I suppose I ought to weigh in on this matter. But given the silence that has characterized this blog of late, I suppose I won’t say too much.
I must have been quite distracted when President Packer gave his talk last weekend. No disrespect meant to him, but I think I was waking up from a nap. I found I had missed out on something Monday, though, when I received an email denigrating President Packer for being both a homophobe and a pedophile, accusations that are just mean-spirited and do nothing to advance anyone’s “cause.” But the lack of care, compassion, and sophistication didn’t stop there. Apparently there was also a protest in Salt Lake City yesterday. Good for them. Here are just a couple of words about the lack of sophistication which has characterized the discussion so far:
Much of what people are reacting to is President Packer’s statement that, “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so!” Consider the following:
- Are people born homosexual? Heterosexual? D&C 93 states that “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.” Innocent. To talk about being born any way seems to me too simple.
- Does innocent mean “void of attraction,” to any sex? I don’t know that it does or that it doesn’t. But if we read the next few verses, it suggest where sin comes from: “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.” If sin can come from either place, then why does the debate seem to center only on the “disobedience” part, and any talk about the value of tradition is left out? That’s something we could use more of on both sides.
- Finally, in response to President Packer’s “Some suppose that they…cannot overcome. Not so!”, he continues: “Remember, God is our Heavenly Father. Paul promised that ‘God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.’ You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.” This feels too simple. As King Benjamin said, man is nothing and can do nothing of himself. As Christ said, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” We could do to talk a little more about what grace is and what it means, again on both sides of this fruitless debate.
And then of course, as Dennis pointed out to me, there is the fact that, while it seems President Packer is talking about homosexual relationships, the context actually suggests – if not, at least allows for – the possibility that he’s referring to other unnatural relationships. The statement just before the above quotes refers to “Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage.” This could include any number of non-marital sexual relationships (which we seem to have stopped talking about now that gay marriage is so hot-button). I understand that, given the context of the recent gay teen suicides, one is more inclined to read President Packer one way (the way he’s obviously been read). But with a little more sophistication, I don’t think we have to read him just one way.
One final thing: in the article linked to above, the American Psychological Association resolution concerning “Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts” is mentioned as a good reason to protest President Packer’s talk. Quoting the article, “No solid evidence exists that such efforts [to change sexual orientation] work, the APA concluded, and some studies suggest a potential for harm.” Many of the studies referred to in this are studies done 30 or more years ago (see above link) on convicted sex offenders forced to attend conversion therapy. APA, always so sly with their philosophical convictions, ignores more recent, and even rather significant research, that has shown the benefits of conversion therapy.
It’s a shame so much press can come of so little sophistication.
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