

    I don’t think too many people can place themselves totally at an “emotional distance.”

    You, me, and a lot of people viewing and participating on these “Mormon” blog sites and forums has to presuppose some sort of emotional attachment, residual or otherwise, to the church. Maybe after a very long absence from ANYTHING and EVERYTHING (blog sites, etc) “Mormon” some people can pretty well totally escape, but otherwise there will always be something way down deep, maybe even at a sub-conscious level as long as a person stays connected to the church in some way(s). Just my opinion.

    I would have to conclude that:
    I’m not an “A” person because subjective (I would prefer the term “spiritual”) experiences are important to me, and so are historical issues.
    I’m not a “B” person because I’ve had some remarkable subjective (again, “spiritual”) experiences.
    I’m not a “C” person because first and foremost I do not like a lot of “Mormon” cultural memes that have been *bred* into me, and truth and history are indeed vital to me as are the feelings of peaceful assurances you should garner from being a disciple of Christ.

    So I am emotionally attached to the church because I “fear God” based upon past, personal “spiritual” experiences that don’t readily allow me to fully and completely explain away the “truthfulness” of the gospel notwithstanding the highly questionable ‘sanitized’ history of the church, and to some extent, reason itself.

    Frankly, I don’t know what I am except messed up and highly suspicious that I’ve been purposely manipulated (brainwashed) in a subtle, clandestine way by a large, powerful organization that really doesn’t care what ultimately happens to me (I’m “expendable”).

  19. aerin says:

    #15 – Thanks Andrew for continuing to discuss this with me! I think everyone else has gotten past this point, and perhaps you’ve talked about this before in other posts that I’ve missed (more than likely, actually).

    As far as immediately choosing beliefs, isn’t that hypothetically what an LDS conversion is? Someone was non-religious or a separate (different) religion, they met the LDS missionaries, they read the book of mormon, they prayed and felt a warm, good feeling (your subjective experiences) which they attributed to being god’s (HF’s) witness that the book of mormon was true. Their belief system changes – that they didn’t believe the book of mormon to be the word of god, then after they did.

    Of course, you’re right that this method of belief changing involves actions, specifically reading and praying.

    Now, I have also heard people say “you can’t change your feelings”, and if you are equating feelings with beliefs – I could see that. For example, a person may feel angry about something today (maybe someone hit my car), but with time and perspective (maybe I get a new car with the insurance payment), they may find that whatever it was that made them so angry no longer has the same hold that it did.

    I haven’t made a strong enough argument about beliefs before the age of 18. But I still don’t feel that a person under the age of 18 really has all the necessary tools, capabilities and allowances to determine their own beliefs. The example about 2+2=5 is one thing (if I understand it right) but for someone under the age of 18, who is reliant on their parent(s) for food and shelter – there are very real consequences if they constantly disagree with their parents’ beliefs and assert their own beliefs (which may be different).

    Of course, there are people under the age of eighteen who determine their own beliefs, who disaffect from traditional mormonism (or other religions). And parents who allow for their children to develop their own religious beliefs and make their own decisions about when and where they worship. And those (people and parents) who don’t…it seems to me that when a person is over 18 and (theoretically) self-reliant, the consequences of non belief or leaving a community or showing one of those personality types (a – c) can be very different. There may still be emotional or monetary ties involved, but it’s not the same (to my mind).

    This is also part of the reason that I strongly disagree with baptism at the age of eight. I don’t think an eight year old has all the tools they need to really understand the commitments they are making.

  20. I think it’s quite possible to force yourself “to like coconut now.” A lot of people with bad diets claim that they can’t change their diet because they don’t think healthy food tastes good. In that case, they simply need to choose for it to taste good, IMO. This is the kind of logic the Church uses all the time with regard to “choosing” versus “inclination”… it’s authoritarian, but it gets the job done. For example, an “innate” drive to be gay is deemed less important than “choice” in the Church — the thought/action distinction. Personally, I choose to be gay because I think it’s the strongest political stance to take on the matter. I leave inclination out of it, even if I recognize that inclination is what is at work behind all of our choices.

  21. Andrew S says:

    re 17:

    Suz, I’ve read your post now and I’ll comment more in depth on your blog, but just from what little I’ve read, it does seem like you’d fit in a mix of A and B…A because it seems to be the subjective experiences (e.g., the guilt) that was first most troubling…whereas B, because you were moved by historical truth and fiction. But as I said, I’ll comment on your site too.

    re 18:

    Paul, I guess I can see what you’re saying about a residual attachment deep inside. But I think this residual attachment is effectively much less than the emotional attachment that many people here faced in the heart of the church.

    I think your position is interesting…you’re right; it doesn’t quite fit into the three archetypes.

    Hmm…I guess I’m a bit curious…between your comments about your spiritual experiences (that don’t readily allow you to “explain away” the truthfulness of the church) and your final paragraph about the “clandestine manipulation” of the church…where do you feel you come out. Do you feel that your spiritual experiences are part of this manipulation…just that the manipulation reaches so deep that you cannot break away from it?

  22. Andrew S says:

    re 19:

    No problem aerin. I actually don’t really express myself clearly, so I sometimes have to remember to do that.

    I don’t think an LDS conversion is consciously choosing beliefs. Let’s look at the scenario you’ve presented. Someone is non-Mormon. They meet missionaries, read BoM, pray, receive a warm, fuzzy feeling which they attribute to being God’s witness that the BoM was true.

    Let’s break this down. Did they CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE to receive a warm, fuzzy feeling? I do not think so. In fact, your scenario is just one of a few possible. After all, you could have a different non-Mormon — or even a Mormon — who reads the BoM, pray, and receives…*nothing*. And however hard each person may try to receive a warm, fuzzy feeling, it’s not in their conscious control. So, the critical part to the belief change (receiving the warm fuzzy feeling) is not consciously chosen!

    I don’t doubt that belief systems can change. But what I doubt is how efficacious conscious choice is within it. In this case, people chose the actions (letting the missionaries in, reading the BoM, praying), but critical responses (receiving a warm, fuzzy feeling) were NOT consciously chosen. These critical responses become new stimuli for actions…and then individuals can choose again. Someone who does not receive a warm, fuzzy feeling can still CHOOSE to go to church. But they cannot CHOOSE to believe that they had the warm fuzzy feeling and so they cannot choose to truly believe that it was a witness from God. They can CHOOSE to SAY it is a witness, but they can’t choose to overcome the internal strife when their mind says back to them, “But you never got that witness…”

    The question is if belief is an action or if belief is a response, an inclination, a framework? People use belief in an active way, “I believe,” but I think this is similar to the “action” of “feeling.” Your example with feeling angry today and not feeling angry in the future doesn’t disagree with my point — in fact, it agrees with it. You didn’t CONSCIOUSLY choose anger or non-anger. Rather, at one point, there was one set of stimulus that led to one response (anger). Over time, there was an unconscious and unchosen reevaluation (based on new evidence, new events, new stimuli).

    You say a person under 18 doesn’t have all the tools, capabilities, and allowances to determine their own beliefs. I agree with you, because no one has the necessary tools, capabilities, and allowances to determine their own beliefs. You are THROWN into your particular set of beliefs, and based on what life does to you, you can be THROWN into a different set of beliefs, or an evolution of beliefs. But you didn’t choose it yourself.

    If someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to believe “rape is good,” do you suddenly believe rape is good? This is beyond your choice! The terrible consequences cannot alone change your BELIEF…they can change your ACTIONS. Under gun-point, you may SAY a great many things, and you may DO a great many things, but you don’t just suddenly change beliefs. Similarly, the under-18-year-old, under threat of great and terrible consequences, will ACT and SAY a great many things to avoid the wrath of parents, but this says nothing about his or her beliefs.

    I don’t know where the disconnect is, but you seem not to realize the difference between having beliefs and acting on those beliefs. So you say, “Of course, there are people under 18 who determine their own beliefs, who disaffect from traditional mormonism.”

    First, I’d say that people don’t “determine” their own beliefs if you mean it in a sense of “choosing their beliefs.” They are THROWN into their beliefs. Whether you are 16 or 24, you are THROWN into this pain of feeling that you don’t believe in Mormonism. *THIS* alone is disaffection. (Disaffection is about AFFECTs…feeling)

    The difference is that when you are 16, you probably will be motivated NOT to act on your disaffection, because your parents may do hurtful things in response. But your motivation to ACT against your beliefs doesn’t change those beliefs. You don’t become a TBM with no problems with the church JUST because you’re very good at acting for the sake of your parents.

  23. Andrew S says:

    re 20:


    I think you’re describing two different things and then coming up with a muddled conclusion. You say: “A lot of people with bad diets claim that they cant change their diet because they dont think healthy food tastes good. In that case, they simply need to choose for it to taste good, IMO.”

    I think the real issue is this. Just because someone with a bad diet doesn’t think healthy food tastes good, this has no bearing on whether they can change their diet. Thinking healthy food tastes bad is a feeling, and inclination, a mental attitude. Changing diets is an action. Now, feelings, inclinations, and mental attitudes *do* put pressure on actions, BUT we aren’t necessarily enslaved to them (at least, let’s not get into determinism).

    The solution isn’t really to say, “Choose for it to taste good,” because this makes little sense. This is like saying, “Choose to like women” to a gay man. (OK, OK, so food preference is quite a bit more mutable than sexual orientation…but the idea is similar.) The solution is to say, “Regardless of if you think healthy food tastes bad, choose to eat it.” And there may be another idea at play: “Fake it until you make it.” (e.g., if you eat it enough, you may ‘acquire the taste’.)

    If you note, the church has really used *my* formulation more often. “OK, so you have these inclinations, but don’t act on these inclinations.” It is true that they USED to try to change inclinations (electroshock therapy, etc.,). They USED to use “fake it till you make it, “Well, maybe you should marry, and then hopefully that’ll make you straight,” but then they stopped recommending this publicly. Now, they have this position: “You may not be able to overcome this inclination in this life [e.g., you may not be able to consciously change your inclination], but you CAN change your actions, so regardless of if you think this advice stinks, stay celibate if you need to.”

    I honestly don’t think you “choose” to be gay. To “choose” to be gay, what you’re saying is that you consciously choose to find guys sexually attractive and girls not sexually attractive. I don’t think you choose this.

    HOWEVER, I do think you may choose your actions. Regardless of what your orientation is, I think you can CHOOSE to be out. You can CHOOSE to pursue relationships and act on inclinations. You can CHOOSE not to repress yourself just because the church wants you to.

  24. The solution is to say, “Regardless of if you think healthy food tastes bad, choose to eat it.” And there may be another idea at play: “Fake it until you make it.” (e.g., if you eat it enough, you may acquire the taste.)

    If you have an inclination (an aversion to coconut) and then you make a series of choices that lead your inclination to change (I ate coconut anyway until I liked it), then I think it becomes questionable as what exactly happened between inclination A and inclination B. We can call it choice or a series of choices, but I really think the idea of choice is all about persuading people or persuading yourself to “make this choice or that, because I or you already know what will happen to you if you choose A or choose B.”

    For example, Mormon authorities say: “You can choose to act on your homosexual desires, but X will happen.”

    Or now you’re saying: “You can choose to be gay, Alan, but you’re actually already oriented toward it.”

    That, to me, is the real determinism at work here, when other people tell others what their inclinations incline them toward. The inclinations themselves don’t determine anything. They’re random.

    So, I agree that the Church has moved from changing gays to a “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude. But the same old determinism is at work here no matter how much this thing called “choice” is upheld.

  25. Oops, didn’t mean to make that all a blockquote. O_o

  26. Andrew S says:

    Alan, fixed the blockquote. It closes with , not with . The XHTML dealie that says what tags you can use is incorrect.

    But, addressing comment 24:

    Again, with the aversion to coconut, the series of choices you are making is to IGNORE your aversion and eat the coconuts anyway. By some off chance, you might get over your aversion. This doesn’t mean that you CONSCIOUSLY chose to get over your aversion, just because that result is linked to your conscious choice to eat coconuts. Not only that, but this kind of reasoning does not work for everything and it does not work every time. Sometimes, you won’t get over your aversion. You’ll just hate yourself and get sick.

    I lost you past the coconuts, though. I utterly disagree with your counter that your inclinations do not incline you to things. That is why they are called inclinations, orientations, preferences, and the like. This is trivially true.

    I agree with you that our inclinations do not determine things. Because this hard determinism ignores that we can choose ACTIONS to go against our inclinations (e.g., even though an aversion to coconuts would make us less likely to choose to eat a cooconut, we can go against that aversion if we want. This does not CONSCIOUSLY change the aversion — although as you’ve pointed out, it may indirectly and unconsciously lead to just that…but it is a conscious action that we of course have control over)

    You either misunderstood what I said or maybe you just had a typo. I said, “I honestly DON’T think you choose to be gay,” which if we relate it to what you quoted me as saying, is closer to, “You can’t choose to be gay,” than what you said. To put it bluntly, you don’t consciously choose what arouses you and what does not. Rather you can CHOOSE to ACT in ways that you are either inclined to or not inclined to. If you’re aroused (or if you are not), you can decide to act on that arousal or not (or act without arousal or not).

  27. I understand what you’re saying, but I’m trying to expand your horizons in terms of conceptualizing the difference between “inclination” and “choice” (particularly when it comes to sexuality, which can then be nuanced to coconuts and other tropical fruits).

    When you say “you don’t choose to be gay,” this is disempowering to me. You’re basically saying that I’m stuck in gayness. Do you have sex with guys? (I assume you’re straight.) If your answer is no, is it because you’re not inclined to have sex with guys, or because you choose not to? For straight people, refraining from queer sexuality is understood as a choice regardless of their inclinations, whereas for gay people, engaging in queer sexuality is understood as by inclination first and choice second. This is a double-standard. This idea of “inclination” is a forced separation of attraction from sexual acts with the intention of regulating queer thoughts and actions. When a boy starts talking about girls at age 12, the parents don’t think “I wonder if our son is inclined toward girls.” This extra step is only made if the child is queer.

    The same regulation is happening as Church leaders say “you do choose to be gay.” Here again, discursive authority is held over people’s bodies. What is at issue is the duality between inclination/choice and how it is used in various contexts. For example, Buddhist thought contends that choice is the result of suffering, and that were our inclinations fully known, choice would be non-existent. Using this paradigm, we might see how the urge to keep choice in the picture is really underpinned on the Christian doctrine of freewill, which is not a cultural universal.

  28. Andrew S says:

    re 27


    I’m pretty interested in how you’re wanting to expand my horizons in conceptualizing the difference between inclination and choice, since I thought I was trying to do the same. :3

    I don’t think it is disempowering to say “You don’t choose to be gay.” Rather, what I think is disempowering is telling someone, “You chose to be gay and that was/is wrong! Fix it, fix it now!” and then the person struggles for years to do it, under the idea that something they did (or something someone did to them) made them choose to be this way. So, upon realizing that they aren’t changing, they are burdened with an immense amount of guilt and inferior self worth. They ask themselves, “Why can’t I choose to change?”

    But let’s go with your thought experiment. Do I have sex with guys? No, I do not. (But be careful about when you assume…) The answer is that I choose not to. Why do I choose not to? For many reasons: 1) No guy strikes my fancy. 2) I feel little desire for sex in general. 3) I feel little desire for intimacy in general. 4) I have personal standards such that, with 1, 2, and 3 not met, I won’t have sex for other reasons.

    Now, let’s get to straight people and gay people. If I were straight, my choice would be recognized as a choice affected by my inclinations. It is not a choice regardless of my inclinations. It is a choice informed by and weighed with my inclinations. Similarly, if I were gay, my choice would be recognized as a choice affected by my inclinations. It too is not a choice regardless of my inclinations. It is a choice informed by and weighed with my inclinations. So I don’t see the double standard.

    …and perhaps I’m living in bizarro world, but when a boy starts talking about girls at age 12, parents do wonder if their son is inclined toward girls (as opposed to thinking that he’s still in the phase of thinking girls are icky and have cooties) — if they have not already made the pronouncement that he must be. The same wonder is made for gay, bisexual, or asexual children. If there is any hesitation with queer children that doesn’t exist with straight children, it is only because the parents know *what* to expect and *when* for straight children, but they may not necessarily for gay, bisexual, or asexual children. If you want to suggest a double standard in treatment here, then I could see where you’re coming from, but I would think it would be similar to the double standard that parents would nearly undoubtedly have if they had a child who could perform complex math problems above his or her age. They don’t expect such a thing, so of course they would wonder, “Is there something different about our child?”

    So, I think you’re either misunderstanding me or putting words in my mouth. My position does not imply a double standard, and I’m not saying the things that you think I’m saying. If you want to know what my position is, just ask…

    You lost me again in your final paragraph. Your summary of Buddhism seems to me to relate as something like this: “There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things (or multiple wrong ways). Wrong ways to do things lead to suffering. So, that we suffer is proof that we have choice. If we had no suffering, then we would only be doing the “right way,” and would not have choice.”

    Which is trivially true. The real question is: what are “right ways” and what are “wrong ways”? And the real issue is…does suffering cause choice, or do choices cause suffering? But as I said, you already lost me on the last paragraph. I was intending, in any case, to avoid a discussion on free will vs. determinism, because that will change the fabric of the entire conversation. I think it’d be better to just keep free will in as a useful construct for the sake of communication.

  29. Conservatives who want homosexual activity to disappear aren’t the only “enemies” of queer thinking, you know. The situation you laid out about the forlorn gay person searching his past to figure out how he “became” gay, doing so in vain, because he never “chose” to be gay in the first place, IMO, is a disempowering story. I do not relate with that story, and many gay Mormons of this generation do not either. It’s basically a “coming-out” story that never materialized. Nowadays, gay Mormons come out early and then make their life choices with a range of tools they didn’t have before. This sometimes means leaving the Church, which I did (not just because I’m gay, though), but I’d hardly consider this an upsetting process. It just…happened. Now, I find myself dealing with a new set of questions, where the notion of “gay as a non-choice” is actually in service of a set of other normativizing structures like science, nationalism and whiteness. I’m currently writing my MA thesis on this stuff, if you’re interested.

    There are same-sex attracted Mormons who are in deliberate mixed-orientation marriages and are happy. It’s hard for the gay community to accept these people, but they exist. What are the inclinations here and what are the choices? Is being “Mormon” an inclination, or something given to you by culture? If it’s “just culture,” then why “choose” it over the inborn gayness? For these Mormons, Mormonism is obviously not “just culture.” All I’m saying is that debates about nature/nurture, inclination/choice, biology/culture take place against a background of very unstable assumptions and politics disguised as “truth.” This is why I brought in Buddhism.

  30. Andrew S says:

    re 29:


    I dunno, but I read a whoooole lot more stories of people who relate to the disempowering story…why, because it *IS* their life experience. Why? Because they *DO* have basically a “coming-out” story that never materialized. I think people realize that coming out is dangerous if you want to fit into the Mormon community…and wanting to fit into the Mormon community is reasonable if you rely on people within it (e.g., parents) for sustenance, so I think you overestimate the number of Mormons who come out and overestimate how early they do it. But my point was to relay a disempowering story. So that I could contrast it instead with something I feel is not disempowering. I’m kinda interested in your thesis, but since I still currently have little idea what you’re talking about, I’d rather get back on track with *this* conversation before confusing myself any further…I’ll ignore any possible assertions that *I* may be an “enemy of queer thinking in the mean time.

    Same-sex attracted Mormons who are in deliberate mixed-orientation marriages who are happy works with my point.

    They are gay. That is because they are same-sex attracted. However, this one inclination does not “determine” what they will do. They can CHOOSE to do what they will. Their choices, however, are informed by their inclinations. I’d argue though that there are several inclinations. for example, sexuality is just one. An inclination for a heteronormative family would be another. An inclination to “fit in” would be another. So, it is completely conceivable and true that people could be in deliberate mixed-orientation marriages and be happy. My view of inclination and choice works well with it. To summarize and answer your first question: the inclinations are 1) homosexuality, 2) desire to have a family (if that is such the case), 3) desire to (insert thing here that makes the mixed-orientation marriage an attractive option to them, for example, like “fitting in,” if that is the case. Or “following commandment of God,” if that is a motivator), etc., etc., The choices are related to their actions. 1) not to pursue a same-sex relationship, 2) to pursue mixed-orientation relationship/marriage, etc.,

    Now, to your other questions…Mormonism is first given to them by culture, but this does not make it mutually exclusive to it being an inclination. Their Mormonism is given to them by culture by the virtue that they are raised Mormon and are in a Mormon environment. Whether they are inclined to it, however, is determined by whether Mormonism resonates within them (through whatever way.) Please note that the cultural aspect on Mormonism *can* be how it becomes an inclination (e.g., if the person is inclined to pay allegiance to his *culture* and *community*. E.g., what I wrote as Person C or something like that.) This coincidentally answers your second question. IF Mormonism is just culture, why “choose” it over inborn gayness? Simple: because one values community and recognizes an allegiance to it over immediate subjectivity.

    So, it isn’t “obvious” that Mormonism is NOT “just culture” to these individuals. Now, you’re right…Mormonism could represent something that appears factually correct to them (person B), or something that resonates within them subjectively (person A), and then “just culture” need not apply.

    If you want to say something about inclination/choice, nature/nurture, biology/culture and the unstable assumptions and politics disguised as truth…I guess you’re going to have to bring it to ground level. I suspect your invocation of buddhism did not achieve whatever purpose you intended. Sorry. I’m pretty lost here.

  31. Oh, I certainly don’t mean to undermine those for whom the non-materializable gay identity is their life story, and I have no doubt that “coming out” is not an option for most gay Mormons today. But since there are those who’ve found ways to be gay-identified and happy in the Church (including a guy a couple missionaries brought into my home about a year ago; I was surprised), I am interested in changes in LDS culture alongside those disaffected by changes that aren’t coming soon enough. Part of this big picture is the way the Church basically is erasing the histories of forlorn gay folks for the purposes of seeming queer-inclusive for this upcoming generation. Gay people are being pitted against each other in service of the cultural whole. It’s kinda ugly, but that’s multiculturalism for you. Another way to look at it is that Mormonism wins in the end, but well, you’d have to be Person C. =p

    Regarding inclination/choice, yes, your framework is working, but only by extension. I don’t see it as universal, because I try to privilege other psychological frameworks over the ones I’m used to. This is no disrespect to you, as I definitely appreciate your fine logic. I just wonder who it’s for. =p

  32. Andrew S says:

    re 31

    Alan, I still have this nagging suspicion that you’re overestimating the seeming queer-inclusiveness of the church. Maybe *I’m* out of touch and biased against; I don’t know. I don’t doubt that there are those who’ve found ways to be gay-identified and happy in the church, but I also see that these are not the norm, these depend on precarious factors (people in the ward, etc.,) and often it comes with detractions (e.g., one blogger I can think of…married to his husband…devout believer…devout participant, but of course, he is excommunicated so he can’t do all that he would like to do). I agree that gay people are being pitted against each other in service of the cultural whole, but I think that that happens in numerous situations (race politics, etc.,)

    I still don’t see why my framework is only working “by extension.” (But then again, I don’t even know what it means for a framework to work “by extension.”) I think it’s pretty resilient, adaptive, applicable, and universal, myself. Maybe I’m still blind to the blind spots.

  33. =) I like your personality, if text speaks to a personality.

    I know of the blogger you’re talking about, and his story is unusual and not what I’m referring to when I say “queer-inclusive” (although he’s more included in his community than he would have been twenty years ago). I’m referring to the boundary that Mormons can push on without damaging their own doctrines. On the gay front, this includes being gay-identified, being pro-active in the Church about same-sex attracted subjectivity (something that Church leaders themselves do with an obvious bend toward “choosing the right”), remaining Gospel-affirming: single, celibate or married. Gayness really requires all Mormons to be extra-doctrinal to make sense of the phenomenon. Before, the intention was to simply eradicate homosexuality; now its tolerated and talked about, so long as it remains in the realm of “inclination.”

    The discussions of homosexuality in the Church are really discussions of gender conformity (men are supposed to do this, and women are supposed to do this), which is how acts of sodomy where understood back in the 1800s: they were turned into medical questions of gender intransitivity.

    This is part of the reason why an “orientation toward one gender or the other” is not what I’d consider an “inclination” and why I’m ruffled by your framework. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that sexuality was related to “attraction” with the intention of altering it (fix the broken origin, which was seen as more civil than stoning a person to death). When this couldn’t be done, a fine line was drawn between attraction and choice. But this framework does nothing to address the fact that the “broken origin” is still considered broken or “potentially evil” or absent in Heaven. So, personally, I doubt the use of the framework, and the very positing of the origin.

    “By extension” means that differences are made to fit into the framework — extending its power and use [and potential damage] — rather than differences determining or undermining the framework. I hope this doesn’t make you more confused *eyes glazed*

  34. chanson says:

    chanson Says:
    As for today, Im at basically the same place as Alan interested in Mormonism as a part of my past, but from a position of emotional distance..

    I dont think too many people can place themselves totally at an emotional distance.

    You, me, and a lot of people viewing and participating on these Mormon blog sites and forums has to presuppose some sort of emotional attachment, residual or otherwise, to the church.

    I just mean some emotional distance — relative to the situation of people who left the church recently, still have open emotional wounds and painful feuds with their immediate family, etc.

    But yeah, if I didn’t care about Mormonism at all, I wouldn’t be blogging about it so much.

  35. Andrew S says:

    re 33:

    Alan, if that’s what queer-inclusive looks like, then I guess I’ll have to sign up as one of the people “disaffected by changes that aren’t coming soon enough.”

    Consider one aspect of the boundary you mention. “remaining Gospel-affirming: single, celibate, or married.” This is still pretty harsh. I think the Church has done a poor job justifying singleness or celibacy, because Mormon theology and culture, quite frankly, are so wrapped around the dynamic of marriage and childrearing. I mean…this is such a big deal that it’s already bad enough being single and straight. So, you raise up that this requires extra-doctrinality, and I agree there, but I don’t think too many Mormons are fully making sense of the phenomenon (I think if that happened, then we’d see big changes).

    If I understand what you mean about homosexuality being discussed as a matter of gender conformity, then I think I agree that that’s what the church has done. But what I’d say is that we can simply disagree with this positing of gender roles and their expectations…and in rejecting the ideas of gender roles and gender expectations, it may be that we do not need to throw out other aspects like gender, sex, and sexual orientation.

    I’m confused at why you wouldn’t consider an orientation toward one gender or another an inclination based on this. This seems to be the most critical part, but as usual…you’ve lost me. Can we not take bits and pieces from what has come in the past? Reject the “brokenness” concept, accept the orientation concept, recognize that orientation, yes, is not deterministic and so is separate from choice.

    I try to start from the facts on the ground…Is there something called orientation that people have? This seems quite simply and obviously true. So, I really don’t get why you’d throw that part out. Do we have a conscious choice toward our orientations? The last time I checked, no. I’m baffled that people suggest otherwise, and ask them to consider if *they* could do it. Do we have a conscious choice toward our actions? Oh, now this one I can answer yes to.

    But I think that, starting from the ground, we don’t affirm everything about the framework. For example, the church would like people to believe, “If you act on homosexual desires, terrible things will happen.” Is this the case? No, not in and of itself. Or, “Homosexuality comes from broken origins x, y, and z, that can be fixed with a, b, and c.” I don’t think this is the case, and the more creative people get with origins and fixes, the more silly it seems.

    When you explain “by extension” in that way, then I guess I can see what you mean. But I’m not quite convinced to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In any case, I don’t think the framework I’ve present has been made “to uphold the current framework.” Rather, this has been a comprehensive thing to discover and test not only to gender, sex, sexual orientation, but to numerous other things — the interaction of belief vs. action, the interaction of faith vs. action, etc., I’ve just found, to my surprise, the the framework works surprisingly well with sexual orientation too.

  36. Ha, well, yes, once homosexuality was defined, as Foucault said: “it began to speak for itself.” So, whereas I don’t discard gayness (I myself identify as gay), I recognize its historical tenuousness. This is the same thing feminist philosophers have done with the category “woman” — there’s no such thing as “the essential woman,” but that doesn’t mean you can throw out the essentialness of womanhood for all women. It’s tricky politics (throwing out the baby halfway) and I’m not that great at it yet.

  37. Holly says:

    I have been thinking about this for a few days…. I want to argue for Person D, all of the above.

    Person D looked for something that spoke to her internally. She was interested in her own subjective experience and validation–even on theological issues. She was concerned with the cognitive dissonance that arose when her study of theology, history, philosophy led to conclusions that contradicted what she had been taught at church. She wanted some sort of clarity that would provide a meaningful, rewarding subjective experience. A pursuit of personal authenticity, personal peace and joy was part of what she was looking for, and one way she hoped to find this was through a coherent philosophy of the world and a consistent set of ethical beliefs and practices. The fact that the church did not provide a coherent philosophy of the world and a consistent set of ethical beliefs and practices, meant that it was most likely not “true,” which sucked, given how much she had invested in it.

    This caused lots and lots of psychological pain, which Person D put up with for a long time, because Person D’s relationship with Mormonism was also based on the fact that, first and foremost, it was her community. As a beneficiary of that community, she owed an allegiance to the community.

    Person D could not leave the church until dissatisfaction with the church reached a critical mass that all three elements of membership were overwhelmed by the sheer misery and nastiness the church brought into her life.

  38. aerin says:

    Andrew – #22 It’s an interesting point – the difference between having beliefs and acting on those beliefs.

    I almost wonder if the beliefs themselves do not exist (or can’t be proven) without the accompanying actions. Even a person saying or thinking “I believe” – that’s an action (per what we’ve been discussing, right?) Do you believe beliefs exist on their own?

    It sounds like postmodern thought, to me – the idea that an individual does not determine (at all) where they are, what they believe, what they say, etc. It’s all due to outside stimuli (where a person is thrown by life) and their experiences. (maybe that’s what you’re talking about – not wanting to get into determinism in #23 and 28).

    And yes, to Alan’s point (I think), it can be disempowering to remove yourself (a person) from the equation (choosing to come out or not to come out to the community). Instead of choosing to re-evaluate my taste or inclination towards coconut, there were all sorts of other things going on. My social contacts, family, community, culture – all pre-disposed me to try (re-try) coconut. And for whatever reason, it didn’t make me sick.

    All human behavior can be reduced to rat in the cage type of thinking – everything is a reaction to a response. The rat is hungry, it figures out that by pushing a bar in the cage, it gets food. Or the rat has particular genes that react together, which also determine the rat’s behavior (learned/socialized vs. innate behavior).

    To some extent, I agree with that. But I also believe there are things about humans and human behavior we can’t explain. Not that we may never be able to understand or explain those things through the scientific method, just that we can’t explain those things right now. So perhaps this is getting into the free-will vs. determinism question, which is not where the original post was going….

  39. Andrew S says:

    re 36


    Well, I think that a similar thing we do with womanhood. The question is, “is there such a thing as womanhood?” I think the answer is yes. Is there such a thing as female gender? I think the answer is yes. Does this mean that womanhood or femaleness validates and necessitates our culture’s ROLES for women or the ROLE EXPECTATIONS for women? I don’t think so. The conundrum is this: how much of womanhood is ‘real’ or, I guess as you say, ‘essential,’ and how much of it is affected social expectations, interactions, etc., etc., I am pretty blind as to this, but I think it has relatively relevant correlations to race.

    re 37


    Your person D is pretty intuitive. I can’t believe I didn’t even think about it (especially since, between the discussions on this site and others, it does seem that many people had a combination or all-of-the-above approach)!

  40. Andrew S says:

    re 38:


    Well, I think that thinking “I believe” is an action…but this action is only known to an individual…so it is an action that can be taken while “under cover” or “in the closet” or “in the shadows” or with whatever term you want to use. And, if I were REALLY being clear, it’s not really that beliefs exist on their own. EVEN if one acts *against* one’s beliefs, that is still an action. This confuses the issue. You say “beliefs do not exist without accompanying actions.” But what if an accompanying action masks one or more beliefs? For example, “Staying quiet and going to church,” is a set of actions. They accompany one belief, “I believe it is better to maintain appearances with family, friends.” BUT it can ALSO mask another belief, “I believe this church is stifling and untrue.” You could say that the second belief doesn’t exist on its own…rather, the person realizes that second belief as a result of the tension caused by his actions.

    I think thrownness is from a reconsideration of existentialism, absurdism, things like that. Are those postmodern? It does risk getting deterministic…

    I guess with your paragraph considering coconuts and inclinations again, I finally understand what Alan meant by: “When we understand our inclinations, we have no choice.” I guess I would have to counter with: “We don’t understand all of our inclinations, and such will, maybe, be true for a long, long time.” Consider your experience. You had the inclination against coconut, but those were not the only motivators, as you said…instead, you had inclinations to maintain appearances for social contacts, for family, for community, for culture. If you could look at these and all the other factors, then wouldn’t the calculus seem easy?

    But I STILL think that this only influences your actions…and we don’t, as of now, know all the inclinations. So, for example, the thing you CHOSE was to TRY EATING coconut. As you point out, it’s not that you willed it not to make you sick. Rather, it was “for whatever reason.”

    I guess, what I would say is, even if humans are rats in cages, we *don’t* know all the inclinations. We aren’t *simple* rats. So, let’s say we are rats in a cage. If we are hungry and we know that pushing a lever will make us seek food…it is not determined by our hunger that we will seek food. It is not unknown for people to abstain from eating during great hunger.

    Now, someone could counter, “That’s because we don’t understand our inclinations. Perhaps there is a competing inclination that pushed him away from pushing the lever and eating.”

    I think, ultimately, this gets into a deeper question. Even if things are ultimately deterministic (though we do not know the mechanics)…does this change our perception? Does this change our *qualia* of the world? I guess this is pushing the goalposts, really.

  41. I guess, what I would say is, even if humans are rats in cages, we *dont* know all the inclinations. We arent *simple* rats.

    Just to tie a couple loose ends here: the way I understand of the psychology of Mormonism is that the goal is to become a “simple” rat…something like “God loves children.” The idea is that if you just follow the Church, what seems difficult or restrictive actually becomes like second-nature because it is represents your “true” inclinations. With regard to gayness, unfortunately, this simply does not add up. In the past, men would have extra-martial relations to make up for it (which is obviously not possible in Mormonism)…and well, I assume women-only spaces provided an outlet for same-sex attracted women, but I’m really not as read as I should be on lesbian history.

    In terms of “essential womanhood,” there are those who would argue (like Judith Butler), that there are NO parts that are essential (including body parts, given transgenderism). “Sex” is a social construction. Whereas I believe this is true, I also believe that there are potentials that are often realized in the species as a whole — for example, same-sex attraction seems to be something that is not fully socialized, and just pops up regardless of how one is socialized.

  42. Andrew S says:

    re 41:


    I agree that the church often uses this “fake it till you make it” reasoning. “Do what seems difficult until it becomes second-nature and that will be your “true” inclinations.” But I think that in *most* areas, this doesn’t work out. It’s just that sexuality is one of the biggest, clearest-to-understand issues with the system. I think things don’t “become second-nature” in a great many issues, which is why disaffected Mormons who simply go with the motions don’t become TBMs…rather, they become more hurt, more depressed, more adversely affected by living in such an inauthentic way.

    I guess we must be using sex in different ways, because I still think there’s a bit of a difference. Transgenderism seems to me to point out the distinctness of gender from sex. It doesn’t invalidate either of them; it simply points out that we can’t simply assume gender = sex. So it seems to me that when you raise Judith Butler, I can’t be sure (since I’m not read up on it), but what she seems to be saying is something trivially true: “gender” (mental identity) doesn’t necessitate a particular “sex” (physical sex organs, etc.,). So, I don’t think sex is a social construction, although sex (and the different “gender”, as transgenderism points out) are so muddled with gender *roles* and gender *expectations* which *are* socially constructed. I’d say that gender, sex, and sexual orientation are three *different* things that we have lazily (and harmfully) wrapped up with gender role expectations that unravel when we see so-called mismatches (e.g., “masculine woman” “transman,” “transwoman,” “lesbian woman,” “gay man,” etc.,)

  43. No, Butler pushes it further by saying the following: Gender is the social construction of sex, and you cannot get to sex except through its construction, which means that sex is therefore a fiction.

  44. Andrew S says:

    re 43:

    That seems pretty absurd, but I guess she’s thought about it more than I have.

  45. Holly says:

    I’ve read Butler and I don’t think the fact that she says something is necessarily a reason to give it much credence. If “sex” is a fiction, then why would anyone need gender reassignment surgery? Why would you need the fiction of sex when it IS a fiction?

    In Bodies That Matter she notes that “it seems that when the constructivist is construed as a linguistic idealist, the constructivist refutes the reality of bodies, the relevance of science, the alleged facts of birth, aging, illness, and death.” Aside from being really shitty academic prose, the statement is also nonsense from just about any perspective but that of a Christian Scientist or a New Age health guru: why are those facts “alleged”?

    Which isn’t to say that I’m arguing for some sort of essential womanhood. I’m just saying JB isn’t the best source for arguing against it.

  46. Madame Curie says:

    My only beef with the idea of using the term sexual “orientation” in the church is that it has led to a lot of labeling. I despise the phrases “same-sex attracted” or “same-gender attracted” because it tries to lump huge groups of diverse people into one box together. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, incidentally same-sex attracted individuals… all fall into that same box and all are given the same category. Like FireTag said once on one of my posts, “People aren’t boxes”. Whenever one starts categorizing and lumping together and making assumptions and generalizations, the entire concept of individual progression and individual accountability is thrown out the window. As humans, it is in our nature to categorize. However, when the Church uses such categorization as a tool to distinguish “abnormal and broken” from “normal and function,” I think we have a problem.

    The other reason that I hate the “SSA/SGA” nomenclature adopted by the Church is that it disallows individuals from determining themselves and their own sexuality. By giving them these terms, as I understand it, the Church is trying to eliminate the associations made with the term “gay”. (Elder Hafen’s Evergreen talk comes to mind, where he encourages homosexual Mormons not to call themselves “gay,” as though the word itself will lead to immoral action.) I guess it makes sense in the political fight to reclaim the word “marriage”. But I don’t like what these actions do to individuals who find themselves in such categories.

    I recently watched the movies Latter Days with my husband. Most moving and powerful movie I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the people who would most benefit from watching it will never see it.

  47. Madame Curie says:

    Actually, I probably shouldn’t have said “my only beef” above. That isn’t true. I can think of a lot of things I dislike about using the term “orientation” in a church setting.

  48. RE 45 (Holly): Lol… I agree that postmodern thought seems to reach a barrier when considering “life” and “death,” but trust me, there is talk about the constructedness of these boundaries, too. For example, Mormon culture would consider “death” to just be a physical death, which in some ways is not a death at all, but a transition. Should you privilege the physicality of the body over the soul? Transgender people who undergo reassignment surgery (for example, those transgender folks who believe in gendered souls) does not discount the idea that sex is constructed. Again, it’s a “hold onto these things halfway or they don’t make sense” kind of thing, the “essentially non-essential woman”

    RE 46 (Madame Curie): Ha, I’d wonder how Andrew S would reply to your comment that SSA is a box. I agree with you.

  49. Andrew S says:

    re 46:

    I don’t think the problem is in the boxes or the labels, but in how far we go with them and what we use them for. “Gay” or “straight” seem like useful “boxes” or labels. However, making the straight box be the “normal and functional” box doesn’t seem helpful.

    I don’t think it is SSA/SGA nomenclature that disallows individuals from determining themselves and their sexuality. I think neurology has more to do with that (at least, for the latter…for the “their sexuality” part). It wasn’t the church’s SSA/SGA nomenclature that made people attracted to guys or girls…

    I really don’t get this war on words. *Language* is about describing and communicating relationships, concepts, and ideas. If a label fits someone, then this does not stifle them. This does not bind them. This is simply an attempt to *accurately* and *meaningfully* describe them. We have a culture where information about sexual attraction is important data, so people want to know.

  50. Madame Curie says:

    It wasnt the churchs SSA/SGA nomenclature that made people attracted to guys or girls

    No, of course it isn’t… that wasn’t my argument. However, I do think that the SSA/SGA nomenclature sort of creates a world where you can be a “good SSA Mormon,” but not a “good gay Mormon”. I don’t know if that makes any sense… I think that the nomenclature forces sexually “questioning” Mormon adolescents into saying “I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I am attracted to men/women/men and women. The Church labels me as same-sex attracted, ergo, my action needs to be X,” rather than “I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I am attracted to men/women/men and women. What does that mean? Where does that place me? Who can I talk to for more information on how it affected them?”

    I think that the second approach is healthier and gives people a much better and more clear understanding of themselves overall. Furthermore, it gives them a chance at forming lasting, worthwhile, and loving relationships, while the first only generates a black-and-white, good-and-bad mentality.

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