16 June 2009

Reply To Casey, Chapter Two

This is the second post I promised in response to Casey, and particularly his statement that "homosexuality might have the potential to prevent someone from obtaining their full inheritance." By "full inheritance" I believe he means exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. He recently reiterated this in a prior thread by quoting Doc. & Cov. 131:1~3: "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it."

Casey has hit on the most irreconcilable conundrum created by Mormon scripture. If we interpret the new and everlasting covenant of marriage to mean that I must be eternally sealed to at least one woman in order to qualify for the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, and IF we assume this is the last word on the subject never to be changed or expanded on and there are no other possibilities (e.g. the new & everlasting covenant might allow for more forms of marriage than Casey envisions), then in all good faith I and countless others at this point can do nothing more than say "No thanks. Not now, not then." As Daniel said, that would be my idea of hell, not heaven. In all honesty, I am not capable. This is not theoretical with me. I know this because I tried it once and the result was miserable. Unlike many other gay guys, I actually have experienced first hand all the ups and downs and every aspect of heterosexual marital intimacy, in all facets, happy, sad, and in between. So I speak from experience in saying that, having been released from it, I can't do it again. Based on my current understanding of myself and the gospel, rather than being so yoked for eternity I would rather remain single.

In saying this, I mean no disrespect to any daughter of God. They are wonderful, priceless. I honor and respect them. My own little daughter is a miraculous delight and I love her to distraction. But not in the way I would an eternally co-equal companion. When it comes to that kind of relationship, never again with a woman. I could not in honesty or integrity commit myself to something like that which I know I am incapable of sustaining.

And let me stress the following: even if I remained strictly celibate and totally compliant with the Church's teachings in this regard for the rest of my mortal life, if my eternal reward for such longsuffering is to return to a heterosexual marriage, then based on what I know of myself right now, I still would not want it. God knows this, of course, about me and countless others. He would not force me into a relationship I didn't want. And I know I'm not the only one like this. So where do we end up, after that lifetime of loneliness, gritting our teeth, and cold showers, if we don't want the reward? Sometimes I wonder if straight members of the Church even comprehend this or how hollow it makes the promises of "eternal blessings" seem.

It's no wonder that by LDS Social Services' own statistics, about 80% of Church members who are gay are leaving the Church. As I considered some of Casey's statements and their implications, I comprehended more than I ever did before why so many gay Saints have taken their own lives. Because they want so much to be faithful and true, to grab the brass ring, to have eternal increase, but if Doc. & Cov. 131:1~3 really is the final word, then for them celestial glory means nothing but eternal misery. Why not just jump the queue if the end they're supposed to be enduring till is an end they find repugnant at the very core of their being? This is the conundrum which a gay friend of mine, one of the 80% who have left the Church precisely because of these intolerable conflicts, says "drives us to madness." He served an honorable mission, returned, was honest with himself and his family, came out, evaluated his future with the Church, and left. He tells me that in light of what the Church offers him, he will be quite satisfied to "live a fulfilling life with a man, and that's that." Many, many others tell the same story. The Church simply asks too much of them and gives too little assurance in return.

This is why only new revelation will resolve these intolerable dilemmas that are driving so many out of the Church. Because as it now stands, the Church is basically telling many, many people that the top tier is completely out of reach for them. That they have no hope of happiness in this life or the next. And if they try to qualify by marrying someone of the opposite gender in this life, odds are they will create only broken hearts, families, hopes and lives.

Fortunately the Church seems to have learned its lesson on this latter point at least and now counsels its gay members not to do that. But that still doesn't answer the question: what hope do gay Saints have when the Church now affirmatively tells them not to do the very thing Casey points to as the essential, non-negotiable requirement for top tier exaltation?

Some may say this is precisely what the Atonement is intended to compensate for. That the Atonement will change hearts and desires so that everybody who wants to can get in. That somehow in the eternities it will all be fixed, which ultimately means nobody will be gay anymore. But that is a brand-new doctrine and a fundamental shift in Church teachings for which I find no scriptural basis. It has emerged only in the last few years as the Church has begun moving away from its prior insistence that this was all just chosen misbehavior, not a condition, and that it could be changed and cured in this life. Now it concedes that that "may" not be possible. So it had to find some method of explaining away its prior assertions.

In 1992 the Church issued to local leaders a pamphlet called ""Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems". It reiterated many prior positions by the Church, e.g. homosexual thoughts and feelings "can and should be overcome," people were not "born that way," therapy can "cure" the "condition", and so forth. Now the Church has shifted significantly away from those claims and says, contrary to prior positions, that "attractions alone do not make you unworthy", that homosexuality may be a "core characteristic" that cannot be "overcome in this life," and that gay Saints may have to "simply endure" it.

Conspicuously absent from the latest publications is the prior promise that "individual effort, faith and the atonement" will fix homosexuality in mortality. That has now been deferred to the next life. Those who in 1992 were promised a fix which never happened must now decide how much faith they can risk placing in this new promise of a "cure" sometime after mortality. Since the Church has always taught that the same spirit we have when we leave this life will possess our bodies in the next life, if that change does not occur in mortality, then I will be forgiven some skepticism about it happening in the hereafter. I'll be 100% blunt: I don't trust the Church on this issue anymore. The shift away from prior ignorance came only grudgingly and at the cost of many lives, literally, suicides driven by despair, no hope, and harassment by the Church itself, and it happened only when that prior ignorance could no longer withstand the growing mountain of evidence that the Church was wrong. And it came not from the prophet in General Conference, but off the cuff in a staged "interview" with one apostle and one member of the Seventy, a setting which we're justified in saying makes their statements nothing but personal opinion. It comes concurrently with other senior Church authorities actively spreading untruths about the political and legal consequences of same-sex marriage. The credibility bank is just about tapped out here.

As best I can tell right now, LDS theology allows only three possibilities for the eternal destiny of God's gay children: (1) they will not be gay in the eternities having been somehow transformed against their will at some point (a possibility which I and others reject because it conflicts with what we most deeply feel inside, which no scripture supports, and which seems to contradict the BoM), or (2) they will be locked out of the top tier because of a characteristic which they did not choose (which violates every basic Gospel principle), or (3) there is more to learn about the CK and what relationships will prevail there, and they may actually have some hope of landing there after all in relationships that would be heaven for them.

For now, I have no choice but to believe that God who knows my heart better than any other recognizes the impossible situation in which the Church currently places me and so many others. I have to trust that He knows (1) I want eternal increase and limitless possibilities, I don't want to settle for less; (2) I also would be miserable if I were sealed eternally to one or more women but inexpressibly, radiantly, celestially happy to be so with another of His sons, (3) I want to follow the Savior in every way. Current Church teachings make it impossible to harmonize all three of these. But if Section 138 is correct that we will be judged not only by our works but also "the desire of [our] hearts", and if the 9th Article of Faith's promise of more great and marvelous revelations is to be believed, then I have to conclude that Section 131 is not a complete statement of all possibilities and that somehow some provision will be made to reconcile all of these completely pure and righteous desires without conflict. Thank God for continuing revelation and the 9th Article of Faith.

8 comments:

Daniel said...

This is a gem of a post, Alan.

I've said it before--the Church's promise is this: "If you deny yourself what you want for your whole life, when you die, I'll give you what you never wanted!"

El Genio said...

I have been thinking a lot lately about "eternal increase and limitless possibilities" and have come to the conclusion that I am no longer that concerned about whether this is possible for me. What I really want is the simple assurance that I can be together forever with my future husband, family, & friends.

Joe Conflict said...

You put it so well Alan. Its hard to be so uncomfortable with this one aspect of the church when so much else is so wonderful.

Do you take the good where you find it, suffering through this life, or do you move on towards the creation of your own good?

Casey said...

One of the reasons I love the LDS version of the Gospel more than the traditional view is because it allows for gradients in the next life. Most of Christianity, and in fact even Judaism and Islam, as I understand them, offer heaven or hell.

In heaven, we would spend eternity singing praises to God with no concept any more of family or loved ones. In hell we would burn and suffer for ever. Most of Christianity would condemn gays to hell. (I'm being very general, of course).

The following is my opinion and only my opinion, and can't (as far as I know) be backed up with scripture....

I believe most of us will have in the next life exactly what we want to have. If you (term used loosely and not directed at anyone) wish with all your heart to spend eternity with another man, I expect you will have that chance.

But I am not willing, not at ALL willing, to believe in a God that made any of his children incapable of obtaining eternal marriage with someone of the opposite gender, eternal increase, and happiness in doing so all in the same package.

If this is not what you want, that is another matter entirely and I don't believe it will be forced upon you. But when I hear someone say "I can't have it, I am gay and so it's not an option for me"... well... wow.

When it comes to obtaining goals in the next life, I don't think "can't" should be a part of our vocabulary.

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Quoth Casey: "But I am not willing, not at ALL willing, to believe in a God that made any of his children incapable of obtaining eternal marriage with someone of the opposite gender...When I hear someone say 'I can't have it, I am gay and so it's not an option for me'... well... wow.
"When it comes to obtaining goals in the next life, I don't think 'can't' should be a part of our vocabulary."

...Which begs a question. Were the tables turned, would you--as a straight man--be able to be married to a man? For mortality? For eternity?
Perhaps "can't" can be re-inserted into our vocab (probably not categorically, but certainly for some) when we "walk two moons in another man's moccasins", as the Indian saying goes.

AmbiguouS One said...

Where did you get your statistics about LDS Family Services? I would be interested in viewing those.

Great post! I think I may actually recommend this to some straight allies.

I love that you admitted that you don't trust the Church on this issue anymore. A lot of people think that but are unwilling to say it. And you have to say what's in your heart.

austin said...

You didn't mention this explicitly, but the idea that homosexuality, like a gambling addiction or alcoholism, is just a genetic predisposition that can be overcome in the next life is an idea worth debunking. The obvious problem with that is that we can clearly see that a man who spends all day in a casino or online losing money is hurting his and his family's well-being. A drunkard lying in the street is clearly doing damage to himself and his loved ones. But homosexuality, when practiced chastely as you put it, does nothing but good. It is love, and it promotes healthy, stable relationships. Why overcome that?

Alan said...

@Austin:

At the risk of stealing some of Casey's thunder, I'm going to take a guess as to how he'd respond (if he's even still following this thread!).

He would say that your point is irrelevant because he's not talking about (or "just about") this life only. He's talking about "eternal inheritance" which consists of exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom within a heterosexual temple marriage.

THAT, he says, would be foreclosed by anything less than strict compliance with LDS Church standards in this life, and if you are homosexual, then that means celibacy and keeping temple covenants whatever the cost in personal difficulty and endurance.

If that is the goal and purpose, and it is for him, then the fact that a faithful, committed, "monogamous" homosexual relationship in this life may do nothing but good for its partners, temporally speaking, means nothing. Because it will still shut those partners out of eligibility for the top eternal tier which is for Casey the only thing that matters.

Personally, I believe any active Mormon with Casey's perspective would find it difficult to comprehend a willing choice to forego that top tier. This is understandable, since the Church is relentless in teaching from age 3 onward that CK Top Floor is the only place worth thinking about. But when the Church itself sets a pre-condition for getting there which some cannot imagine ever being capable of or wanting, now or then, well, what other choice do they have?