Mormon Beards – Exploring the Issues: The Challenge

So I found out a friend from my freshman ward is doing the “I’m in the closet and I mess around with guys but I’m not gay and I plan on marrying a girl in the temple” thing. I feel really bad for him. Not much I can do, but it’s sad That makes 8 gay guys from that ward. Recent comment on MoHo Facebook Forum

[G]ay men who court and marry straight women have privilege, power and information their wives lack. Gay men who court and marry straight women might have been deceived and victimized by the church, but they subsequently deceive and victimize their wives, and they can and should stop. ~ Holly Welker

This is not a post about the appropriateness of facial hair. It is about gay Mormons men who have married, or perhaps plan or hope to marry, a woman. More to the point, it is ultimately about the women in such marriages: the beards of their gay Mormon husbands (in that they are used as a spouse to conceal the husbands sexual orientation).

The Challenge

I was challenged to write about this topic by a commenter who participated in a long string of comments in response to an essay I published here on Main Street Plaza called Reflections on An Overwhelming Emptiness. The MSP essay (which I had also published on my own blog) consisted of a review of and commentary on comments left on my blog in response to a couple of posts about Mormon mixed-orientation marriages (MoMoMs).

The challenge was framed by the following comments by Holly Welker:

Anyone looking at the images [on your blog] would think that a straight woman/gay man [Mo]MoM is entirely about the man in it and from every gay male MoMoM blog Ive read, that would be a reasonable inference. What could you do to bring more attention to the woman in a/your marriage? Could you have images of women beautiful, broken, defiant, angry, weeping? Could you write posts with titles like Remember: Youre marrying a WOMAN, not an Idea and Whats Going to Happen to Your Wife When it All Falls Apart?

[Y]our marriage is not about only you, and I am suggesting that it might be a good idea to demonstrate in your writing and on your blog more awareness, concern and compassion for what your decisions have cost your wife, because by doing so, you can get single gay men on the verge of repeating your mistake to factor in more accurately and appropriately to their decision what that decision will cost any woman they might marry, and I would hope most devoutly that they would actually care about that.

I had several knee-jerk reactions to what Holly wrote. My initial reaction was that my blog is written (1) by a gay man, (2) about gay men, (3) to gay men; it is not written by, about or for women. I also frankly resented what to me was the patronizing insinuation that I needed to demonstrate on my blog more awareness, concern and compassion for what my decisions had cost my wife. Furthermore, I am not a woman, and could not, even if I chose to, purport to express a womans feelings, let alone my own wifes feelings.

For these and other reasons, I extended an invitation to Holly to write a guest post for my blog that would bring more attention to the woman in a [MoMoM] and achieve the other goals she described. She declined to do so, however, referring me instead to an article she wrote for Sunstone on the subject (to which I will refer in later posts).

In the weeks since that post on MSP, I have thought about Hollys challenge and about some of the issues raised by commenters to the MSP post. I decided I would try to put together a series of posts on my blog that address these issues albeit probably in a manner different than Holly (or any other woman) would have. This is the first of these posts that will be published in the coming days. I anticipate that there will be at least an additional four, perhaps more (published on my blog), depending on comments received to this and subsequent posts. I am hopeful that these essays will generate a lot of discussion on a subject that desperately needs to be discussed openly.

What Did You Know and When Did You Know It?

This question, a paraphrase of a famous question posed by Senator Howard Baker during the Watergate hearings, is about as good a place as any to start.

In one of her first comments to my MSP post, Holly wrote:
[However,] a major concern in all of this remains the timing of gay mens deep concern about the welfare of the women they marry. I wish it happened sooner as in, before courtship. I cant help feeling that so many MoMoMs happen because the person with the incompatible orientation doesnt think through the anguish theyll be creating for a partner who is deeply in love with a spouse who cant reciprocate.
She was responding to the following comment I had made: Every gay man I have met, either in person or online, is a real man (with reference to [a] term [used by another commenter see below]) who has expressed deep concern for the welfare of his wife, even in the cases where the wife has initiated divorce proceedings. Myreference to the term real man relates to a comment left by Seth a heterosexual married Mormon:

[I]f your marriage is wrecked, divorce if you must. But dont delude yourself into thinking that youre just setting [your wife] free to fly off and find love. For a lot of single moms out there, there is no second shot, and no one else waiting out there. Sure, she may have been miserable WITH you. But that doesnt automatically mean shell be less miserable WITHOUT you. A real man faces that fact, and takes accountability for it. No matter what his sexual preferences [emphasis added].

In a follow-up comment, Seth wrote: I dont really think a gay guy has any better reason for divorcing his wife than your average straight guy who no longer finds his wife sexually attractive, or doesnt love her, etc.

Well, besides the issues I had with Seths tone and choice of words, I was left with the firm impression that Seth has little or no understanding of what it means to be gay or what it feels like to be in a deeply troubled marriage.

But enough about Seth.

Lets get back to the question: For those guys out there with beards, what did you know about your sexuality and when did you know it? And the $64,000 question when did (or have) you disclosed the fact that your gay to your wife? For those gay guys out there who are considering damning the torpedoes and proceeding with a traditional Mormon marriage, in spite of the fact that you know or strongly suspect you are gay gay gay, when do you plan to tell your young lady about it?

I have to admit that my initial reaction to Hollys comments, quoted several paragraphs above, could be characterized as irritation. She certainly seemed to be saying (or implying) that young Mormon men should, prior to even courting a girl, (1) know their sexual orientation, (2) embrace that orientation enough to be able to take responsibility for it, (3) feel comfortable enough about that orientation to be able to come out to a girl, and (4) have resolved any conflicts between their sexual identity and LDS teachings concerning homosexuality, eternal marriage and the entire Plan of Salvation.

The Gameplan

I want to address each of these points in subsequent posts, as well as Hollys statement that so many MoMoMs happen because the person with the incompatible orientation doesnt think through the anguish theyll be creating for a partner who is deeply in love with a spouse who cant reciprocate.

Because I feel I should put some skin in the game and respond to Hollys challenge, to the extent I am able, I will devote a couple of posts to my own experience and marriage (making it clear that I have always been very protective of my wifes privacy and will continue to be so). I will also examine the factors that have resulted and continue to result in MoMoMs, including addressing issues relating to female sexuality in the Church (relying heavily on comments left on the MSP post by Holly and Chanson). I am hopeful as well that I will be able to include remarks by women who are married to gay men.

Though my initial reaction to the implied points listed above and to Hollys comment (about thinking through the anguish created for a beard) was again – one of irritation proceeding from a perceived lack of understanding on Hollys part and the imposition by her of unrealistic expectations on young Mormon men, this reaction has been tempered somewhat by thought and time, and this will be reflected in subsequent points.

I do believe that Hollys main point is valid and true: As difficult and painful as MoMoMs are for gay men, they are likely to be equally, if not ultimately more, painful for the woman involved. And more often than not, she is likely to be ignorant, going into the marriage, of her husbands true orientation. Gay Mormon men have to take responsibility for that ignorance.

As Holly wrote, men have more agency and control in the matter of courtship and they have privilege, power and information their [future] wives lack. As such, it is incumbent on young gay Mormon men in no small part because they have the ability to do so now more than ever before to come to grips with their sexuality prior to any kind of a marriage. Gay men who court and marry straight women might have been deceived and victimized by the church, Holly concedes, but they subsequently deceive and victimize their wives, and they can and should stop.

I would alter Hollys statement to say that gay Mormon men have [not might have] been indoctrinated, deceived and victimized by the Church in a number of ways that I will discuss in subsequent posts. As to the rest of her statement, however, she is absolutely correct. The downstream deception and victimization of women – which is foreshadowed by the other quote at the beginning of this post – needs to stop. And the moral responsibility of the Mormon Church to do something about this situation can no longer be ignored.

Invictus Pilgrim blogs at http://invictuspilgrim.blogspot.com.

The second installment in this series is posted here.

The third installment in this series is posted here.

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164 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    I agree that feeling curiosity and wanting to learn is probably the foundational aspect of social justice. And I trust your ability to employ this curiosity with kindness, respect and responsibility.

    Still, your stance conjures for me a dialogue such as the following:

    “You know stuff I dont know. I would like to listen to you and learn.”
    “Why?”
    “Because I want to hear about as many different perspectives as I can.”
    “Well, go find someone else to teach you theirs.”

    Not that this would be a categorical response. But I suspect it would be a common one if the person wanting to do the listening and learning had a good deal of power over the person doing the potential teaching.

  2. chanson says:

    Because I want to hear about as many different perspectives as I can.
    Well, go find someone else to teach you theirs.

    Yes, that’s true. For any given person you meet, it’s not that person’s responsibility to educate you.

    That said, it’s not necessary to thrust that responsibility on those who don’t want it. And the fact that there exist people who don’t want to spend their time educating you isn’t an excuse for embracing ignorance or claiming that you have no choice but to speculate. For any given subject, it’s not at all difficult to find people who know a lot about it, and who are actively writing and publishing about it.

  3. Alan says:

    Suzanne @ 94

    I think things should be examined through the lens of heterosexism, but what also should be considered is the power dynamics in the process of exaltation.

    Certainly. But my main contention here has been that if you conflate heterosexism with patriarchy (or employ one as a tool to fight the other), then you can vanquish neither.

    Chanson @ 102

    an excuse for embracing ignorance or claiming that you have no choice but to speculate

    I hope you recognize that I never claimed this.

    On an online forum such as MSP, speculation plays a role in bringing new people to the table. Note how Chino brought up North Star in this thread; I elaborated on North Star (even though I am not part of that organization), and lo and behold, someone active with North Star showed up: “A peculiar light” (which I assumed he was with North Star because of his perspective, and he confirmed my suspicions when he linked to the North Star site). I believe his perspective is extremely valuable here, even if it is offensive and troubling for some of us.

    On that notorious lesbian thread, when I “speculated” about Asian women, lo and behold, Pinay showed up (who I would propose to if we weren’t both gay =p). These are not just coincidences. If you talk about things outside of your own positionality, if you “speculate” in a respectful way, you are inviting others to the table.

  4. chanson says:

    an excuse for embracing ignorance or claiming that you have no choice but to speculate

    I hope you recognize that I never claimed this.

    I hope you’re not claiming this. It’s just that statements like the following make me a little worried:

    I was trained against the concept of data.

    and

    One thing Ive learned from the M/M community is that using ones imagination about what an identity category could be like is sometimes more powerful and liberating than accurately portraying what is like for those who occupy it.

    (Particularly the point about not considering accuracy to be important.)

    I’m totally OK with speculation. I do it all the time. I just think it’s important to recognize that it’s speculation, and to recognize that it’s not going to give you the whole story. It can yield some interesting results, but they will likely be colored by bias, and you need to work with sources outside your own head to compensate for that bias.

    On that notorious lesbian thread, when I speculated about Asian women, lo and behold, Pinay showed up (who I would propose to if we werent both gay =p). These are not just coincidences.

    I was under the impression that Pinay is someone you know personally, and she showed up because you mentioned the thread to her. Is that not true…?

    I have to tell you (since you were commenting about moderation earlier): I really don’t appreciate people showing up exclusively for drama threads to participate in and exacerbate the fighting. That is true regardless of the person’s gender/race/orientation/nationality, etc.

    It’s one thing to come here regularly, and participate in constructive discussions, and then occasionally get angry at the other regulars. It is another thing to show up out of the blue just to tell people off. As I said, this isn’t the Jerry Springer Show where the attraction is the fun of everybody yelling at each other. For our system of not banning and deleting to work, that relies on making a good faith effort to keep it civil and constructive.

    p.s. I’m not singling your friend out by saying this — I’ve said the same thing to Kaimi and others.

  5. The third installment in this series, which tells my own story and expresses my own mea culpa, is posted here.

  6. Holly says:

    Its just that statements like the following make me a little worried:

    I was trained against the concept of data.

    and

    One thing Ive learned from the M/M community is that using ones imagination about what an identity category could be like is sometimes more powerful and liberating than accurately portraying what is like for those who occupy it.

    Indeed. This imaginative project, along with Craig’s attendant contempt for “data,” conjures nothing so much as an image of eight or so white guys dressed in white pants, shirts and ties, secure in the powerful, liberating, data-free vision they’ve imagined for themselves of the people they’re about to baptize, singing, “Africans are African, but we are Africa.http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=136054170&m=136021915

    Of course, part of what makes Parker’s and Stone’s portrayal of young arrogant Mormon men so powerful and moving is that they don’t show contempt for data. They did loads and loads of research and fact-checking, and they understand and value the difference between metaphor and fact.

  7. Holly says:

    But my main contention here has been that if you conflate heterosexism with patriarchy (or employ one as a tool to fight the other), then you can vanquish neither.

    I thought we weren’t going to argue this any more. Because my contention, Craig, is that YOU are using your own patriarchal assumptions and misogynist attitudes as tools for fighting heterosexism.

    I suppose this is as good a time as any to point out that patriarchy and misogyny have more victims than heterosexism. There are far more women in the world than there are members of the LGBT community. Furthermore, as you point of repeatedly, Craig, gay people don’t have to tell others about their gayness. But women can’t avoid announcing their womenness, just by moving through the world.

    And there are also enough gay men in the world who admit, either readily or when pressed, that they enjoy all sorts of privileges that women do not, and that they’re actually better off than most if not all women of their same class. Many gay men who identify as feminists feel that women’s rights are a much more pressing issue than gay rights, but they also recognize that it’s likely that gay men will achieve equality and parity before women of any category do–precisely because gay men start from a position of greater power and privilege.

  8. aerin says:

    I’m concerned that my earlier statements about sexuality being flexible could be misinterpreted. I confess my ignorance about much of the theory out there. But it seems willfully ignorant to use queer theory about changing sexuality and re-imagining sexuality and relationships to mean that each person and couple can return to a narrow box of one man one woman marriage, with certain types of sexuality even within that marriage as verboten. To my mind, that is misreading those concepts and ideas. It reminds me of trying to defend a faith and belief system like mormonism with post modernism. The concepts are incompatible.

    I wanted to speak to alan and chanson’s discussion earlier (can’t see the comment number on my phone). I agree in finding and exploring different perspectives and voices, particularly traditionally voiceless populations. I disagree with “tokenizing” a person, however. By token I mean suggesting that one person from a minority group can speak for the entire experience and feelings of that group. That’s impossible, to my mind. Which is why I agree with chanson’s charge to find a variety of voices and perspectives. But such voices should not be expected to speak for their entire minority groups….I highly doubt I could speak for all women, all former mormon women, all mothers, etc. It would be presumptuous to do so IMO.

  9. Holly says:

    aerin @108

    But it seems willfully ignorant to use queer theory about changing sexuality and re-imagining sexuality and relationships to mean that each person and couple can return to a narrow box of one man one woman marriage, with certain types of sexuality even within that marriage as verboten.

    Good point.

    to elaborate on that point, to use queer theory to argue that gay Mormon men don’t really need come out to the Mormon women they court, propose to and marry in traditional Mormon marriages because gay men shouldn’t have to come out to “benefit straight people,” is to exploit queer theory to support and prop up a system of marriage it’s fundamentally incompatible with.

    Craig’s position is both incoherent and harmful. It doesn’t fight either patriarchy OR heterosexism. It just uses new ideas to prop up an old status quo that damages most everyone.

  10. Alan says:

    Chanson @ 104:

    I was under the impression that Pinay is someone you know personally, and she showed up because you mentioned the thread to her. Is that not true?

    Why would you assume that I know her personally?

  11. chanson says:

    It was suggested on the thread. Once the fight had passed the point of no return, I didn’t read it that closely.

    Are you saying that you don’t know her personally?

    Anyway, it was unfortunate that her introduction to MSP was confined to an ugly fight thread. I think it would be interesting to have a friendly exchange of ideas with her, but that becomes very difficult when the conversation starts off on the wrong foot. Not impossible, but difficult.

    When she was here, I suggested that she peruse some of our more reasonable threads to get to know us better, but I haven’t seen her back. And I don’t blame her. If she’d arrived on a normal thread, she’d have had more opportunity to see what a welcoming place MSP can be.

  12. chanson says:

    Who’s Craig? Did Alan become Craig?

  13. Holly says:

    Whos Craig? Did Alan become Craig?

    I was trying to imagine what it would be like to be someone who thinks like Alan, and part of what I came up with is that he’d be named Craig. I didn’t figure I’d need to explain that to anyone, because the discovery was so liberating and powerful.

  14. Holly says:

    p.s. Are you suggesting, Chanson, that I should be more trusting of data–such as what Craig/Alan calls himself–and let it trump my own imaginative musings?

  15. chanson says:

    @114 On principle, yes. Though in this case Alan specifically stated that he was OK with complementary (if inaccurate) portrayal. Probably he didn’t mean it in quite this way.

  16. Alan says:

    It is another thing to show up out of the blue just to tell people off.

    When she was here, I suggested that she peruse some of our more reasonable threads to get to know us better

    If shed arrived on a normal thread, shed have had more opportunity to see what a welcoming place MSP can be.

    She didn’t arrive on that thread; she stated that she sometimes reads this site, and on that thread she felt compelled to speak.

    She tried to engage with the white women on the thread, and ultimately felt her perspective would not be respected. Perhaps you should re-evaluate the notion of her “seeing what a welcoming place MSP can be.”

    I don’t mean to be cynical. I mean to be realistic. Take, for example, your first comment to her:

    a whole lot of women helped build this community, and they have as much right to critique his post as he has to justify his original decisions ad infinitum.

    It’s curious the way you deploy the word “women” here. You acknowledge that this is a shared space, owned by no one, yet you bring up “the women who helped build this community,” in effect, discounting Pinay’s opinion as someone, a woman, attempting to be part of the community. I read this as a very “white” behavior.

    And as the conversation continued, the white tidal wave Pinay was subjected to was horrendous.

    Making MSP a safer and more welcoming space seems evermore a daunting task.

    I’m not saying I should get a gold star. I’m saying that I’m upset that she was pushed away. I shouldn’t have to divulge this, but my partner and his family are immigrants from the Philippines. Perhaps that’s why you or whoever else thought Pinay and I knew each other. But the point is, I don’t really consider MSP to be a particularly welcoming place. I consider a lot of viewpoints to flow through here, which makes it an interesting space, but that’s different.

  17. chanson says:

    she stated that she sometimes reads this site, and on that thread she felt compelled to speak.

    OK, well, in her initial comments to me, she said she thought I might ban her for her opening comment. To me, that says she knows very nearly zero about this site.

    I consider myself a servant of this community, and — as (I think) I stated on that thread — I regret that I did a terrible job of keeping my own tone neutral. I sincerely want this to be a welcoming community. Thank you for your critique, I will think about what you have said here.

  18. Holly says:

    lo and behold, Pinay showed up (who I would propose to if we werent both gay =p)

    Why on earth should the fact that you’re both gay make the slightest difference? Why should you not propose to AND marry AND have sex with AND bear children with Pinay? After all, you’re both gay–an important commonality. Furthermore, you wrote @62

    Plenty of men and women marry for reasons other than emotional/sexual compatibility, not the least of them, religious reasons. (italics in original)

    Why should you and Pinay not be two such people?

    Or are you affirming that however many other reasons “plenty of men and women marry for,” mutually compatible sexuality is so crucial these days that it tends to trump all such other reasons?

    Whether you are willing and able to admit it, I think most everyone else here can see that that is precisely what you are affirming.

    p.s. I hope you also realize that by writing that you “would propose to [Pinay} if [you] weren’t both gay” rather than something like, “I wish Pinay would propose to me,” you are invoking and exploiting the patriarchal authority and agency in courtship you hold as a man and the traditional pursuer and actor in such matters.

  19. Seth R. says:

    Holly, trying to tell the gay advocacy movement that the world is not “100% sex” is an exercise in futility.

    Reminds me of the little ditty (sung to the tune “If You’re Happy and You Know It”:

    “If it’s longer than it’s wide, then it’s phallic
    If it’s longer than it’s wide, then it’s phallic
    If it’s not longer than it’s wide, then you turn it on its side
    Now it’s longer than it’s wide – so it’s phallic.”

  20. @119 – Seth: Excuse me, ditty aside, would you care to define just exactly what you mean when you use the term “gay advocacy movement”?

  21. chanson says:

    @118 OK, you can see that Alan is upset, and now you’re just taunting him. Give him a break, please.

  22. Seth R. says:

    It’s a dumb catch-all phrase with poorly thought-out parameters that probably doesn’t apply to at least a few people I know. Kind of like “TBM” or “anti-Mormon” or “cultist” or “chapel Mormon” or “liberal.” But used anyway as a way to save time on a throwaway comment.

    But there are some serious observations behind, the superficial lingo.

  23. Holly says:

    @121 When I sat down to write my comment @118, the last comment posted was @115. I hadn’t seen @116, or @117.

    I’m sorry for the timing, but I think my points in @118 are extremely valid.

  24. chanson says:

    OK, I know how these cross-posting things go. But give him a break now. 😉

  25. @122 – Thank you for your clarifying comments about an offensive comment applied to an extremely large and diverse group of individuals across this nation and the globe. One example: I recently had the opportunity to meet Rev. Jimmy Creech and to read his newly-published book, Adam’s Gift (which I highly recommend and about which I plan/hope to blog).

    Creech is a straight, former Methodist mininster who has been part of the “gay advocacy movement” for over 25 years and was twice put on trial by the Methodist Church for performing “holy unions” between same-sex couples. At the second trial, he was summarily “defrocked” and forbidden to serve as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. He is a pioneer of a movement within North American Christianity (at least some parts of it) that is increasingly coming to see anti-LGBT policies as immoral, in much the same light as church sanction of racial discrimination and slavery were immoral. (Imagine! What a concept!)

    So, when I consider someone like him, as well as many others, and then read your comment, I wanted to seek clarification as to whether you actually meant what you wrote.

  26. Alex says:

    @108 Aerin
    I think this is precisely the trouble that occurs, when you take the concepts of queer theory and bend them to fit the church and the heteronormative pattern. Evergreen has gotten complaints from researchers who misuse their information for their own means (digs through brain, I’ll have to get back on this one.) But for example, Evergreen takes a concept like bisexuality or fluidity and bends it into a promise like “people can change.” Well duh. People do change. But that doesn’t mean that playing baseball with the guys is what did it! Or any of the other various “reparative” techniques.
    That being said why is it wrong for a bisexual man or woman to be married to a straight spouse? I don’t think it is. I think there will be problems in the relationship. But since people aren’t really in two categories (homosexual/heterosexual) it seems like every marriage is theoretically a “Mixed Orientation Marriage.”
    I’m open for discussion or debate on this, but saying MOM is always wrong makes me feel uncomfortable.
    What is wrong with the set up is that living the church plan, you aren’t able to explore your sexuality. Even as two straight people the church discourages healthy exploration of sexuality. It’s general patriarchal (the women needs to have sex with the man to fulfill his needs), it’s victorian. Luckily the church got out of the business of proscribing what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, at least to married couples.
    I believe Foucault would have a lot to say about why the church does that.
    This is I think the bigger issue.

  27. chanson says:

    Im open for discussion or debate on this, but saying MOM is always wrong makes me feel uncomfortable.

    I don’t have a personal stake in this question, but I wouldn’t say that an MOM is always wrong. And I agree with you that bisexuality complicates the question.

    Personally, I would just encourage people to think about their own best interests and others’ best interests when making big decisions. Don’t just get swept up on a wave of others’ expectations. (This applies to similar decisions also, like when/whether to have another kid.) I absolutely don’t expect everyone’s answers to such life-planning questions to be the same.

  28. Holly says:

    saying MOM is always wrong makes me feel uncomfortable.

    I’m not willing to say that MOM is always wrong, and even if I were, I don’t think we’d be able to prevent it entirely from happening.

    I just think we should do what we can to educate people so that they’ll think more carefully about whether a MOM will make them or their partner happy, and, if they do choose to enter a MOM, have a somewhat clearer idea of the challenges they’ll face.

  29. Invictus @95:

    I know the church hasn’t always completely understood everything. I know they have made mistakes, but apologetic work becomes really easy when the attackers go overboard. Kimball didn’t understand everything about homosexuality. Not everything he said was spot on, but he isn’t guilty of half of the stuff you accuse him of.

    Now I didn’t live in his time, so I don’t know how it was back then, but I was alive for Elder Packer’s talk. I listened to him and I know you are not interpreting it correctly.

    The “impure and unnatural” applied just as much to heterosexual as homosexuals. Same-sex attraction was NEVER even mentioned in his talk. His example was of a heterosexual married man looking at porn. A more in depth analysis can be found here:

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_gender_issues/Same-sex_attraction/Boyd_K._Packer_October_2010_conference_talk

    The letters you referenced show that there are people who misinterpreted Kimball back then just as the news reports show people misinterpreted Packer now. I have no doubt that many people, including many bishops counseling gay men to get married, misinterpret many comments.

    But that is what happens with terms that everyone “knows” but is so ill-defined.

  30. Kimball didnt understand everything about homosexuality. Not everything he said was spot on, but he isnt guilty of half of the stuff you accuse him of.

    @129: The following was the statement I made about President Kimball:

    There is absolutely no question that Spencer W. Kimball considered homosexual feelings/orientation/attractions to be sinful in and of themselves.

    Which half of this sentence was he (not) guilty of?

    In response to your comment that you “know” that I have not interpreted Packer’s talk correctly (as well as your other comments), I will simply say this (for there is nothing else to be said): There are none so blind as those who will not see.

  31. I think he was very clear in the quote I gave that he said it was no sin to be tempted, but the sin was in entertaining the ideas. Put whatever label you want on it, I agree with the essence of what Kimball was saying. If sexual orientation is more than being tempted, but “also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions” as the APA has defined sexual orientation, then I 100% agree with Kimball that homosexual orientation can be changed.

    I guess there is no reason to have a conversation if one side says I am so obviously right that I won’t even respond to your arguments why you think you are right. I have brought up several quotes and reasons, and you haven’t responded to them, so I guess you are right. There is nothing more to say..

  32. Seth R. says:

    Invictus, for all I know, my comment might actually apply to Creech.

  33. Alan says:

    Alex @ 126

    But since people arent really in two categories (homosexual/heterosexual) it seems like every marriage is theoretically a Mixed Orientation Marriage.

    I would put it this way instead: Since every person is different, every marriage has two orientations in it.

    If we start to think about how every marriage has two orientations, then we’ll stop trying to suggest that the answer to educating people about the pitfalls of MoMs is as simple as suggesting, asking or requiring people to be more forthcoming sexuality-wise prior to marriage.

    This is especially true since we live in an era now where people are already forthcoming before marriage and will thus likely experience a different set of marital pitfalls.

    For example, clinicians who’ve studied MoM have laid out a 7-year cycle, following the path of Humiliation, Honeymoon, Rage, and Resolution, where the gay spouse becomes “gradually gay.” But this cycle only applies to MoMs where the gay spouse was closeted at the beginning of the marriage. What does the marriage look like for people who are forthcoming? Insisting on a “failure” or “close to failure” scenario for MoMs will keep us blind to those that aren’t failed, and will serve to further limit the resources made available for a group of people who already have a limited set of resources.

  34. @131

    I guess there is no reason to have a conversation if one side says I am so obviously right that I wont even respond to your arguments why you think you are right.

    You apparently do not realize that you are doing exactly what you are accusing me of doing.

    I referred you to material that shaped a generation of Mormon men, and your response was: “The letters you referenced show that there are people who misinterpreted Kimball back then just as the news reports show people misinterpreted Packer now.” Hello?

    I referred you to two talks given by Elder Packer in the 1970’s. You didn’t comment on them.

    Ignoring the outcry of hundreds and thousands of members and non-members of the Church following Packer’s October conference address, you simply say: “You misinterpreted what he said.”

    You’re right: there is no reason to have a conversation. You will continue to believe what you want to believe, regardless of evidence to the contrary. I wish you well on the journey that you are on.

  35. @132 – “Their own words condemn them …”

  36. Alan says:

    APL @ 131

    also refers to a persons sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions as the APA has defined sexual orientation, then I 100% agree with Kimball that homosexual orientation can be changed.

    Okay, yes, the APA does use a phrase called “sexual orientation identity,” and it is used because of the homophobic aversion to the “gay identity” in society where people who are Kinsey 6’s refuse to be considered “gay,” and instead call themselves “straight,” “ex-gay,” same-gender attracted heterosexually-performing,” “spouse-attracted” or whatever.

    If your concern is us speaking or thinking badly about President Kimball because you hold him as a “prophet,” then say that, instead of going around the bush about what he said or did not say and how it applies to today even though he said it decades ago.

  37. aerin says:

    What apl is referring to is precisely why I believe that the “Miracle of Forgiveness” needs to be officially repudiated as Kimball’s opinion, and not doctrine. This book, for those who weren’t aware, also suggests a rape victim would be better off dead, and is responsible for rape.

    How many more suicides and suicide attempts does the LDS church need before this book is officially denounced.

    I know we’ve discussed this before, but clearly the “Kimball was speaking as a man and not from God” message has not circulated enough through the everyday masses.

  38. @137 – Aerin, I agree. That book continues, even now, to rip people’s guts out. I know of a young missionary who came home early from his mission with severe depression and almost killed himself. His parents were blindsided, aghast, horrified. About six weeks before coming home, the elder had written home that he was reading that book. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  39. Seth R. says:

    I’ve never heard anyone yet make a really convincing argument that Kimball’s book caused or significantly contributed to the suicide of anyone who wasn’t already in the mood to kill him or herself for other factors.

    I mentioned earlier that I don’t like emotional manipulation. Playing the suicide card is usually one of the biggest culprits in naked bids at emotional manipulation by people who aren’t interested in having a reasonable conversation of the issues.

  40. @139 – Perhaps when it happens to someone close to you and you have actually lived through it, instead of merely making cynical comments about it, you’ll feel differently.

  41. Seth R. says:

    Or you know what Invictus – maybe I wouldn’t be in the mood to turn their death into a weapon on a lousy Internet debate.

    Maybe I would also have enough respect for the person to NOT make assumptions about what did or did not lead to their decision-making.

  42. @141 – I wasn’t using it as a “weapon,” – which I think says more about you than me – and I wasn’t making assumptions. End of story.

  43. Seth R. says:

    Good, then can I take that as a declaration that we have no clue what the correlation is between Kimball’s book and the suicide rate of homosexual Mormon males, or is there additional data available?

  44. Alan says:

    Seth, perhaps you might find informative what I’ve written on the subject in my Dialogue essay:

    On one end of the binary are success stories to be emulated in which desire has been conquered or is sufficiently controlled and in which one has aligned himself or herself to find ultimate joy in the LDS life sequence (gender dyadic marriage and parenthood).

    On the other end are the Stuart Matises of Mormonism whose last desperate act[s] . . . [are] forgiven by the mercy of the Atonement. When it comes to suicides in Mormon culture over the issue of homosexuality, Holland remarked mercifully upon meeting with the parents of Stuart Matis: We must find ever better ways to help the Stuart Matises of the Church . . . while they fight the good fight in the gender-attraction they face. He then added: I am only heartbroken that [Stuart] felt that he could not keep on fighting.

    This approach defers blame. Either (1) we will give more love to the next one, and/or (2) it is the mysterious affliction that causes a kind of selfishness (read: weakness) that took our child from us. The disconnect here is that these suicides are not of an anomic variety in which the person lacked love in his or her life or lacked a worldly niche in the community. Often such suicides are acts of altruism in which the person feels that killing himself or herself is for the good of the community. In other words, selflessness, not selfishness, motivates the decision to die.

    Mormon scholar Hugo Olaiz has referred to the situation as one of spiritual codependency in which, when bad things happen [namely, suicides by queer church members], they are guiltless tragedies. Because the theological puzzle of homosexuality is described as resolved in the afterlife, Olaiz finds that Mormonism today leans toward a culture of death for many of its members. Church leaders might describe suicide as never the answer, and individual wards may try to ensure that it welcomes those with this struggle; still, the framing of a life as one of struggle to be resolved by mysterious means after death is ultimately what is unwelcoming.

  45. @Alan – Is your essay available online?

    BTW, contrary to the assumption that was made, the missionary I referred to earlier was not struggling homosexuality, but with other “worthiness issues” concerning which Kimball also had much to say.

  46. Seth R. says:

    I was too – while on my mission when I first read Kimball’s book.

  47. Which contributes to gay suicide more? Elder Packer telling a story about how a straight man looking at naked pictures of women hurt his relationships with his wife, or a bunch of sound bits that somehow “God didn’t make you that way” had nothing to do with pornography and were about changing your sexual orientation and even though the example was of specifically about a straight man it only applied to homosexuals.

    It is the misinterpretation, the claims that Mormons hate gays, that Packer wants you to change your sexual orientation, that Kimball was talking about the modern definition of sexual orientation well before psychologists got around to defining it that leads to gay suicide. Never mind that Kimball said it is no sin to be tempted. Never mind that Packer said you may never be able to change your sexual orientation in this life so don’t feel bad if you don’t. People hear sound bites, and misquoting them loses the message.

    You tell Mormons enough times they hate gays they are going to believe you. You tell gay Mormons enough times that Packer thinks they need to change their sexual orientation (even though he was clear the opposite was true) they are going to believe you.

    Don’t blame the leaders for other people misquoting them.

  48. Alex says:

    I’m about to get personal. Because all of this is personal.
    1st, In regards to The Miracle of Forgiveness. I read it and everything the church had available in the year 2000-2001 when I first realized I was gay. I have never felt suicidal before or since, but I thought about killing myself.
    Yes this is anecdotal evidence, but it’s my life. In a sense I don’t really care what you say he was trying to say, the message that came across is “it’s better to hang a millstone around your neck and drown at the bottom of the sea” than be gay.
    So it’s not hard for me to link suicides with the miracle of forgiveness.
    I prayed when I was 17, when I was thinking seriously about suicide. I remember I was completely desperate at this point. I got up from the prayer and realized/heard a voice, “it’s ok to be gay.”
    It is.

  49. Alex says:

    In regards to Elder Packer, notice the changes in the talk. “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” It doesn’t take a ph.d in linguistics to link tendencies, especially inborn tendencies, with homosexuality. It was changed to temptations to “clarify” his intent. Thank God. But he still said it over the pulpit in General Conference.

  50. Alex says:

    Next,
    Alan you should e-mail me that research. I’d be very interested.
    As I said this is personal. I’m living this thread. I’m totally and completely biased because I am a gay man who is separated from his wife.
    I don’t want to be the voice of the men in MOM’s or somehow speak for the women. I don’t want to be tokenized as the voice of the men in MOM’s etc. But I am familiar with how my wife feels, and I know how many men I’ve come to know feel.
    And I agree with Alan @133. I feel a responsibility to stick up for men in this situation. I can tell you hearing, “You had an ethical responsibility to break it off because you knew something she didn’t” or “most times this situation ends in divorce” isn’t helpful when you feel already like a failure and are blaming yourself for the problems in your relationship. Is it any wonder people in Mom’s are a bit sensitive?. And I’m not saying sugarcoat the reality. But when I realized Evergreen was full of crock, the church wasn’t going to provide me the answers I need, what resources did I have as a gay ignorant Mormon to know what to do in my situation?
    I’m living the consequences of my ignorance. I wouldn’t advocate anyone jump into a MOM, but at the same time, having been in one, the relationship is completely real, the love is real, the pain of divorce is real. I don’t advocate just pushing people to get divorced either, and neither would I think the majority of psychotherapists etc. It’s more complicated than that.
    You’ll get defensive and say that’s not what you’re advocating and it may not be. But that’s how a lot of people in the “Moho” community feel.
    @ Holly 128 I think we agree. What we need is more education. We can’t stop this situation from happening. Whether we should or not, is another question, but I think we agree it’s not advisable. But no doubt, people need to know more about sexuality and under current church teachings it’s not happening or going to happen.

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