Charity Toward Elder Bruce Hafen’s Evergreen talk – Part II
Next, Hafen begins to relate the doctrinal foundation of what he is saying. This part (and the paragraph I will quote) features some of what people have seen as the most controversial parts of Hafen’s talk, but actually, they aren’t all that controversial. Here’s what we are dealing with:
You are literally God’s spirit child. Having same-gender attraction is NOT in your DNA, but being a child of God clearly IS in your spiritual DNA—only one generation removed from Him whom we call Father in Heaven. As the family proclamation states, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” As part of an eternal plan, our Father placed us in this world subject to death, sin, sorrow, and misery—ALL of which serve the eternal purpose of letting us taste the bitter that we may learn to prize the sweet.
WHAT?! How can Hafen speak about genetics?! He’s a lawyer! …wait, hold on…let’s read what he’s saying.
While later comments in this speech might lead us to reasonably believe that Hafen truly means to say that there is no genetic basis for homosexuality (and this topic will not go into that)…I don’t think it would be to apologetic of me to suggest that this isn’t even the intent of his comment in this line. Rather, look at what directly precedes and directly follows the comment. Hafen states uncontroversially (especially for Mormons): You are literally God’s spirit child. What does this mean? Well, I’m sure we can talk about the dynamics of spirit procreation later, but whatever the method, he means that we are literally related to God. I don’t know if that involves literal DNA, but it certainly involves some kind of spiritual passing down of information.
And look! right after his controversial comment, he follows up with, “but being a child of God clearly IS in your spiritual DNA.”
So isn’t it more reasonable to assume he’s not making a claim about human genetics, but about spiritual genetics? I hope that doesn’t sound too convoluted and apologetic…
Now, sure, Hafen makes the mistake of confusing “orientation” with “gender” (protip: gays and lesbians aren’t “confused” about gender…so of course, a gay Mormon can buy eternal gender…it doesn’t say anything ill about his or her homosexuality, however.) But ignoring that (since that would be a standard doctrinal point to our Evergreen Mormon), Hafen does say that our entrance into the world comes with all kinds of bitter things…so even though homosexuality (which Hafen would say is “bitter” and “miserable”) is not in our spiritual DNA, there’s nothing stopping Hafen from conceding that it very well could be in one’s physical DNA…but such would be expected in a fallen world.
The next line is curious.
If you are faithful, on resurrection morning—and maybe even before then—you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex.
Many have read this line unfavorably…but the way I see it, it actually represents a progression for the church. Originally, the church viewed homosexuality as something that should be fixed in this life (and so they had the electroshock therapy to help with that). Over time, the position softened…and with the pamphlet God Loveth His Children, the position changed to this:
While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life.
This was still not the greatest concession…after all, the “many” implies that a lot of people “overcome,” and that the “others” are some marginal group. HOWEVER, this message was incredibly progressive for at least recognizing that some won’t be free.
And now, with Hafen’s comments, we have what I think is more progress. Now, the focus is on resurrection morning…and maybe before that. So, it seems that the church (vis Hafen) is recognizing that homosexuality isn’t something that goes away. Hafen has retreated doctrinally to Heaven…and for the devout Mormon, that may be compelling. (Me personally…I don’t live for Heaven. I live for life.)
Hafen worries that his doctrinal proposal might be too good to be true, but I’m thinking most gay members would view this as too good to be true. Rather, it would not be good enough. They essentially must conclude that they probably will not be able to experience a committed, loving relationship in this lifetime…and this lifetime is pretty “persistent,” even if one believes in an afterlife that follows. The grand prize of “enduring to the end” never seems “too good.” It seems like a letdown. But if a gay member can be content to realize that celestial glory is still within his reach (even if it takes a difficult life), then I guess it would seem, as Hafen says, too good to be true.
In part III, I’ll take a look at Elder Hafen’s creative analogies and metaphors for homosexuality.