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Charity Toward Elder Bruce Hafen’s Evergreen talk – Part III

September 28, 2009

So, which wolf is the gay one?

So, which wolf is the gay one?

This article is the third part of a series. See Part I and Part II.

The next part of Elder Hafen’s speech involves several…odd…analogies. The first one is a metaphor that relates temptation to sin. Hafen points out that homosexual thoughts, inclinations and desires aren’t sinful, but acting upon them is. This is noncontroversial and is the current LDS perspective. His metaphor: it’s ok if a bird lands in your tree…just don’t let him take nest…right.

The next analogy is more serious. As Mormons already know, the Devil and God are raging inside of us. So, when faced with liberty and eternal life…or captivity and death…which will we choose?

Hafen actually raises a well-known Native American parable (or at least, well-known to recipients of feel-good spiritual chain letter emails…I don’t know if it’s an authentic parable.) Every person has two dogs/wolves within them. One is “good” and brings peace. The other is “evil” and angry. If both have about the same strength, which one wins? Check after the break…

Awesome album title, BTW

Awesome album title, BTW

The one you feed. (GASP!)

Now…to the faithful, orthodox (or orthodox-seeking) gay Mormon, Elder Hafen’s comments that cultivating lustful feelings, viewing pornography, taking the gay label or even associating with those who promote the gay lifestyle (whatever that entails) feed the angry dog may resonate. After all, they know that true joy is eternal. Wickedness never was happiness.

Obviously, though, once again, if you are not orthodox-seeking (shame on you!), then this won’t be compelling. After all…I’m not a lawyer like Elder Hafen is or anything, but committed loving relationships seem more conducive to “peace” and “goodness” to me than self-denial and seclusion. I guess I just see through a glass, darkly.

Similarly, when Hafen says, “You feed the peaceful dog when you simply stop fighting the angry dog,” I have a “testimony” of that too, if you will. It seems to me that all of this misery, denial, and self-rejection is fighting the so-called angry dog. Maybe that dog is angry because he’s been holed up forever and neglected? Maybe if people were advised to become better stewards of such dogs, then they wouldn’t be angry anymore. Didn’t think about that, eh?

In his discussion of the Atonement, Hafen reiterates that the attractions themselves aren’t sin…but since they can make people feel estranged from God (I would propose a different explanation for why this is the case than Elder Hafen’s…but let’s go with the faithful, orthodox-seeking one), gay and lesbian women could use more of the Atonement in their lives. Throughout this passage, there is some sketchy faith/works stuff here (oh…so grace, a gift that we do not deserve and cannot earn…is conditioned on “all we can do”?), but this paper isn’t about Protestantism vs. Mormonism. So, continuing on…probably one of the best things Hafen does is iterate that “all we can do” isn’t “doing it all.” And with the Atonement, perhaps the afflictions won’t be so painful.

The golden part of Hafen’s speech (speaking from orthodoxy) is the assurance that the gay Mormons and lesbians will not be ineligible for exaltation, marriage, and eternal family life, should they endure to the end.

But then things start getting really sketchy. Let’s take this quote and Hafen’s analogy to the gay Mormon struggle:

That story from the book of Daniel applies to this blessing as well.  You will remember that when the three men refused to worship the Babylonian idol, they weren’t afraid of being thrown into the fiery furnace.  They said, “Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us.  But if not, we [still] will not worship the golden image” (Daniel 3:17-18).

Relating back to homosexuality, gay Mormons are supposed to fully trust that God is able to deliver them from their affliction (their homosexuality) [in this life]…but if not, they still should not succumb to this homosexuality. To me, this just raises so many questions…like the Riddle of Epicurus. If God is able to prevent this, but unwilling…then what? (Oh right, opposition in all things! Carry on.)

Hafen then goes into a telling of history (however opportunistic one considers it). I must admit I won’t analyze it in depth, because by this point, charity does run thin and I do start to feel like an apologist, twisting things beyond their salient meaning and intention. Quite simply, this is designed to be a faith-promoting history…validation for those who choose not to act on their homosexuality.

Hafen’s explanation for the inception of homosexuality and lesbianism in people is in the similar category…To be faith-promoting, he must take all the data and make it friendly to his case that homosexuality should not be regarded well or “given in to.” Here does come suggested correlation to sexual abuse. Here does come a novel explanation that boys growing up just are interested in boys and some guys don’t “graduate” to girls. He builds upon his case by arguing how “contrary to society” gay marriage would be and is. This lengthy part of his talk was and is painful for me to read. Nevertheless, it still fits and matches the most recent tone of LDS conversation regarding homosexuality.

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17 Comments
  1. Hafen actually raises a well-known Native American parable. Every person has two dogs/wolves within them.

    I would have been much happier had he used “wolf” instead of “dog”.

  2. Why? Because wolves are so much cooler than dogs?

  3. Well…. yes, actually. Dogs connotate dirty, mangy, low-bred organisms that are reviled. Wolves tend to at least have the connotation of intelligence associated with them. Calling someone a wolf is far different from calling them a dog.

    I mean, think about it – b-itch means “female dog” and denotes a woman who is irrational and rude and obnoxious. She-wolf, on the other hand, just sounds awesome and dominant.

  4. what?!

    Dogs are man’s best friend! Dog’s are trainable, teachable, willing to please, a joy. Wolves are scary, undomesticated, dangerous, “unknown.”

    I see your point about female dogs…but personally, I think people KNOW that it’s the female cats that we have more to worry about.

    What a diversity of connotations! English: inferior language.

  5. skiutah permalink

    I don’t understand the two dog parable. As a heterosexual male, there is only one dog that I have any desire to feed, I am only attracted to women. I assume it is the same for homosexual males, in that they are naturually attracted towards males (as much as a heterosexual male is to a female).

    So if Elder Hafen (and the LDS brethren) insist there are two distinct dogs to feed, meaning that a gender preference choice occurs, does this mean that the LDS brethren have gay tendencies, since they can conceive that there is a choice?

    If LDS leaders were heterosexual males, they would agree that there is no choice when it comes to their sexual preference. So why do the LDS brethren insist a binary choice occurs?

  6. Skiutah:

    Elder Hafen’s analogy doesn’t mean specifically that everyone has homosexual and heterosexual ‘dogs’ competing. Rather the two dogs are : one dog of peace, goodness, and other “virtues”, and one dog of anger, badness, and other “vices”. On this issue, Hafen is saying that heterosexuals’ orientation naturally is virtuous (of course, even straight people can sin due to sexuality – premarital or extramarital unchastity). On the other hand, Hafen is saying that for homosexuals to act on their orientation would always feed the bad dog.

    This is not about a choice with orientation, because Hafen recognizes that there is no sin unless one ACTS inappropriately. However, where straight people have a morally sanctioned method to engage in their sexuality (marriage), homosexuals do not.

    So feeding the “good” dog in Hafen’s analogy doesn’t mean to become straight…no, it means to abstain from any homosexual acts.

  7. Amy permalink

    I think that one has to embrace the angry dog. Because once you do this, you realize that all along, the good dog and the evil dog were actually the same dog. And the qualities that both supply to are what make an individual unique, interesting, and HUMAN.

  8. Amy, I kinda get what you’re saying, but what if we stretched this out to other acts and qualities.

    “I think that one has to embrace lust. Because once you do that, you realize that all along, committed relationships and promiscuous lust were the same thing. The qualities that both supply to are what make an individual unique, interesting, and HUMAN.” (This applies to straights, gays, and bisexuals.)

    Or

    “I think one has to embrace eating all the jelly donuts. Because once you do this, you realize all along, that controlled eating and eating all the jelly donuts are the same thing. And the qualities that both supply to are what make an individual unique, interesting, and HUMAN.”

    I think the point is that there are some things that people would say we may be inclined to do (and they are very “human” things to do)…but it is to our best interest to avoid doing these things. The problem is we can’t agree on what these “things” include.

  9. Amy permalink

    Good call, interesting point.

    On the otherhand, Maybe if we embraced eating jelly doughnuts, we could be moderate and eat just 1 every once and a while instead of indulging ourselves beyond the point of no return. It’s when we try to ignore or mistreat the “bad” dog, that it turns on us.

    I’m going to go eat a doughnut! ;P

  10. While I’m certain *I* could moderate my jelly donut consumption, I’m sure there are other issues that, if I started, I would be hardpressed to control myself.

    Again, you ARE advocating that actions be moderated. You just don’t go as far as Elder Hafen as to say some things should *never* be indulged.

    What if we took an example of things that can potentially be addicting? Would your argument to a cocaine user be, “Just use sparingly!” or would it be closer to, “Don’t use at all; you don’t want to risk addiction”?

  11. Amy permalink

    Yes, very nice example.
    It shows how a persons culture determines which things are labeled “bad”.

    My “argument” (your word, not mine ;P) is that indulgence and lust are intrinsically human. . . neither good or bad, just the condition of one’s dog.

    Personally I think addiction is a sign of an “injured dog”. And that homosexuality, is not an indulgence.

    You’re right, the analogy wasn’t suited for Hafen’s use, but in his narrow world, the analogy was perfect to him because he sees homosexuality as being an indulgence. . . not really lust itself, because I’m sure he thinks it’s fine to have lust for one’s own opposite-gendered spouse.

  12. I agree with your point. Unfortunately, unless the church changes its views regarding what it believes appropriate sexual expression to be, Hafen will still consider the analogy apt…and he’l be able to appeal to people’s feelings regarding other things. For example, if people view addiction as an indulgence that leads long term injury, then all the church has to do is convince people that homosexuality should culturally be viewed in a similar sort of view.

  13. Amy permalink

    I think the miscommunication lies with myself talking about the wolf analogy generally without taking into consideration the context it is here in this string.
    I should have kept it about Hafen’s inappropriate and self-righteous use of the analogy. Instead, I posted only about the the analogy as a basic philosophy and my thoughts on it.
    I should have specified, I didn’t even realize my mistake until you expressed my postings as being arguments.
    Sorry All!

  14. Bill Rice permalink

    Evergreen issued a statement in response to the criticism over Elder Hafen’s talk. It says that “Evergreen appreciates Elder Hafen’s kind and direct instruction to live gospel standards as we struggle through life’s challenges. Evergreen sustains the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception. Evergreen testifies that people do overcome homosexual behavior and diminish same-sex attractions. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.”

    See Evergreen’s statement at http://evergreeninternational.org/2009-conference-response-hafen.html

  15. Maryann permalink

    This long and wordy article is a perfect example of avoiding a simple truth: If you believe the gospel is true and you are gay—you must abstain, JUST as single heterosexual people must abstain. it is a simple and eternal concept. The law of chastity demands it and NO ONE, regardless of sexual preference, is excused from abiding by this law. When we “stone” our modern day Prophet and Apostles through mocking their words and rationalizing our sins, we withdraw ourselves from the Spirit of the Lord. Satan’s new, and yet very old, doctrine today is the syrupy teaching that God will always smile down upon us and his love will somehow erase our unrepented sin.

  16. Maryann,

    I have written another article, “What Every Faithful, Same-Sex Attracted Member of the Church MUST know” that kinda addresses what you’re saying here.

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  1. Charity Toward Elder Bruce Hafen’s Evergreen talk – Part II « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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