Articles by/for Allies
Homosexuality and the Church: Perspectives of an LDS Father
By Mac Madsen
"What happens when our institutions no longer serve us--no longer
reflect the truth of our experience"
--Terri Tempest Williams
From a paper delivered at the 2000 Sunstone Symposium.
During the past half century, the L.D.S. Church has taken an intransigent and enigmatic position relative to the subject of homosexuality. Church leaders hold on to an antiquated notion that behavior can be homosexual, but not people. In describing homosexuals they use phrases like "so-called homosexuals" and "those who refer to themselves as gays or lesbians," thus depriving homosexual persons of their true identity as separate but equal creations of God.
In defiance of the consensus of scientific data, which concludes that sexual orientation is a natural, genetic/hormonal, biological trait that is neither chosen nor changeable, church leadership continues to teach that homosexuality is a learned behavior. They persist in their dogged endorsement of reparative or conversion therapy despite the fact that this approach is no longer sanctioned or recommended by any of the nation's major mental health professions.
Over the years, church leaders have equated homosexuality with drug addiction, pedophilia, abortion, incest, and violent crime. A high-ranking apostle who later became President of the Mormon Church even inferred that homosexual behavior could predispose one to bestiality. The current President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles has actually given tacit approval to use violence against gay men. As recently as October General Conference 2000, this same apostle reiterated the church's position that homosexual love is unnatural, sinful, and a behavior precipitated by the influence of Satan.
Church leaders have used church money and church organizational structure to aggressively fight the efforts of gays and lesbians to achieve their full civil rights through legal same-sex partnerships. They have also endorsed the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory policy against gays.
In total, gay and lesbian Mormons find little to cheer about when assessing the options presented to them by church authorities: 1) stay in the church and live a life of fear, anxiety and frustration as a "closeted" gay or lesbian member, 2) stay in the church as an "out" homosexual and remain celibate, 3) leave the church, 4) be excommunicated, or 5) commit suicide. Tens of thousands of gay and lesbian Mormons and their families are suffering unbelievable pain, disillusionment, and despair because of current church policies directed toward homosexuals. Serious efforts to engage church leadership in any meaningful dialogue about this issue have resulted in perceived indifference and apathy.
This paper is going to be about a journey of heartbreak, frustration, and discovery that began six years ago in 1994. It is going to be about the coming out of my lesbian daughter. The paper will discuss what it's like to find yourself in that hard spot between a church's uncompromising position regarding homosexuality and what my personal research and experiences have determined for me to be the truth and realities pertaining to the phenomenon of sexual orientation. It will be necessary to deal with the concept of doctrine versus policy and the notion of infallibility of ecclesiastical leaders. I believe my experiences will be quite representative of those experienced by a great number of other parents of gay or lesbian children.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. Family Background and the Coming Out
B. Entering Passive Recovery
C. Parents of a Gay Child - What to Do?
D. A Stewardship or Calling?
E. From Recovery to Research
F. The Scientific Data: Biological Foundations
G. The Scientific Data: Psychological Implications
H. Homosexuality and the Bible: Sodom
I. Homosexuality and the Bible: Leviticus
J. Homosexuality and the Bible: Romans
K. Evolution of the Gay Policy in the L.D.S. Church
L. Gospel and Doctrine versus Church and Policy
M. Adapting to the Hard Spot
The Family Background and the Coming Out
Prior to 1994, the background of my family was fairly typical of nuclear families in Mormondom. After serving an L.D.S. mission to Denmark, I returned to BYU where I met my wife, Lorrie. I played basketball and baseball for the Cougars while Lorrie was involved in Women's Chorus and the arts. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1959. My first professional assignment following graduation was at BYU-Hawaii where I was men's basketball coach and assistant athletic director from 1961-64. We returned to the mainland, settled in Ogden where I became a tenured faculty member and the men's golf coach at Weber State University for the next 30+ years.
We eventually had three children. My two sons, Matthew and Casey, did the typical Mormon things - church missions, temple marriages, and church jobs. Our daughter Marnee, always the tomboy type, played every sport possible in high school and attended Weber State University on a basketball scholarship. She graduated top zoology student in her pre-med major and accepted a grant to attend the Colorado State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1992. She is presently a practicing small animal veterinarian in Oregon.
During the summer break at CSU in 1994, Marnee was back in Ogden for a visit. During a quiet moment she asked Lorrie and me if we could sit down in the living room because she had something to tell us. While sobbing quietly, she told us she was gay and that she had met her soul mate in Fort Collins.
When confronted with such a revelation from a gay child, many parents respond with shock, dismay, disbelief, horror or astonishment, and in some cases even anger and hostility. It was somewhat different for us because we mostly shared some tears with our gay daughter, did some hugging and told her as sincerely as we could not to fret because we already knew. We had seen the signs as early as the mid-teens. Marnee's coming out for us was not shock or surprise, it was an affirmation of what had become obvious. It was a moment of final confirmation - the putting to rest of all lingering doubts. Marnee's true identity as a homosexual person had been evident to us for years, but we allowed her to choose the timing that was right for her to share this profound moment of truth with us.
The next several months were very difficult. I found myself going through what could be called passive recovery. This was a period of time of great intellectual and emotional adjustment and deep introspection. How would we as parents respond to Marnee's self-proclaimed homosexuality? How would Marnee's two brothers react? What about extended family like grandparents, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, etc., as well as close friends. Basically, how was this going to impact our lives and relationships? As a consequence of Marnee's coming out, two areas of immediate anxiety surfaced. Even now, years later, these two dilemmas are the cause for daily concern and anguish.
First comes the clear reality that our daughter was going to have to function in an homophobic society and an homophobic church. She would be subjected to ridicule, rejection, verbal abuse, prejudice and discrimination. She could be in danger of physical assault or even murder. Our anguish never was because our daughter was gay, but because it now struck home that every day of our lives we would have extended concern for her safety and well being, beyond that of most parents of straight children. Secondly, we had to confront the issue of homosexuality and the church, a subject I will deal with at considerable length later in the paper.
Ultimately, what was to be my very personal reaction to all of this? I believe the best word to describe it would be - philosophical. Why our daughter? Why us? How and why are there gay and lesbian persons? What are we supposed to do with this? How do we proceed?
Parents of Gay Children - What to Do?
I believe parents of gay or lesbian children may choose from several different paths to follow after a homosexual child has "come out." I would like to describe these paths by identifying them as Stages One through Five:
Stage One. This stage is harsh, quick, and decisive. The gay child is simply told to leave the home. He or she is told they are no longer accepted as part of the family. The message is, "you are a disgrace and an embarrassment. It would be better had you never been born." This is not the position taken by a majority of parents of gay children, but it happens all too often. It was never a path considered by my wife and me.
Stage Two. This is a standard approach recommended by church leaders and church policy handbooks which is based upon the premise that homosexuality is a chosen behavior and can be overcome. It entails, among other things, scripture study, prayer, reading church literature and following church counseling that promotes reparative or conversion therapy. Remarkably, even though no one would ever suggest that these measures would change a heterosexual into a homosexual, there is the astonishing belief that following these recommendations would somehow change the sexual orientation of a gay person. The church has wanted this approach to work so badly that at one time church leaders told gay and lesbian members to go on missions, marry a heterosexual or get electro-shock aversion therapy in hopes that they would be "cured" of their homosexuality.
This whole approach is based upon rejection. The homosexual person is rejected as a separate but equal creation of God and the behavior expressed by gay and lesbian persons is rejected as sinful and perverse. The only fully acceptable outcome of those adhering to the Stage Two philosophy would be to somehow accomplish the impossible - change a gay person to a straight one. For my wife and me this was never a viable solution, but for tens of thousands of Mormon parents of homosexual children it is, regrettably, the place where they start, the place they still are, and the place they will likely remain. Their gay or lesbian children pay a heavy price. They frequently leave the family, leave the church, and all too often leave a note describing their feelings of pain, rejection and despair before taking their own lives.
Stage Three. This stage might be described as a place of compromise. It would be a step up from outright rejection to obligatory tolerance with qualified love. It would be a place where you tolerate your homosexual child as an unrepentant homosexual who must remain celibate. A place where parents again follow the lead of the church and say to their gay and lesbian children, we know you are there. We can't totally ignore you and maybe we can't change you, so just behave and don't "cross the line." Oh yes, for the family's sake please try to stay as inconspicuous as possible. We'll tolerate you but we won't accept you, and don't expect to be a Boy Scout leader or young women's camp counselor.
I admit to hanging around in Stage Three for several months. I'm not proud of it. I write it off to years of blind obedience, misinformation, and my lack of knowledge concerning the phenomenon of homosexuality. Many Mormon parents with gay children that I'm aware of who do not fall into Stages One or Two, find a home in Stage Three.
Stage Four. Although the journey to this stage is fraught with many challenges and takes a lot of hard work, it is a tremendously satisfying station at which a parent can arrive. Simply stated, this stage is where parents can fully embrace their gay child and stop trying to change them into someone they can't become. Here you stop trying to find solutions, seek accommodations or make compromises and just fully accept and unconditionally love your gay son or daughter. It is at this point that parents may for the first time be able to extend the kind of support and reinforcement their gay child needs in order to survive and possibly thrive in the harsh, homophobic world in which they find themselves.
Stage Five. The final stage may not be a place all parents of gay children should strive for or need to go. It is where parents leave the relative comfort of passive recovery and church guidelines and move into the arena of provocative action. This is where the parents "come out" and don't care if others know they have a gay child. It is where you synthesize your knowledge and nerve and begin speaking out against intolerance and homophobia. At church or elsewhere, you correct remarks that are false and present a point of view you know to be true. Such parents might give lectures, write letters to the editor of area newspapers and actively lobby ecclesiastical and political leaders in an attempt to educate and change attitudes. Essentially, you become a gay rights advocate and activist and do whatever possible to promote tolerance and understanding of gays and seek to promote their full moral and civil rights. Because of the conflicts, which may arise when parents of gays follow this path, some have voluntarily withdrawn from Church activity to become "Mormons in Exile," or in some cases have been excommunicated.
A Stewardship or Calling?
From early on I began to perceive, rightly or wrongly, that maybe this was some kind of calling or stewardship assignment. With resolve, I thought of a line in one of our well-known church hymns - not "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord," but rather, "I'll be what you want me to be."
In this case, I'll be the proud parent of a gay child of God and all that might entail.
As time passed I became more and more convinced that our role should be to educate people about homosexuality and combat hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance directed toward God's gay and lesbian children. I knew our journey and quest for answers would be difficult. I believed that while emotions could act as a catalyst or driving force, it would be our intellect, our minds, combined with our hearts that would help us most in our search and actions. I recalled the words of Mormon Apostle Hugh B. Brown who said he "admired men and women who had developed a questing spirit: "revelation," he says, "may come from the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and inquiring soul, out of search and research. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it."
I knew that for me, the truth about this issue was there, waiting to be discovered. I remembered the admonition of church author and historian B.H. Roberts who said, "Mormonism calls for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of the truths, but will develop their own truths." I now needed to push ahead to search for the truth regarding this important matter.
From Recovery to Research
One of the first actions my wife and I took was to join an organization called Family Fellowship. This is a support group that had its origin in the early 90s and is primarily in existence to provide love, support, and education to Mormon parents of gay and lesbian children. Family Fellowship offers a wellspring of love and a springboard to learning. It is a community with a common cause. It is a place to find understanding, a place to share and a place of much comfort.
Membership at the time of this writing is approaching 1500. Family Fellowship holds quarterly fireside meetings in cities along the Wasatch front and an annual conference on homosexuality each summer in Salt Lake City. In addition, Family Fellowship offers counseling, disseminates educational materials and sponsors an E-mail information network. I can safely say that had it not been for this organization, I would have spent a much longer period of time mired in Stage Three.
From the time Marnee came out in 1994 until sometime in the year 1996, the pervasive question of the church's position on homosexuality had for me evolved into a monster. What I was learning was more and more in conflict with official church teachings and I was faced with the serious situation of challenging the whole concept of "follow the brethren" and the notion of church leadership infallibility. Who was I to challenge such a major church policy? I took some measure of encouragement from an incident in the life of church founder, Joseph Smith. Upon Pelatiah Brown being brought to trial before a high council, the Prophet Joseph is quoted as saying, "I did not like the man being called up for erring or questioning doctrine. It looked too much like the Methodists. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled." Trammeled in this case meaning restrictions placed upon expression or progress, or being intellectually shackled. With my own personal shackles removed, I was ready to proceed.
Researching the issue of homosexuality had to occur on two fronts - science and theology. I would first become educated concerning the basic nature of homosexuality and sexual orientation by investigating the historical, demographical, biological and psychological implications pertaining to the subject. Thereafter I would research the theological foundations and try to ascertain why homosexuality is seen in such negative light within the constructs of Judeo-Christian morality. Ultimately, I also needed to research the historical and doctrinal foundations of the L.D.S. Church's policy regarding homosexuality.
For approximately two years, from 1996 to 1998, I studied and listened. I read fifteen of the best books I could find on the subject. I attended 75 - 100 hours of lectures given by everyone from Dean Hamer and the H-gene to the foremost experts on reparative therapy. I spent between 150 to 200 hours in attendance at conferences and seminars on the issue of homosexuality and sexual orientation. I wrote a 25 page paper entitled, "The Pernicious Nature of Homophobia." In addition, and perhaps most importantly of all, I spent hundreds of hours in the company of gay and lesbian persons and their families. In my opinion, the amount of time and effort I put into investigating the phenomenon of homosexuality should be the minimum effort given by all conscientious and loving parents of gay children. I should add that I also believe this should be the minimum effort given by members of a church hierarchy whose decisions about homosexuality have disenfranchised a significant population of our church community.
From these experiences I formulated a short list of conclusions as follows:
1) Homosexuality has been present as a variation of human sexuality in all cultures from the beginning of our existence on the earth.
2) Throughout the ages, homosexuality has been demographically stable at around 5% of the population, or approximately one in every twenty persons.
3) Homosexuals appear with equal frequency in societies that are repressive of homosexuality and in those that are permissive. Repression simply reduces the expression of homosexual orientation.
4) Although some gays and lesbians may be identifiable by certain mannerisms of speech, body language, etc., stereotyping homosexuals is not possible in most cases. Many gay and lesbian people function within families, jobs, and society in general for years without others knowing of their sexual orientation.
5) Homophobia is a learned set of attitudes and behavior that is based upon unfounded fears, myths, misinterpretation and misinformation. Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that much of the bigotry and hatred directed toward gays and lesbians in America has its roots in the homophobic rhetoric and dogma of most Christian churches.
6) Homosexuality is just as natural for homosexuals as heterosexuality is for heterosexuals.
7) Homosexuals are not heterosexuals with "homosexual problems." They are a totally separate but equal creation of God.
8) The phenomenon of homosexuality derives basically from an interaction between genes, hormones, and other biological and emotional factors. In most cases this trait is fixed prior to or shortly after birth. The awareness or manifestation of the trait most often presents itself in adolescence or early adulthood.
9) In most cases, the biological trait of homosexuality is immutable, that is, hard-wired and unchangeable. The behavioral expression of the trait may be suppressed or altered, but not the trait itself. Reparative or change therapy, therefore, is biologically and psychologically contraindicated.
10) From a purely scientific standpoint, church teachings about the basic nature of homosexuality are incompatible with the broad consensus of scientific data.
Scientific Data: Biological Foundations
I would like to further amplify my views concerning the biological foundations of homosexuality by describing homosexuality in terms of a stable, dimorphic trait, expressed behaviorally. In doing so, I would like to use several paragraphs from "A Separate Creation," an acclaimed work by Chandler Burr. "One of the best ways for a non-scientist to understand the dynamics of biological trait as it applies to sexual orientation may be to look at sexual orientation within the context of its stable dimorphism. Dimorphism is defined as the existence within a species of two distinctions that differ in one or more characteristics, such as colorization, size or shape. Sexual orientation fits this definition because there are at least two major distinctions in human sexuality - male and female.
If sexual orientation is placed along side another very common biological trait, handedness, it provides a very insightful comparison. This is true not only in such areas as distribution, male/female ratio and correlation data, but also functions well as a working analogy. Handedness and sexual orientation both have majority and minority orientations. Right-handedness, the majority orientation is found in 92% of the population; the minority orientation, left-handedness, in 8%. Sexual orientation has a majority orientation, heterosexuality, found in 95% of the population, and a minority orientation homosexuality, found in 5%. Left-handedness is 30% more prevalent in men than women and homosexuality is about 50% higher in men than women.
There is no correlation for left-handedness or homosexuality with race, age, geography or culture. The age of appearance for both is approximately age two. Neither orientation is chosen and neither is pathological. Both traits run in families and there is an increased incidence of siblings of left-handed and homosexual offspring having the minority orientation.
Neither handedness nor sexual orientation can be verified simply by looking at a person. Both are internal orientations and the only way to identify them is by their respective overt behaviors, or external expressions. The interior orientation cannot be altered clinically, but the external expression can be. Consequently, left handed people can learn to write or play golf right handed and homosexuals can learn to act out as heterosexuals. The internal biological trait, however, is not altered and cannot be.
Biologists have asked, "What is the box?", or in other words what is this human trait that we can observe, study and measure in each other? Researchers have accomplished this phase one objective for the trait of homosexuality. They are now rapidly answering questions about, "How does this box work.?" Scientists have opened the lid of the box, stuck their hand down into the genes and dendrites and hormones that create human traits and are beginning to solve this mystery - the origins of sexual orientation. Their findings continue to fly in the face of the homophobic dogma or policies of organized Christian religions."
Scientific Data: Psychological Implications
For decades attempts have been made to "fix" or "repair" homosexuals through various forms of therapy. As it has now been determined that homosexual orientation is not chosen and is immutable, or unchangeable, these attempts to change homosexuals into heterosexuals have been met with near universal failure and at terrible emotional and financial cost to those trying. Some of the types of therapy attempted include the following: electroshock, brain surgery, hormone injection, castration, engaging in activities, dress, etc., of the hoped for orientation, and one of the most demeaning of all, aversion therapy. In aversion therapy, male homosexuals may be shown erotic pictures of men at the same time an electric shock is applied to their genitals. In other cases, a drug designed to induce vomiting is given while they are viewing the erotic pictures. During the 1970s and 1980s, many L.D.S. homosexuals were encouraged by ecclesiastical leaders and church counselors to participate in an aversion therapy program in laboratories on the BYU campus. While viewing homoerotic movies or other materials, they received up to 1600 volts of electricity in order to purge their homosexual feelings. This inhumane and medieval practice has for the most part been discontinued. Reparative therapy may still serve a purpose in counseling bisexuals who can make real choices about the direction they desire to take their sexuality. Homosexuals can still benefit from positive counseling to gain insights and skills to be used in dealing with their homosexuality, as long as the therapist in not taking gays down the dead-end path of trying to convert them into heterosexuals.
If one thinks about the vast real problems confronting our society and attacking our family structure-problems such as family violence, divorce, substance abuse, child abuse, homelessness, and isolation, it becomes clear that individuals who are obsessed with how a minority of our citizens express love and sexuality have, indeed, established a most peculiar set of priorities both for themselves and for others. Healthy and secure heterosexuals do not feel threatened by homosexuality. Healthy heterosexuals don't need to change homosexuals. Healthy heterosexuals don't need to "repair" homosexuals. Healthy and secure heterosexuals are able to recognize homosexuality for what it is, and alternative way for some individuals to express love and seek sexual gratification.
The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers have a combined membership of 320,000 and together represent the majority of mental health care providers in this country. In 1994, they submitted an "Amicus Curiea" or "friends of the court brief" opposing the infamous Amendment 2 in Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually rejected this anti-gay amendment. Extracted from this brief is the following statement which reiterates the consistent position taken by these three major professional associations that deal with homosexuality in a more direct and intimate way than any other medical or health organization.
"We begin with a discussion of the latest scientific research on the nature of sexual orientation. This research firmly and consistently rejects the widespread assumptions that sexual orientation is the same as sexual conduct, that sexual orientation is freely chosen and readily subject to alteration."
Homosexuality and the Bible: Sodom
With most of my questions related to the scientific area resolved, I turned my attention to a study of homosexuality and the Bible. Much of today's anti-gay sentiment and homophobic rhetoric comes from the so-called "religious right" and other primarily conservative Christian churches or allied groups promoting their interpretation of Family Values and other seemingly moral causes. Because certain passages in the Bible are still used to promote the notion that homosexuality is an abomination and homosexuals are sinners, this paper will deal at some length with a review of these scriptures and what conclusions might be drawn.
The word homosexual does not appear anywhere in the Bible. That word was not invented in any language until the 1890s when for the first time the awareness developed that there are people with a constitutional orientation toward their own sex. In the whole of the Bible, there are only seven brief passages that are interpreted by some to deal with homosexual behavior. The story of Sodom is actually irrelevant to the issue. Say what you will about Sodomites and Sodomy laws, the fact is that the attempted gang rape in Sodom has nothing to say about whether or not genuine love expressed between consenting adults of the same gender is legitimate or moral.
The consensus of scholarly interpretation placed upon the brief story of Lot and Sodom is as follows. Sodomites were not homosexuals. The incident regarding the two angels invited by Lot to spend the night at his home has been the cause of much confusion and misinterpretation. Sodom was not destroyed because of rampant homosexuality as some still suggest. It was destroyed because the inhabitants of Sodom were a wicked, greedy, selfish people who refused hospitality to strangers (the two angels) and even threatened to abuse them or to rape them as a sign of contempt. God had already condemned the city in an earlier conversation with Abraham. The angels had been sent to give the city one last chance. Lot was violating the custom of Sodom by entertaining unknown guests within the city walls at night without obtaining permission from the city elders. When the people of Sodom surrounded Lot's house and demanded that Lot bring the strangers out in order that they should "know them", it had nothing to do with homosexuality or homosexual acts. It was, in fact. a flagrant attempt by the mob to prevent the host, Lot, from providing genuine hospitality to strangers. In refusing the mob, Lot had placed the hospitality of his house, sacred even among a barbarous people, above the modesty of the two daughters he offered the crowd in place of the strangers. Subsequent to the Lot/Sodom story, neither the prophets nor Jesus ever mentioned homosexual acts or homosexual orientation in conjunction with this event. This Old Testament incident is not a viable scriptural argument for any condemnation or discrimination directed against gays or lesbians.
Homosexuality And The Bible: Leviticus
In the 18th and 20th chapters of Leviticus are two often-quoted passages prohibiting male homosexual behavior. It is stated in these scriptures that "man must not lie with man as with women," and such practice would be considered an abomination and violators would be put to death. The Old Testament uses the term "abomination" liberally, an example being, "an abomination to sacrifice a bull or sheep with a defect or blemish." Thus, even many trivial things were an abomination. These verses and others found sprinkled throughout Leviticus and other books found in the first part of the Old Testament are actually part of what Bible scholars refer to as the Holiness Code given to the Israelites by Moses. This code had application for a very specific time, for a very specific community of people, and for a very specific purpose that would not apply to practicing Christians of the 21st century.
The Holiness Code was not so much concerned with intrinsic wrong of various acts, but with the question of "ritual purity." The code banned homosexual acts, probably because homosexuality was not understood at that time, but it also banned a long list of other things including the following: a man touching a woman during her menstrual cycle was to be stoned to death; adulterers were to be executed; eating raw meat was prohibited as was wearing garments with two different yarns; inter-racial marriages were sinful. These and many other practices were abominations and many were punishable by death. How could many Christians today, no matter how fundamentalist, believe that 21st century Christians should be bound by or required to obey all of these ancient Levitical laws? Only selective literalists would single out one specific part of the ritual purity code, in this case homosexual behavior, for suiting his or her own predetermined purposes.
For me, the Leviticus passages dictate that scholarly investigation of the Bible and interpretation of scriptures should include separating the word of God from the cultural norms and prejudices of the time. I believe that insofar as credible justification for scriptural condemnation of gays and lesbians, the Leviticus argument joins the Sodom one in the dusty, inactive files of antiquity.
Homosexuality And The Bible: Romans
The final question relative to the Bible and homosexuality comes from passages in some of the Apostle Paul's letters in the New Testament. Although references in I Corinthians and I Timothy have sometimes been interpreted in such a way as to suggest that Paul was referring to homosexuality, it is unlikely. What is likely and plausible is that these passages were references to male prostitution. The New Testament verses most often cited in connection with homosexuality are Romans 1:26-27 which reads, "God has given them (the Romans) up to shameful passions... women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural and man, too, giving up relations with women..."
Many theologians believe Paul's main concern here was not with sexuality, but with theology. There was a time when monotheism was offered to or known by the Romans, but they rejected it. Was the reference to homosexuality in this case simply a mundane analogy to this theological sin? It is patently not the crux of Paul's argument. Once the point has been made, the subject of homosexuality is quickly dropped and the major debate resumes. John Boswell, author of "Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality" offers this analysis of Roman I: "Paul is saying, in other words, that as Romans rejected the worship of one God for the worship of many Gods, so they rejected opposite-sex for same-sex relations. The persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual persons. The whole point of Romans I, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling and gotten off the true path they were once on. In Paul's time and place, to be sure, this analogy between theology and sexuality worked because only heterosexuality was viewed as "natural." It was not understood then as we do now that for some people it is homosexuality, not heterosexuality that comes naturally. Paul's analogy in our enlightened age about naturalness of homosexuality would not wash."
Many believe that any references to homosexuality by Paul were seen as an attempt to deal with the Saints in Rome in regards to troublesome matters of pagan idolatry, cultic prostitution, etc., and not with homosexuality as such. Keep in mind also that Paul's background for his understanding and attitude about homosexuality might have come in part from the common Roman practice of older Roman males "keeping" young boys for sexual exploitation, which he had a right to condemn.
Alan Lach, author of "Homosexuality and Scriptures," makes a very important point when he says, "Whatever Paul's understanding of homosexuality was, he did not acquire it from any known teaching of the Savior. It is a major impediment to any case made against homosexuality, that Jesus, the foremost authority on the gospel, had nothing adverse to say about the subject. His silence is remarkable when one considers how outspoken He could be concerning behavior he found objectionable."
I would like to offer the following personal observations regarding Paul and homosexuality:
1) I am not convinced that Paul would have been knowledgeable about the extreme complexities of sexual orientation that are now, at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, just being identified.
2) Paul's references to homosexuality are isolated and selectively used to make a point or offer an analogy. His comments about the subject are not found as a pattern or any consistent gospel component throughout his letters.
4) The Apostle Peter received the Keys of Presidency for the early church. He was a contemporary of Paul and Paul's ecclesiastical superior and yet he said nothing about the subject of homosexuality. Neither did John or the other apostles. Why not? One possible conclusion: Paul was speaking for Paul, based upon his own ideas and purposes rather than teaching an acknowledged and accepted part of Jesus' gospel.
5) Another significant problem with Paul and the two passages in Romans I is that if we accept that he was, in fact, condemning homosexual behavior, how do we separate this from all of his other admonitions and condemnations? For example, Paul told women not to cut their hair. He admonished them not to teach or preach in church. He told slaves to obey their masters and he advocated celibacy. Are we bound to follow all of Paul's personal teachings? If we just choose to follow the isolated remarks under consideration in Romans I, wouldn't we be selective literalists in the same manner as previously discussed regarding the modern-day application of the Levitical Holiness Code of Ritual Purity?
I agree with the comments made by the Reverend Kathlyn James of Seattle on the subject of Paul and homosexuality. She said, "I am not a disciple of Paul. I am an admirer of Paul, but a disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul himself said that we should not follow him but Christ alone. So I come back again to the life and teachings of Jesus as the center of my faith. In that light all other biblical teachings must be critiqued. There are seven passages that might be interpreted to be about homosexuality in the Bible. There are thousands of references in the Bible that call us, as Jesus commands, to love our neighbor, to work for peace and reconciliation among all people and leave judgment to God."
In conclusion, I defer to the summary on this subject given by Bruce Bawer, author of "A Place at the Table." He states: " The point that emerges, then, from careful study of biblical passages that are invoked in attacks on homosexuality is that one cannot divorce them from their historical, cultural, and textual settings. The unfortunate fact is that some people have had their own motives for screening certain lines out of context with the consequences that the idea of homosexuality as a violation of Christian teachings has in recent centuries become deeply ingrained in the minds of most people in the western world."
Scholarly review of the subject of homosexuality and the Bible raises serious questions about using passages found in Genesis, Leviticus or Romans to condemn homosexuals or homosexuality. While most L.D.S. General Authorities in recent times have more often approached this issue by simply promoting the idea of marriage between a man and a woman rather than using biblical passages to denigrate gays and lesbians, there are exceptions. During General Conference of October 2000, Boyd K. Packer, third ranking authority in the church, once again resorted to the use of Romans I when declaring to millions of viewers that homosexuality is unnatural, a perversion, and that those who engage in homosexual behavior do so under the influence of Satan regardless of the love and commitment that characterize a great number of these relationships.
Evolution of the Gay Policy in the L.D.S. Church
After satisfactorily completing my investigation of homosexuality and the Bible, I turned my attention to a review of any references concerning this issue found in modern-day L.D.S. scriptures, namely, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. Any serious student of Mormon scripture knows that this task was unnecessary and futile because there is no mention of homosexuals or homosexuality in these scriptures whatsoever - not one chapter, not one verse, not one word!
I find it remarkable, even incredulous, that the "restored church" which has received the fullness of the everlasting gospel, is implementing a policy effecting tens of thousands of church members, constituting 5% of church membership, without any real guidelines from church founder, Joseph Smith, or from modern-day scripture, or from any documented revelation. If a revelation regarding this important matter was ever received from the Lord through a prophet for the membership of the church, who received it? When? Where? Where is it documented as such? The origin and evolution of the present policy of the Mormon church directed toward gay and lesbian members is the subject of the next phase of my quest for greater truth and knowledge.
What was going on in the restored church relative to homosexuality and homosexual members from the foundation of the church in 1830 to approximately 1950? The answer is: not much! For the first 120 years of church history, the church just seemed to flow with the times and the culture on this matter. There is no indication that church prophet, Joseph Smith, received any instruction through inspiration or revelation pertaining to this issue. Nothing in church history or literature suggests that homosexual members were openly chastised, condemned or brought before church courts as they are now. According to D. Michael Quinn, historian and author of "Same-Sex Dynamics Among 19th Century Americans," L.D.S. leaders who reached adulthood in the 19th century were remarkably restrained and tolerant when they confronted homoeroticism or homosexuality among Latter-Day Saints.
The following is an example of how the Church's moral code was applied to matters of sex as late as the 1940s. Within a three-year period, two high profile church leaders became involved in sexual activities. Apostle Richard R. Lyman was excommunicated for committing adultery. During this same time, Joseph F. Smith, well known in some circles to be a homosexual, served as Church Patriarch from 1942-46. He was quietly released from his position by the First Presidency in what can only be described as a very mild and tolerant response to finding out that a high ranking church official was engaging in same-sex activity.
By the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the first significant changes in attitude and philosophy concerning homosexuality began to emerge in the church hierarchy. One of the primary leaders in this change was apostle and future church president, Spencer W. Kimball. He began counseling young men in the church who were experiencing same-sex attraction and advocated marriage to a heterosexual as a remedy for such desires. For Kimball, people were not homosexual, only acts were. This same misguided and erroneous notion still prevails among church leadership today. It essentially infers that there aren't any real homosexuals, but rather just heterosexuals with "homosexual problems" or "inclinations." When you hear today's church leaders use phrases like "so-called gays" or "those who refer to themselves as homosexuals," the inference seems clear. As a separate but equal entity and creation of God, homosexuals for all practical purposes, do not exist. This means that gays and lesbians are refused validation of their true identity. What could be more devastating, cruel, and confusing? What better way to cause serious depression and possible suicide than by telling gay and lesbian people they are just unrepentant heterosexuals with homosexual problems and they just need to try harder to change?
It is ironic that the same church leader, Spencer W. Kimball, who was so instrumental in getting priesthoodless blacks out of the penalty box, so to speak, was the point man in establishing policy that ultimately put homosexuals into a similar penalty box. It is my view that apostle Kimball was acting on his own personal perceptions of homosexuality during these mid-20th century times. I believe his ideas that were later incorporated into his book, "Miracle of Forgiveness" were totally unscientific and terribly flawed. In all fairness to Kimball, nearly all references, conclusions and inferences made in Chapter 6 of his book can only be described as untrue and indefensible. I cite just two examples, 1) the notion that masturbation may lead to homosexuality, and 2) that engaging in homosexual behavior might predispose one to bestiality.
During the late 1950s and into the 1960s there was a noticeable hardening of attitudes and actions concerning homosexuality demonstrated by church leadership. In 1968, the General Handbook of Instructions, an official publication for church policy, added "homo-sexual acts" to the list of sins for which excommunication was appropriate. To the best of my knowledge, this represented the first official written declaration of the new policy of the church targeting gays and lesbians. It did not come in the form of an announced revelation of the Lord's will on the subject given to the prophet of the church. It was a policy that just evolved over a period of twenty years or so.
In 1976, L.D.S. leaders replaced "homo-sexual acts with "homosexuality" as grounds for excommunication. This was a significant change as it made gay Mormons vulnerable to church punishment merely on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Engaging in homosexual acts just added to the condemnation or sin. This year, 1976, was also marked by one of the most inflammatory addresses ever given by a high-ranking church official on the subject of homosexuality. During the priesthood session of General Conference, October 1976, Elder Boyd K. Packer delivered his infamous "somebody had to do it" talk. In this sermon about chastity and what church members should do if approached by a homosexual person, he related this story. While visiting a mission, Packer was told by a young Elder that he had struck his gay companion. "Oh, is that all," responded Packer. "But I floored him," said the missionary. "Well thanks," said Packer. "Somebody had to do it and it wouldn't be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way." Gay and lesbian Mormons and their families have been alarmed for years about these comments, fearful that some people might interpret the remarks as an endorsement to use violence against homosexuals. This address, which was so contentious that it was deleted from the Conference Reports section of the November 1976 Ensign, was later distributed in pamphlet form under the title, "To Young Men Only." The 1999 re-print of this pamphlet found at the church distribution center still contains the controversial comments. It is the view of many people that 1976 marked the high point of church hierarchy homophobia.
During the middle and late 1970s, church leadership was engaged in an intense campaign to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. Spencer W. Kimball was church president. In 1978, a First Presidency statement contained the following quote; "We believe the ERA is a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family....and could result in an increase in the practice of homosexual and lesbian activities." That giving women equal rights would have anything whatsoever to do with sexual orientation and homosexuality is for me and most other serious students of the phenomenon of homosexuality simply a further reflection of the church's refusal to come to grips with the truth and realities concerning the nature of homosexuality.
Beginning around 1994, church leaders returned to the same tactics used to help defeat the ERA to undermine efforts that would allow gays and lesbians to be joined in civil unions or same-sex partnerships. With President Hinckley leading the way, church efforts have been instrumental in the passage of resolutions in several states, which makes marriage between a man and a woman the only legal union. The results of such church political activity not only serves to promote continued discrimination against people like my daughter, but perpetuates delays in the realization of crucial civil rights of gays and lesbians through state sanctioned civil partnerships. It is my opinion that when you add the hypocritical position taken by the church on the Boy Scouts issue to getting involved with the ERA and same-sex unions, what appears to surface is an almost paranoid fear that accepting gays and denying them their civil rights will somehow undermine the entire moral fabric of our society. I add my voice to the others who say - nonsense!
There was a glimmer of optimism that surfaced among some gays and their families when during the last few years of the 90s, there appeared to be a somewhat softer approach taken by general authorities on this subject. At least there was less talk of homosexuality being put into the same basket with pedophilia, incest, abortion, drug addiction and violent crime. However, Boyd K. Packer's General Conference address in October of 2000 quickly brought everyone back to the harsh reality that the church's intransigent and uncompromising position on homosexuality has not changed. Packer reiterated the immutable church teaching that love expressed by homosexuals is unnatural, a perversion, and a behavior precipitated by Satan.
The most recent entry made by the church into a civil rights issue surrounds the controversy related to gays and the Boy Scouts. In the summer of 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the policy of the BSA to exclude homosexuals from their organization. The church aggressively lobbied for such a ruling, and had indicated they would pull 400,000 scouts out of the BSA if the court ruled in favor of homosexuals. My judgment is that the church's position regarding the Boy Scout matter is both perplexing and hypocritical. Church leaders preach from the pulpit that while we must condemn homosexual behavior, we should at the same time love gays and lesbians as true children of God. Why, then, would these same leaders support the Boy Scout's policy which discriminates against gay scouts and scout leaders for merely being openly gay, and not necessarily because they were "practicing homosexuals?" This is similar to the 1976 church handbook policy that made gays vulnerable to church discipline for their sexual orientation only.
How would this work then? Let's say a Mormon man has served in the capacity of scout leader for several years with integrity, loyalty and dedication. He has been a great role model for the scouts and has lived an exemplary life inside and outside of scouting. Only a handful of his closest confidants know that he is a celibate, closeted homosexual trying to live his life according to the recommendation given by his church. Somehow, it is discovered he is gay. He is summarily dismissed from the Boy Scouts with the blessing of his church. Overnight he has gone from a highly respected leader of boys to a stigmatized, rejected, unworthy outcast simply because someone finds out he is gay. Incomprehensible! In terms of the church's incongruous position on this issue, I suppose one would have to determine that what church leaders say is not always what they do.
To my way of thinking, the church continues to function in a state of denial regarding the issue of sexual orientation. Church leaders continue to teach concepts about the nature of homosexuality that fly in the face of the consensus of scientific data. They continue to support and encourage reparative therapy for gays even though every major national mental health association has rejected its use. All efforts on the part of homosexual Mormons and their families to engage church leadership in any meaningful dialogue about homosexuality has failed. We regard this lack of understanding, support and communication as being insensitive and apathetic. How can an institution supposedly founded on Christian love treat the pain, suffering, shattered families and suicides being endured by a sizable segment of our church community with what we perceive to be such cold disregard.
One final point of interest: The moral code of the church in dealing with homosexuals has reverted back to the 1968 version. Church discipline occurs only when one "crosses the line" and engages in homosexual acts.
After completing this review of the L.D.S. church and homosexuality, my conclusions are very clear. I believe that the positions taken by church leaders on homosexuality are categorically not inspired doctrine and do not come from divine revelation. They appear to be policies that just "evolved" and therefore, for me, reflect strongly upon the notion of infallibility of ecclesiastical leaders. The phenomenon of homosexuality has always been present as a variation of human sexuality. It was certainly a known practice in 1830. Why did it take church leaders over 100 years to determine that homoerotic love was sinful, and establish an official church policy against it?
At this juncture I began to speculate in a manner similar to author Terri Tempest Williams. She wrote the following in her new book, "Leap." "What happens when our institutions no longer serve us, no longer reflect the truth of our own experience? What we know is not what we hear."
Gospel and Doctrine Versus Church and Policy
Someone recently asked me, "What kind of impact has this issue, with all of its implications, had on your faith and testimony and your relationship with the church." The answer, in part at least, is that I've been forced to make two very important distinctions: first, there is a difference between doctrine and policy; second, there is a difference between the gospel and the church.
I interpret gospel and doctrine to be those eternal truths, principles and ordinances necessary for me and my family to obtain salvation and exaltation. On the other hand, I believe church and policy have to do with temporal and transitory institutional matters dealing with church administration and procedures where crucial mistakes in decision making on the part of fallible church leaders is not only possible, but inevitable.
In this light I would like to discuss two major decisions made by church leaders that I believe fall into the church /policy category. They are, 1) the restriction that was placed upon blacks from holding the priesthood, and 2) present policies directed toward gays and lesbians. For me, such a discussion points out two significant things. First, present church policy effecting homosexuals is not the first time a large segment of the church community has been disenfranchised from participating in full fellowship in the church. The policy denying blacks the priesthood from 1852 to 1978 offers a striking precedent. Secondly, placing the two policies side by side makes for a very interesting comparison as can be seen in the following nine points:
l. Both policies target significant minority populations that have been and still are victims of cultural discrimination.
2. The end result of both policies was and is to prohibit blacks and gays from functioning with full acceptance in the church unless they accomplished the impossible — change their skin color or change their sexual orientation.
3. Rather than being unambiguously clear and definitive, the origins of these policies seem to be muddled, confusing and shrouded in obscurity.
4. There appears to be no empirical or even strong persuasive circumstantial evidence that the priesthood policy originated with church founder, Joseph Smith. Similarly, the Prophet said nothing and wrote nothing indicating the necessity of any policy directed toward gay and lesbian members.
5. There is no evidence of any "official revelation" given by the Lord to the body of the church through a church prophet for either the priesthood policy or the homosexual policy.
6. Neither the priesthood policy nor the gay /lesbian policy could pass Apostle Hugh B. Brown's litmus test for determining whether a church doctrine or policy becomes binding on church membership or not, namely, a) are the policies contained within or consistent with the Standard Works, b) have they been reviewed by all of the brethren, c) have they been submitted to and accepted in the highest councils of the church, and d) have they been presented to and approved by the whole body of the church.
7. No reasonable case can be made for justifying either policy by an unbiased interpretation and application of scripture.
8. The priesthood restriction evidently became an official church policy when Brigham Young "announced" it to be such when speaking to a joint session of the Utah legislature in 1852. It remained relatively unchallenged for the next 120 years. The gay policy evolved enigmatically through the 1950s and the 1960s and got into church policy handbooks in 1968. It has remained relatively unchallenged for the past 30+ years.
9. When the priesthood policy was rescinded in 1978, it appears that all of the basic "doctrinal" pillars upon which the policy was established collapsed. The reversal of this policy is found in the Standard Works as Declaration 2. It is my hope that someday soon the gay policy will also be changed because all of the pillars upon which this policy is based will also collapse and the reversal of the policy will be entered into the Standard Works as Declaration 3.
It is my humble opinion that these two major decisions made by church leadership are flawed policies, not divine revelation. At this point I return to the previously stated dilemma - how does one deal with the fact that official church teachings on a major theological issue do not reflect the truths of my own personal revelation received through individual prayer, research and experiences?
Adapting to the Hard Spot
I would like to share with you how I have dealt with this specific dilemma and the whole notion of gospel and doctrine versus church and policy in a very practical way by citing several examples:
1) In late 1999 or early 2000, a missionary couple is called to serve in a very unusual and questionable assignment. The Elder and his wife clear an area along the southwest shore of Utah Lake and then plant and cultivate a variety of grains in order to entice geese, pheasants, ducks and chukkars to land and feed. Hunting permits are then sold, some as high as $1500.00, so hunters can come onto the property and "harvest" the birds. The missionary couple openly discusses the fact that this Presiding Bishopric operation is established for the primary purpose of making money for the church. I am personally appalled at this unnecessary, hunting for mere sport venture, which demonstrates a total disregard for the sanctity of life. While this distasteful, modern day enterprise endorses the idea of sacrificing principle for profit, it has for me, nothing to do with the fact that heavenly personages visited the earth in the early 19th century to restore the fullness of the gospel through the prophet, Joseph Smith.
2) For years I have questioned why the church does not provide members with full and open disclosure concerning money coming in from tithing, etc., and how and for what purposes that money is spent. Church leaders are using the organizational network and these financial resources of the church to undermine the efforts to guarantee gays and lesbians their civil rights through state sanctioned civil unions. I have no qualms about using all of my resources to oppose this church policy and support legislation that will allow my daughter and others to move closer to the realities of equal protection under the law.
3) In the fall of 1999, I was a co-lecturer with Warren Aston who wrote the book, "In the Footsteps of Lehi." We traced the journey of Lehi and his family described in the 2nd through the 18th chapters of 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. Aston showed slides he took at the Wadi Sayq-Khor Kharfot area, a lush inlet along the southern coast of Yemen, and we proposed that this was the site of the ancient "Bountiful." I felt no conflict at all when on the Saturday following the lecture I marched with the Human Rights group in the gay pride parade in downtown Salt Lake City.
4) If a flawed policy denied blacks the priesthood for 126 years, it doesn't influence my belief in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
5) If I have irreconcilable differences with church leadership on the gay issue, it doesn't negate my belief that the comprehensive plan of salvation found in the restored gospel still represents the most logical and meaningful answers to questions of my origin, purpose and destiny and how the human soul fits into the endlessness of space and the endlessness of time.
In conclusion may I say that this is not the end of my journey as it relates to homosexuality. I will tirelessly continue to try to educate people about the nature of homosexuality and sexual orientation. I will continue to fight against hatred, intolerance, prejudice and homophobia wherever and whenever possible. I will continue to lobby and petition L.D.S. church leaders to reconsider and then change present policies directed toward homosexuals.
I believe there is strong precedent and compelling rationale for changing church policies that may have been established with the best available knowledge at the time but are later proven to be ill founded. For 126 years Latter-Day Saints were told by church leaders that descendants of Cain were "cursed insofar as receiving the priesthood," would "go down unto death" before receiving the priesthood, and " could never hold the priesthood until all other descendants of Adam received the blessings of the priesthood and the keys thereof." The basic premise given for this church policy was the speculation that while in the pre-existence blacks had been "less valiant" or had rejected the priesthood there.
When this policy was rescinded in 1978, all of the basic pillars upon which it had been constructed appeared to collapse. Blacks could, after all, receive the priesthood in this lifetime, would not have to wait to receive the priesthood until all of the descendants of Adam received it, and were not, in fact, "cursed" insofar as receiving the priesthood. President David O. McKay made his feelings known regarding any curse upon blacks in this 1958 statement. "There is no doctrine in this church and there never was a doctrine in this church to the effect that the Negroes are under any kind of divine curse."
How could a policy the Saints were told was right for so long turn out to be so wrong? It happens! Following the announcement that the priesthood policy had been rescinded, one church apostle is quoted as saying to a reporter, "Forgive me. I was wrong wasn't I, and so were a lot of others." What a tragedy if in the future General Authorities would have to say the same regarding the policy on homosexuality. Although the stand taken by the church on homosexuality and the priesthood issue has adversely impacted the lives of those targeted, in many ways the fallout from the gay policy has been considerably worse than that from the failed priesthood policy. Few, if any black persons committed suicide because they were restricted from holding the priesthood. Despondent gay Mormons take their own lives with alarming frequency because of the church's rhetoric and actions directed against them. Utah ranks first in the nation for suicide among adolescent males and the rate is three times higher for those young men who are gay. Black males were not driven out of their homes and ostracized by their families because they couldn't be given the priesthood. Among gay and lesbian members, this is an ongoing occurrence in thousands of L.D.S. homes.
Few, if any families were torn apart with divorce, estrangement, and bitterness because of the priesthood ban, but our church community reverberates continuously with just such after shocks from the gay policy. How many blacks left the church, voluntarily had their names removed from church records, or were excommunicated as a result of the priesthood policy? Gay Mormons are leaving the church in droves. Their faith has been shattered and in many cases their precious and priceless testimonies are weakened, broken and eventually lost because of the words and actions emanating from church hierarchy.
Church leaders are held in very high esteem by the average church member, even to the point of idolization. As they meet with the saints around the world, they are treated with the highest honor and respect. Their word is taken as "gospel," and "follow the brethren" is the code phrase for an admonition to place complete trust in church leadership for almost every aspect of one's life. With this honor and trust, however, comes tremendous responsibility and accountability. Their stewardship pertaining to the saints is one of a shepherd watching over his flock of believers.
On an occasion when Jesus and the apostles were on the road to Capernaum, Jesus instructed His followers about the necessity of humility, being truly converted, and becoming as little children in our faith. The Savior makes it clear that anyone using their influence, power, authority or trust in such a way as to "offend" — that is, cause any of His true believers to stumble or go astray - would be subjected to the severest of penalties. The scriptures say that, "it would be better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." When it becomes evident that the church's position on the homosexuality issue is another hierarchical blunder, the consequences for those involved are self-evident.
I ask myself, why would the church want to add to the legacies of polygamy and the priesthood policy a third major ill-fated decision which is causing so much turmoil in the church and is destined to be changed sometime in the future. President Kimball and other church leaders in the 1970s did not originate the policy that restricted blacks from holding the priesthood. They inherited it - and eventually changed it. Current church leaders did not originate the present policy concerning gays and lesbians. They inherited it. It is my desire and strong recommendation that they will reconsider and then change the current church position relative to our homosexual brothers and sisters and thus welcome, with unqualified acceptance, yet another disenfranchised segment of our church community into full fellowship in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To do so would be an expression of love and concern for the welfare of individuals consistent with the highest standards of Christianity.
Finally, after considerable introspection, research and prayer, I have come to share a common belief with attorney and author Paul Toscano. "Responsible dissent possesses the spiritual power to awaken consciousness, raise awareness, create paradigms, alter opinions, heal wounds and bring wholeness and holiness to our church community."