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(I Hope) It Gets Better, the BYU Gay Mormon edition

April 6, 2012

On Facebook, I’ve seen this BYU-student-created edition of the It Gets Better video series (for the Trevor Project) linked so many times that I couldn’t resist watching it any longer. And so I did. I’ve embedded the video here for your viewing as well:

Many people have stated that this is the best edition of It Gets Better that they have seen yet…but for me, holy smokes, I’m depressed.

I’ll tell you the reason. It’s purely because of the guy who starts the video. In the beginning, he says:

“I know you expect me to say it gets better, but…if I’m going to be authentic, I can’t say that.”

OK, so this is honest, but…depressing.  He qualifies his statement by saying that he doesn’t know where people are, he doesn’t know others’ experiences…which is true. But from the first line of the video, I was expecting him to at least say that — even if he doesn’t know whether it will get better for you or for me, that it has gotten better for him.

The video features a cast of other gay, lesbian and bisexual students at BYU, and they seem to follow the It Gets Better archetypical narrative more closely. I keep expecting that, at the end, the first guy will end up like the rest, just as satisfied that “it gets better” as the rest of them.

But this person’s last lines come at near the end of the video, around 7:37. After talking about his sister’s old opinions, he says:

…I know she loves, and she tells me that it gets better…and I hope it does.

Even as the video goes on to list a blurb about how BYU has changed its policies to be more tolerant of gay students in different ways, even as the video’s music slides into a more upbeat direction, and even as the other students enthusiastically announce that it gets better, that one guy’s line lingers in my head.

and I hope it does.

I am a bit afraid that some day, some weeks or months or years later, we might see a dreadful article in the news.

How does it get better for Mormons?

Some of the commentary to the video raised another point that particular applies to the Mormon/BYU edition of It Gets Better…the question that arises is this: to what do these students have to look forward?

Usually, the other It Gets Better videos don’t talk about how the various participants have found companionship, people with whom to share their lives…but at the same time, we don’t have to assume that this is a conclusion that is out-of-bounds. However, for these gay and lesbian Mormon students, that conclusion  is certainly less than foregone. In what ways does it get better for a gay Mormon who accepts and affirms both her homosexuality and her Mormonism?

I understand that these people can look forward to celibacy. But notwithstanding the fact that the gay, celibate Mormon blogs I have read often seem too depressing for my comfort (although if that is the cross they want to bear, I guess I can’t fault them for that), it just seems to me that Mormonism and celibacy doesn’t work. It seems like an authentic, even valued option for many other traditions, but in Mormonism, celibacy and singleness seem to be a constant reminder of one’s failure to be the best human being he can be. It’s a tough situation.

In More Depressing News…

The other day, Justin had a post at LDS Anarchy about sexuality and sexual union. There were some interesting ideas in it, and the post reminded me of an article I recently read formulating marriage in terms of natural law and contrasting that to other formulations of marriage (I believe that is Girgis et al’s What is Marriage?) While I still find myself chewing around with the Girgis article — I have to say I find it rather intriguing — I’ll just say that some of the comments to LDS Anarchy were less amusing or thought-provoking. As liv435 wrote:

I think we have enough scriptural evidence that homosexuality is not ordained of God. We can pick apart the scripture all day to make them fit what we believe, but it won’t change the truth. Also I believe that’s called wresting the scriptures and if I remember correctly that’s bad. Some people prefer adulterous relationships because they are exciting. Some people like multiple one night stands. I mean there can be a lot of sexual preferences that I would say are weaknesses to be conquered. I have gay friends and I know the struggle they have gone through but I don’t think it’s any different than the struggle a man would go through if he found himself attracted to little boys.

If there were a version of Bingo with bad arguments about homosexuality and gay relationships, I think I would have won on any bingo board.


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  1. I felt like this:

    I think we have enough scriptural evidence that homosexuality is not ordained of God.

    Kinda glossed right over the distinction I tried to make by saying:

    I think [despite what evangelical America suggests] the scriptures are largely silent on homosexual relationships.
    The scriptures that do condemn “men lying with men as with a woman”, etc. refer more to the practice of either:

    (1) pagan temple sex-rituals or
    (2) the use of anal sex to show “domination” or “subjugation” over a conquered group.

    So it’s possible that those scriptures are condemning those behaviors — not “homosexuality” as such. Homosexuality as a sexual orientation, and gay relationships based on marriage covenants of fidelity between the same gender did not really exist until relatively recently.

    With the exception of the temple’s phrasing for the law of chastity — I’m just not convinced yet that the scriptures condemn the kind of committed, same-gender relationships we have these days.

    So while I can say I don’t quite understand them — I’m not quite to where I could say the scriptures rightly condemn them.

    • – … the scriptures rightly condemn them as too disapprove harlots

      May you rewrite these texts and write a new testament for an actual Harlot-Lesbian-Gay-Fornicator practice of Love commandments as a Holy Inspired Faith Path to go into the Shekinah?

      Lv 18:22; 20:13
      Jc 19:22-30
      Gn 19:1-29
      Dt 23:17-18
      1 Kgs 14:24; 15:12; 22:46
      Jo 36:14
      1 Co 6:9-10
      1 Tim 1:9-11
      Rom 1:26-27

  2. “to what do these students have to look forward?”

    … well, it’s not like these students have to remain celibate after graduation…

    Yes, there’s a lot of progress to be made, but at least these students can be open about their sexuality. I probably would have been able to make it through BYU had I that luxury — and I wouldn’t have had any problem remaining celibate to study there (they have perhaps the best ballroom program available, and I enjoyed their computer science program as well — at a great tuition, nonetheless).

    I’m personally not one to look at the progress of a handicapped [entity] and say, “That’s not enough!” but instead applaud, encourage, and focus on the next goal.

  3. Justin,

    Yeah, I noticed that glossing over as well.


    But it seems that that answer implies that all of these students will be ok with setting aside/dropping their Mormonism at some point. And that they’ll receive support from friends and family for doing so.

  4. Seth R. permalink

    Just got done listening to this interview from an active LDS woman with SSA who married a man and seemed happy with the results. But she was pretty clear that her experience is not universal and going to the the same for everyone. You might be interested:

  5. Seth,

    I remember listening to a FAIRcast episode about a gay man who was living with another gay man…but since he converted, they are just good friends. That was pretty weird.

    I guess I’ll add this to my list of podcasts to listen to…

  6. Seth R. permalink

    They also did a podcast interviewing a gay man and his wife.

    I’m not saying that the interviews are going to “defend the faith” and resolve the LDS Church’s issues with this… well, issue. The interview I finished with didn’t have pat answers and people will likely draw different conclusions from the same interview. Props to FAIR for just allowing the woman to tell her story and let the listener draw whatever conclusions about it they want.

  7. I’m listening to the podcast now. There are several troubling aspects here, but I’ll reserve most of my comments until the end.

    Basically, what I don’t want to have happen is for people to think that mixed-orientation marriages are a Thing that Every Gay Person Should Do.

  8. Gay people can and do have sexual relationships while attending BYU. So do straight people. But it seemed to me that straight people and in particular non-white, straight males were more often than not targeted and severely punished for any expressions of their sexuality….whereas gay white boys were free to express themselves publicly and less likely to be investigated for their private behavior. It was as if they were “off limits” while any careless hetero sexual couples were subject to more severe consequences if discovered and any bold young woman or young non-white males who dared to even feel comfortable with their own sexuality, whether straight or otherwise were definitely targeted and severely punished.

  9. Great line from the podcast, BTW:

    “What is perceived and preached as the plan of happiness does not seem happy to someone who is wired differently. It doesn’t seem good; it doesn’t feel good.”

  10. Elder Chantdown,

    I think that there are two things you’re trying to address here…whether there is racial privilege at BYU, and whether there is orientation privilege at BYU.

    So, you say non-white, straight males would be more likely targeted than gay white boys. But are you saying that gay men or women are less targeted than straight men or women???

    • I am not trying to address WHETHER there is racial privilege at BYU. There most definitely is. Neither am I referring to any article. I am of course aware of those instances that demonstrate harsher punishments for black athletes at BYU. I am merely speaking from personal experiences and observations between 2002 to 2007.

      What I am saying is that there is discrimination at BYU on the basis of race and sexual orientation as well. But the older and more hardened attitude towards non-whites in general and people of African decent in particular is stronger and spills over into the realm of discrimination against people who identify themselves as gay or lesbian. White males who happen to be gay also are much more accepted and less likely to be challenged by “authorities” or fellow students. Because the “whiteness” is supreme and always will go unquestioned. Then males who his-storically have been granted more privilege by society than females find that in certain cultures with very Victorian values, there are advantages granted to the women which can be greatly abused if one has a mind to. So it becomes the ultimate form of privilege for a white male to openly demonstrate outward tendencies commonly referred to as ‘feminine’ and also publicly display affection towards other males in physical ways not ‘traditionally” accepted. A bi-sexual status will confuse many would-be challengers to their privilege and also brings them much envy and adoration from good hearted and therefore socially disadvantaged females.

      Now to be clear I am talking about observations of certain white, gay males and not others. I am not concerned with people’s personal choices and preferences. I am discussing those who recognize and exploit the system of privilege for their personal protection and advantage over others. This to me is of particular concern especially when they do not desire the same level of public comfort and social safety to be enjoyed by others, but rather jealously guard it from others (be they gay, straight, male, female, white or black)

      This group carves for themselves a sort of untouchable status at BYU. With those whom espouse ideas of homosexuality as a sin they will simply deny being gay. It is easy to do because unlike a “dark” skin tone (which will always be a topic of “delightfully superficial” discussion at BYU) one’s sexual orientation is much more private, much more taboo to bring up in a culture of young people sworn to celibacy but at odds with their own nature (be that gay, straight…whatever). There is a plague of “Niceness” in BYU culture and LDS culture in general. Everyone wants to be seen as nice. Many white heterosexual mormons, especially in the younger age groups are very desirous to have “black friends” and “gay friends”. But whereas “gays” are seen by this generation as “harmless”, “black people” and non-whites in general are still considered “dangerous” at least potentially so. This dynamic has everything to do with the way privilege plays out or gets played at BYU. “Boys will be boys” becomes “White boys will be boys, will be girls, will be whatever they want to be!” no one can do or say anything about it without getting into trouble themselves. But a woman who is lesbian is seen as a threat because she is not following the rules set for her life by White Males. And a young person of African heritage can be gay if they wish…but the instant that they are seen as a threat or to have crossed one of the elite “White Boys”, well then their skin tone and their sexual orientation becomes two strikes against them and they are going down.”

      • OK, I have a response that can :

        Black gay male.

        Black straight male.

        Both seen holding hands in public with their significant (but not married) other. Who is more likely to be punished?

      • Seth R. permalink

        It’s been a long time since I read so many unsupported bare assertions in one Internet comment.

        • Its probably been a long time since you heard anyone sharing their personal observations rather than regurgitated opinions of others who have an agenda.

          Was I supposed to base my comments off of something other than firsthand experience and those of close friends and associates during that time I spent in that culture?

          Andrew, I can not say that I have seen a black gay male holding hands with his significant other in public on BYU campus. So I couldn’t speculate as to what would happen. I told you these were personal observations on my part. If someone were to arrange that as an experiment I would wager that the gay couple would receive much more negative attention. But I would be interested to see the specifics of what school action would be taken and any variation in different circumstances. For example two white gay males vs. two white lesbian girls…interracial gay or lesbian couples vs.two black females holding hands etc …etc…I don’t see any reason in ignoring, downplaying or separating the racial issue from the issue of discrimination in regards to other things…Everything is related in one way or anther and has its overlap at very least. Without understanding the “whole” there can be no success in disecting the individual parts of hate or discrimination or fear etc.

          And just to further entertain or irritate Seth…let me throw in some predictions. I do not believe that “It will get better” for anyone within the BYU culture. In humanity as a whole YES. But as far as the future of BYU culture there will appear to be great changes on the external plane. In Utah in general slowly but surely it will seem that “being gay” is becoming increasingly more acceptable. But it will all be a lie…because people (gay, straight, red, yellow etc) either accept themselves or they don’t. And as groups continue to cling on to this idea of acceptance like it is something that society grants to individuals then it will ALL be fake. i predict that we will see more and more people especially in high places in Utah over the coming decades “being gay” but it will be harder and harder for gay people to simply “be”. And this will be as continuation of the roots of belief in inequality between the sexes, between the “races”, between rich and poor etc, etc…Were talking stems and branches here.and to me that is fine…I just thought the whole plant was useful to bring up in order to clearly see and eliminate. But if we just want to tend to the plant of hatred instead of uprooting it then I can see where my comments would be dismissed as “unsupported bare assertions”.

          • Seth R. permalink

            “Its probably been a long time since you heard anyone sharing their personal observations rather than regurgitated opinions of others who have an agenda.”

            I would say you don’t know what you are talking about and that this is a rather ridiculous comment – if you knew my own personal experiences.

            But I know this would be a futile thing to say – because you simply wouldn’t believe me.

            Well same here Elder. I simply don’t believe you. Nor do I find your assertions credible. Nor do you strike me as the sort of person who has a firm grasp on the reality he lives in. You strike me as a rather angry person looking for things to hate in life. Your assertions are broad, over-generalizing, and frankly bigoted. You look around you and you see nothing but filth in the people around you.

            There are plenty of people like you making their views known on the Internet. You’ve made a decision that the world is a certain way. With this foregone conclusion, it will be easy for you to collect little pieces of evidence reinforcing your own prejudices every day of your life. And every day you will feel more and more correct in your assessment of the world around you.

            But don’t expect me to be impressed by it.

  11. Seth R. permalink

    I think Chantdown is referring to the article that talked about a double-standard in the BYU athletics program. The article, if I recall, basically made the point that black athletes tended to get more harshly treated for infractions than whites. I’d be careful about generalizing from BYU athletics department though.

  12. Seth,

    I inferred that as well. But no matter what the double-standard is in the BYU athletics program, I wanted to know whether he believes said double standard is more prevalent/notable than a sexual orientation double standard that I would posit also exists at BYU.

  13. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    I didn’t see anything in the video that implied these folks felt obligated to remain celibate for the rest of their lives.

    Perhaps some of them anticipated that, perhaps some were looking forward to same-sex relationships, perhaps some hadn’t decided yet what to do with that aspect of their lives… The video doesn’t really get into that.

    It is my observation, however, that across the board — whether you are celibate, in a same-sex relationship, or in a mixed orientation marriage, coming out of the closet, acknowledging to yourself and others that you are gay, and finding a supportive community does make things better.

    Yes, gay folks’ relationships with the Church are always going to be complicated, because we are wired to find greatest happiness in a relationship with someone of the same sex. But people still have choices in this area. Even fully embracing a life-long committed relationship with a same-sex partner does not mean we have to abandon our faith as Mormons, though it might mean we face disciplinary consequences. But even then, you face those consequences, and it still gets better. I have a complicated relationship with the Church, obviously. But my life has never been more filled with joy than it is now — with my husband of 19 years, our son, and me embracing my faith.

    The part of the video that interested me most were the comments by individuals who had prayed to God about being gay, and who, in answer to their prayers, had received very intense, personal assurances of God’s 100% complete, total, and unconditional love for them, and reassurance that nothing is wrong with them. That’s where the rubber meets the road, for gay Mormons. It’s only in our relationship with God, where we can begin to resolve some of the “issues” between our faith and our sexuality. “If God is for us, who can stand against us?”

    That’s why I think I can honestly say that the contradiction between being gay and Mormon exists only for others. For me, there’s no contradiction.

  14. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    Oh, and… The liv435’s of the world are out there. You just need to not let them get under your skin.

    My faith is actually a resource to me in helping me deal with them. For example, I found tremendous comfort in President Uchtdorf’s words at Conference to the effect that the moment we judge, we condemn ourselves. Forgiving ALL men includes forgiving ourselves. “We simply have to stop judging others.” “Heaven is filled with those who have this in common: they forgive, and they are forgiven.”

    Rather than freaking out about people’s condemnations of me, if I just forgive them, and focus on being the best person I can be by my own best lights, it gets better.

  15. John,

    Had you read that one paper I linked to in the post:

    I know that you’ll obviously disagree, but I just wanted to hear what you thought.

  16. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    I downloaded the article… It will take time to read the entire 43 page argument.

    Based on what I read of their introduction, it’s obviously not a new argument.

    The problem with a child-rearing based definition of marriage is the undisputed fact that all unions — heterosexual and homosexual — are only ever potentially child-rearing unions. Heterosexual couples can be infertile and they can and do choose not to rear children. So you have to explain why, if marriage is about child-rearing, non-child-rearing heterosexual couples are allowed to be married.

    You also have to explain what socially valuable purpose is served by discriminating against same-sex child-rearing unions (and, along the way, discriminating against the children who grow up in those families).

    They seem to think that this kind of discrimination is justifiable through a particular definition of what is “natural.” It still has the same end result… Creating a class of social inferiors, and discriminating against individuals in that socially inferior class.

    In their introduction, they seem pretty confident that their arguments are incontrovertible. In their words, “revisionists do not have the resources to answer.” I guess I’ll have to see if their arguments are that ironclad.

  17. John,

    Right, it’s not meant to be a new argument. But rather a summarization of natural law-based arguments with some responses to anticipated criticisms, such as the infertility issue. So, they answer that — when you get through it, tell me if you think there are problems with how they’ve addressed that or other things.

  18. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    OK, read it.

    I do think there are a few problems.

    Toward the end of their argument, they dismiss the “what if homosexuality is natural?” But this is problematic if you’re going to argue from nature. They don’t consider the possibility that nature had a socially useful reason for evolving and protecting non-reproductive pair bonds.

    Another weakness in their argument is their treatment of polygamy. Polygamy does all the things they claim marriage is supposed to do. Polygamy has also been sanctioned in many cultures throughout history (indeed, is sanctioned in the Bible). And, it’s natural. But inexplicably they are opposed to polygamy.

    They insist throughout that marriage even without children is “a good in itself.” I still don’t see how they exclude homosexual couples from that good, except by dint of sheer prejudice.

    Their argument that granting legal equality to same-sex relationships will cause people to value heterosexual relationships or child-rearing less still makes no sense to me at all. In order to make this case, they have to make a lot of sketchy cultural arguments… They cite sex radicals. They cite studies that support their point, just as their opponents cite studies to support theirs. It’s not persuasive, in any event.

    They insist on some kind of harmony and connection between human emotions and the body… I agree! We are embodied creatures, and our social norms should reflect our real embodied natures and existence and relationships. But they ignore the embodied realities of gay and lesbian folks. On pages 281-282, their prejudice shines through… Gay relationships are, once again, stereotyped as “just sex,” and we’re essentially lectured that we should be able to just go without sex. Channel our sexual frustrations into “deep friendship” or “the arts,” etc. In other words, heterosexuals find “wholeness” in their relationships, gays find just sex. They encourage pity for poor, disabled gay people, and suggest we deserve their “support.” I’m not sure what they mean by support, when they refuse to consider the one form of support we are asking for… Namely, recognition of our loving, committed unions with each other.

    I particularly loved this quote: “The state cannot effectively encourage adherence to norms in relationships where those norms have no deep rational basis.” Precisely why opponents of marriage equality for same sex couples are gradually losing this battle…

    Statistically, those who have significant relationships with gay men and lesbians overwhelmingly support marriage equality… To me this suggests that, yes, these folks have a “concrete” reality problem (p. 287).

  19. John,

    While I like your response, I’ve been re-reading the article and re-reading your comment because there’s something that doesn’t quite…seem…right here…and I think that’s because I linked to the wrong article in the first place (although the article I was actually trying to think of was written by one of the guys who wrote the article I linked). While Girgis’s, George’s et al’s article on marriage repeats a lot of what is in this next one I’m going to link, I think that this article was more troubling for me:

    I think this is clearer on the natural law point, and a lot more technical on things like extrinsic vs. intrinsic purposes, unity, etc.,

  20. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    Hmm… This second article is actually easier to refute, I think. By introducing the idea of intrinsic vs. extrinsic goods, and by referring to “multi-level” union, it actually makes it more obvious that sex does not have reproduction as its sole intrinsic purpose.

    For a long time, I’ve looked at this issue from the perspective that human beings are part of a super-organism, in which families and communities are cells. Yes, the unity between man and woman is a very important part of the super-organism; it’s essential to procreation. But homosexuality is part of the natural order too. As I put it in my latest post, the fact that homosexuality is “universal among higher mammalian species, and that it is sustained in the human population through biological mechanisms that do not require homosexuals to reproduce” is a sign that there is a survival advantage in having a certain “small but significant percentage of non-reproducing individuals” who pair bond with each other. If that’s true — and I believe it is, based on my experience and observation of committed same-sex couples — then there is a valid intrinsic function in homosexual pair-bonding.

    These folks don’t like to consider “the fruit of the tree.” The forms of sexual misbehavior with which they want to class committed, loving same-sex relationships produce identifiable bad fruit. Loving, committed same-sex relationships produce demonstrable good fruit, for individuals, for families, and for communities. That, again, points to intrinsic goods in homosexual bonding…

    (Nor do they like to consider the bad fruit produced by stigmatizing homosexuality, and banishing same-sex pair bonding from the sacred canopy…)

    By the way, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, group sex… All of these forms of immoral behavior can easily be demonstrated to be extrinsic/exploitative, without reference to the reproductive function of sexuality.

  21. Seth R. permalink

    John that kind of assumes that biology is always correct, doesn’t it?

  22. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    Seth, of course there is disease and disorder in the natural world. However, I think when you examine the place of homosexuality in the natural order, a strong case can be made that it is an adaptive variation, not a disorder. The proponents of these “natural law” arguments against same-sex marriage try to make a case that homosexuality must be a disorder because it doesn’t result in the production of a gamete; they don’t consider the possibility that nature has reasons for producing social groups that have a certain percentage of non-reproducing, pair-bonding individuals.

    Andrew, it also occurred to me this morning — interestingly enough, while I was at prayer — that these guys are involved in an elaborate project of objectifying gay folks, and imposing upon us an agenda that is extrinsic to us. They really couldn’t care what our experience or needs are, or how we find spiritual, emotional and physical wholeness. They don’t listen to what our relationships mean to us, and they don’t care about the suffering caused by imposing their agenda on an entire class of people. The authors of the first article more or less came right out and said that the suffering caused homosexuals by their position was irrelevant; it was required for the greater good. It’s an excellent example of the kind of immoral behavior the authors of the second article are supposedly arguing against.

    I also thought it was very interesting that the writers of the second paper acknowledged in a couple of places that this argument against same-sex marriage involved a reification or a redefinition of marriage. They more or less acknowledged the existence, throughout history, of concepts of marriage that saw reproduction as the sole reason for marriage and that essentially treated women as property. Very inconvenient for their particular argument about marriage — since it so clearly treats both women and sex extrinsically. So these guys have to make the case for modern, “companionate” marriage that also excludes gay couples. That’s why there’s so much dancing around the problem of infertility, and the bending over backwards to show that infertile couples are nothing at all like homosexual couples.

    It’s worth pointing out, since gay people are constantly being accused of “redefining” marriage. These guys don’t want to admit that heterosexuals have, in fact, redefined marriage in a way that makes it a logical alternative for homosexuals. And they have redefined it for some very good reasons: because we prefer forms of marriage that don’t objectify women. But if de-objectifying women is such a good idea, it might also be a good idea to stop objectifying homosexuals.

  23. Seth R. permalink

    Reform of marriage has not resulted in the de-objectification of women John. If anything, women are MORE objectified now than they were in the 1960s. By making marriage more casual, more easy to enter and exit – we have actually made casual overly-sexualized attitudes about women more prevalent rather than less. And this objectification has been extended to men as well as women.

    And if anyone is “objectifying” homosexuals, it is the homosexuals themselves who are doing it as much as anyone.

    Be that as it may, the argument that homosexuality has biological origins is not even remotely a good argument in favor of gay marriage.

    The only way that arguments for gay marriage even work in the first place is by shifting the burden of proof to the other side:

    “The assumption is that we should have marriage – now prove why we shouldn’t have it.”

    It’s a convenient argument. Because it makes the other side do all the work, while your own side doesn’t really even have to lift a finger or make a case at all.

    But why should gays have marriages? There really isn’t any good reason why they should. There’s not a single right or benefit the gay marriage movement is asking for that isn’t being provided already, or couldn’t be provided by a comprehensive civil union code.

    Correction – except one. Getting marriage would allow gays to leverage government coercion to force approval of their relationships. I guess that is the one and only unique benefit marriage could provide them.

  24. AtheistMom permalink

    This video made me sad and mad. Those young people are so brave and that church is so twisted. The video implies that the church is somehow accepting homosexuality now. They are NOT. These young people must remain celibate for their ENTIRE lives in order to maintain membership in their church and attend BYU. That doesn’t sound better to me.

  25. Seth – The changes to marriage that I’m talking about took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. I’m not a fan of divorce, nor do I think that the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s was all good, certainly not the parts of it that encouraged people to look at marriage as a “casual” arrangement. I certainly don’t see my marriage to my spouse as a “casual” arrangement, nor would I ever, ever encourage anybody, gay or straight, to look at marriage that way. So I’m not talking about the kinds of changes to marriage that you’re talking about. I’m referring to the shift in awareness that began a couple of centuries ago, that caused people begin to think about marriage as a partnership of two equals.

    When my partner Göran and I held our first commitment ceremony back in 1995 (three years into our relationship), we called it a “Ceremony of Commitment and Friendship.” (We still have a framed copy of the program on our bedroom wall.) We deliberately avoided using words like “marriage” to describe it, or words like “husband” that would imply that we were “married.” I was very OK with straight people having marriage, and letting us have something different, and figure out what our relationship meant to us.

    As we grew and matured in our relationship, we of course encountered challenges. Any relationship that lasts long enough will encounter bumps along the road. And sometimes those challenges can become pretty intense, and then you get to decide: do I stick this through? Is it worth it? Or do I cut bait and move on? I realized that in order to love and honor my partner the way he deserved to be loved, to treat him with the integrity and wholeness he deserved, I needed to start looking at our relationship as a marriage. That’s the only concept I know of in our culture that captures the kind of love, integrity, and commitment I wanted with my partner. When the opportunity to get married in California in 2008 presented itself, I knew that the right thing to do was to get married. Not because I care about or need your or the government’s approval, but because it was the best way to make a statement to my partner, my family, and, ultimately, to God, about what this relationship meant to me.

    In graduating to that kind of commitment, I’ve found a level of richness, joy and wholeness in our relationship I never dreamed possible. All I want is to be able to live my life with integrity and wholeness. I have no desire to take anything away from anyone else. In fact, I value the heterosexual marriages in my life — of my parents, my siblings, my friends — highly enough that I would do anything in my power to support them and strengthen them. I also think I and my relationship with Göran deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity any other person wants for their significant relationships.

  26. Seth R. permalink

    A good response John. It speaks well in favor of your position.

    I’m not convinced about the idea that gay marriage is something where the individual benefits outweigh all the other social impacts it might have. As I’ve said before, I’d like government out of the marriage business entirely and providing civil union certificates to everyone. But if that’s not going to happen, I’m not convinced that giving government “marriage” endorsements to gay unions is a net positive for the family.

    I’m just worried the real impacts of such a move would not be seen in the educated, gentle and loving partnerships like the one you describe – but out on the as-yet undefined margins of society – or among the unexamined lower-income brackets of people with relationships.

    This is what happened with no-fault divorce. Everyone was saying it would be a good idea using rich, educated, enlightened couples as the example. But the whole thing ultimately turned into a bit of a societal disaster among the low income people of the United States.

    I’m not saying the two examples are comparable in all or even most ways. I’m just saying these things have social impacts far beyond the pleasing anecdotes we choose to define them with today.

    Either way though, thank you for the useful response John. It was a refreshing change of pace from what I usually get online when I question the assumption that gay marriage is a good idea.

  27. Seth – A few years ago, my sister had a big argument with my parents. She was living with a man, without the benefit of marriage. I heard about this argument later, both from my sister and my parents.

    My parents were unhappy about the fact that my sis was living with a guy without the benefit of marriage, and they told her so. Her argument – her excuse – for not getting married was that “John and Göran aren’t married, and they’re happy.”

    I actually wasn’t pleased about being used as an excuse in this argument, and when my sister recounted it to me, I pointed out to her what my parents had pointed out to her: Göran and I were unmarried not by choice, but because marriage was not an option for us. Göran and I would be married if we could, so her case actually wasn’t similar to ours.

    Without getting into all the gory details… My sister eventually learned how precarious it was for her not being married. The story has a somewhat happy ending: they eventually worked out their differences just got married a few weeks ago. I think my sister finally came – the hard way – to the same conclusion I had. Marriage is the kind of commitment we need to make for these types of relationships.

    In the nineteen years that Göran and I have been together, I’ve seen a number of young couples who were close friends of ours tie the knot. Göran and I have frequently been told by younger couples that they see us as an example of commitment and love. One friend of ours actually told me that he didn’t want to get married until Göran and I could. He felt it was wrong, and he felt that the institution of marriage was corrupt so long as it excluded couples like us. I pleaded with him to reconsider, and told him that marriage was an intrinsic good, and that he should enter into it if he had the chance, and trust that things would work out for me and Göran in due course. It was a very joyful occasion for us when we were finally able to attend his wedding.

    I say this not to boast, but just to point out a social reality… Those who know gay and lesbian couples, tend to see how similar their unions are to straight unions. And so the refusal to solemnize these unions may actually be weakening marriage. If marriage is indeed an intrinsic good – and I believe it is – then it must be universal accessible to those who are willing to make the promises and accept the responsibilities inherent in it. That’s the only way you can hold it up as a universally applicable standard, don’t you think?

  28. Seth – I’m a latecomer to this discussion, but your persistent skepticism about gay marriage caught my eye. While I think you are right to connect the transformation in marriage that John speaks about with the advent of no-fault divorce in the latter half of the 20th century, I disagree that it is the cause of societal problems.

    No-fault divorce is a logical conclusion to the long process to redefine marriage to mean a partnership between equals. Marriage cannot be a partnership between equals if one party has all of the power. Throughout most of human history, there was a major imbalance of power between the sexes, often codified and institutionalized. So whether one approves of divorce or not, no-fault plays a role in rectifying this imbalance.

    These are challenging times, but I question the notion that society is in chaos because of the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, and that rolling back no-fault divorce or standing in the way of full marriage equality for same-sex couples will restore societal order. One could say with at least as much conviction that population pressures, scarcity of natural resources, globalization, and environmental degradation are the causes of society’s current problems.

    I know divorce can be messy. But so too is marriage. And equality is messy, democracy is messy. Life itself is messy. Throwing out divorce or preventing gays from marrying does not magically solve anything.

    I guess for me, what it boils down to is this: as John has argued, marriage has already been redefined *by heterosexuals* as a union between equal partners. And we as a country have laws and traditions that govern equality. So the question becomes, where does authority to deny these unions to a certain class of people come from?

  29. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    Hey, Andrew — as a follow up…

    There was something about these two articles that bugged me, but I didn’t really put my finger on it until now.

    Essentially, they make the case that all sexuality not expressed in the context of a heterosexual relationship is “self-alienating.” That’s the theory. The question is, how does that theory manifest in practice? How can you tell that someone who engages in a particular form of sexual activity is gradually becoming more “self-alienated”? Does this “self-alienation” manifest itself in the form of depression? Isolation? Anxiety? What? If individuals in homosexual relationships are “self-alienated,” shouldn’t we see measurable evidence of that? Can this hypothesis be falsified through observable data?

    Let’s assume that it can be. That being the case, if we accept their model, then this is what it would look like:

    Homosexuals who are completely celibate would be the most “self-integrated.” They would be the happiest and most well adjusted.

    (And by celibate, we’re talking, no orgasms ever. Because in these guys’ framework, masturbation is a form of “self-alienation.” These guys don’t really address nocturnal emission — is noctural emission self-alienating, since it is an experience of sexuality that is non-reproductive? I’d love to ask these guys this question.)

    Homosexuals who are in committed same-sex relationships would be the most “self-alienated,” because not only do they have non-reproductive sex all the time, they’ve really kind of structured or built their whole lives around a non-reproductive relationship. They would be the most messed up.

    In the real world, do we find that, on average, totally abstinent homosexuals are more balanced, centered, happy and integrated than homosexuals in committed, loving same-sex relationships?

    Do we find that homosexuals in committed, loving same-sex relationships are morally, emotionally or psychologically more messed up? I think you can see where I’m going with this…

    I’ve not done any scientific study of this, but my own personal experience and the experience of innumerable others that I know actually suggests that the inverse of what their model suggests actually holds.

    That seems like a big, gaping hole in their theory…

  30. Rick permalink

    Why is the last paragraph in this article considered a bad argument? If you are attracted to the same sex and still believe in the Apostles and Prophets as the mouthpieces for God, then do whatever you have to do to abide by what they say. If you can’t do that then maybe you don’t really believe that they are speaking for God and then you have a choice to make. Maybe living your whole life with this struggle is the hand that you were dealt. Just like people being dealt unfair cards everyday. But if it is to prove that you will obey God then prove it. Gay Sexual sin, sexual sin between a man and woman outside of marriage, lusting as a result of not being attracted to a spouse in a heterosexual marriage, being attracted to minors, porn etc. are all against Gods laws and are things that we all must overcome. If we believe in him we have to obey Him, so get over the pride of saying people hate you, use the Atonement, and join everyone else in life’s struggle to prove to God that we will obey him however long and hard the road.

  31. Rick,

    The problem is that gay relationships are not similar to adultery, one-night stands, or pedophilia. You can argue that gay relationships are bad, but you’ll have to do more legwork in explaining why than just say, “It’s like being attracted to little boys” — because it’s not.

  32. Rick permalink


    So its OK for you to say who can love whom and what the boundaries of love are? Are you saying that gay relationships are somehow superior and not similar to an adulterous or pedophilia relationship? How do you know? The pedophile would call you a bigot and tell you to go to hell because he believes “God made me this way.” The adulterer would tell you that he had to follow his feelings, and that he only cheated because he was “in love.” Where do you draw your line of whats right and wrong? Mine line ends just before a homosexuals line, and your line ends just before a pedophiles, or adulterer line. Ultimately, if you believe in God, it doesn’t matter where you feel or think the line should be. God establishes the line of right and wrong, not us.
    If the way we think or feel is in any way different than the way God designed it, it is wrong. Unfortunately, Gay sexual relationships, adulterous relationships, polygamist relationships, pedophilia relationships, etc. involve strong feelings and urges that different people face everyday and sometimes call normal. The brutal fact is that any relationship that differs from Gods design of what a relationship should be is wrong.

  33. Rick,

    No, what I’m saying is you have to do a little more work to argue against something than just say, “It’s like x, y, and z, which are Clearly Bad.” You have to either show that it is like x, y, or z (which, you will run into people who will point out how it’s not), or you have to show that, despite being different from x, y, or z, it still should be considered bad.

    In this case, here’s what you’re dealing with a committed gay relationship: two adults consenting and committing to each other. With pedophilia, you don’t have two adults. With adultery, you don’t have commitment.

    So, I mean, it seems pretty easy to draw the line of right and wrong at “adults consenting and committing with each other.” If you want to disagree, that’s fine, but you’re going to have to do more work to show why certain instances of adults consenting to commit to each other are bad and other instances are good.

    It’s ok if you personally use “God said it” to define where the line is for you. The problem is that God is absent from the discussion. Rather, there are a whole lot of people who seem to think that they can speak on God’s behalf, but they are all saying different things. So ultimately you’re left with what you *think* God is saying.

  34. Rick permalink

    My view remains the same. Gay sexual relationships are like X, Y, and Z because they are relationships which differ from Gods design of what a relationship is to be. Screw whatever anyone else claims God said, if you believe in God, look at how he designed our bodies to sexually function. If this isn’t a big enough clue as to who should have sex than I don’t know what is. Although you’ll have to excuse me because I did not do my due diligence in reading more about your blog. I did not know until your last post that you were an atheist so it kind of ends the discussion because my arguments are all based on a faith in God and his design.
    I think its ironic however that you see a Pedophiles actions as backward because there are not two adults. Have you ever told a Pedophile how backward you think it is? They would tell you how dare you tell them who they can and can’t love. There are instances of adults and teenagers falling in love all of the time. The same goes with adultery. My Dad committed adultery 2 years ago and left our whole family to marry the woman. Try telling him that he is not committed. My whole point is that I think it is extremely backward and unnatural to have a gay sexual relationship. That’s where my line begins. You think its backward to be a pedophile. That’s where your line begins. No matter where our lines are, there are still people involved in these relationships that think its normal. I judge gay relationships and all of the above not because I don’t love them, but because their actions contradict the way God designed their bodies to work. You judge pedophiles and all of the above because they lack the consent and commitment that a gay relationship sometimes has. The people involved with these relationships would beg to differ with you all day long.
    My point is that even if one is involved in a consenting and committed gay sexual relationship, it still differs from Gods original design, therefore it is wrong.
    I would like to think however, that If I was atheist and gay that I would still be confused at the fact that my choice of relationship naturally can’t produce life. If two things physically don’t work together, they are unnatural. That’s why I believe that the easy thing to do as a homosexual would be to not believe in God, not because he doesn’t love them, but because the sexual lifestyle is so different from the way he designed a man and a woman to work together.

  35. Rick,

    It’s fine if your view remains the same. You’re just going to have to deal with the fact that 1) different people have different ideas about what God’s design of a relationship is to be, 2) in the United States, we recognize the importance of separation of church and state, so we need more than a religious answer for this in the first place. So for you, you can say, “screw whatever anyone else claims God said,” — but keep in mind that everyone else is pretty much saying the exact same thing to you.

    Personally, I have not said anything in this conversation about seeing a pedophile’s actions as “backward.” If you look at what I’ve written, what I’ve written is how pedophilia, adultery, and one-night stands are each qualitatively different than homosexuality. So I mean, a pedophile can fight for their relationships to be accepted, but the fact is that they are going to face a considerably different challenge — they are going to have to show, for example, that their relationships with children or teenagers are not exploitative or harmful (based on what we know about child and teen psychology as contrasted with adult psychology). That’s their fight to make. It’s a different fight…that’s my point.

    The same goes with adultery. They are going to have to show that their relationship isn’t exploitative or harmful — which the problem is that, for the person they were originally with, they probably won’t feel that way. (Note that polygamy or polyamory, where all the individuals involved at least theoretically can consent to the arrangement, is a different issue.) You say, “Try telling [my father] he is not committed.” But you yourself answered that question — what about his commitment to your mother? What about his commitment to you and your family? See the issue?

    So, you’re getting my position wrong. Unlike you, I’m not “judging” any of these folks. Unlike you, I’m not viewing any of these folks as “backwards.” What I am saying is that these groups are qualitatively different in a way that means that they are going to have to make different arguments to make their cases, and similarly, YOU are going to have to make different arguments against each group.

    Rick, you say:

    I would like to think however, that If I was atheist and gay that I would still be confused at the fact that my choice of relationship naturally can’t produce life.

    But the point is that the point of relationships isn’t to produce life. The point of a marriage isn’t simply to pump out babies. That’s why most people use contraception. That’s why most people use birth control. And even if one wants children, there is adoption, There are surrogate mothers. After all, even straight couples can be infertile.

    The fact that you think that it’s about naturally producing life shows that you’re kinda viewing things from a totally different perspective. It’s about love, and more specifically, love that is committed, non-exploitative, and non-harmful.

    I think the problem is that you haven’t met any committed gay couples who believe strongly in God and who believe strongly that God approves of their commitment to their significant others. So you can’t see that different people — even different people who believe in God — can disagree with you on what God is saying.

    • Rick permalink

      Most definitely people have different ideas of what Gods idea of a relationship is. That’s the problem with prideful people who can’t get themselves to believe and follow God and his Prophets. A lot of times Gods ways are hard to follow. So like yourself, they either stop believing in him, or they hold onto their own views and instead of conforming to Gods ways, they expect God to conform to theirs. For an atheist as yourself its easy because you don’t have to deal with the responsibility of obeying a higher being. So you are off the hook. But for gay people who claim to believe in God, let’s be real. How God started the human race with a man and a woman doesn’t coincide with their lifestyle. To make matters worse for them, God then commands a man and woman to multiply and replenish the earth. Remember thats how you and i eventually got here? This is yet is another bad fit for the justification of a gay lifestyle. Is it possible that God designed it this way because he wanted us to do it this way? To have a different idea of how Gid wants a relationship to be, one must create their own views of what Gods ways are. This then takes away the guilt of sinning because in Essence they have created their own God.
      As an atheist, your belief is that in order to be in a relationship, you have to prove that it’s neither harmful, or exploitive. As a gay believer in God that doesnt work. Whether harmful or not, if it is different than the way God established it, it is wrong. Hence, people then create their own convenient version of who God is.
      I love how you say your not judging these folks and yet you claim that they need to prove that their relationships (that they feel are real) are not harmful and exploitive. So your saying your not judging them but in order for their relationship to be considered equal to yours you need them to prove it. Dude not all judging is bad, it’s OK to say that there is a right and wrong. You and I make judgements everyday. No one has to prove anything to anyone about their relationships. If its different then Gods than that is what we judge. Its obvious. To accuse me of judging these folks because their lifestyle is different than Gods is fine. The problem is judging someone and then treating them bad. I feel that X,Y, and Z as well as gay sexual relationships are horrible but will I not love these people and treat them bad? No way.
      Lastly, I get a laugh out of your claim that the purpose of a relationship is not to “pump out babies.” if everyone believed in gay logic civilization would eventually stop. That’s the most selfish logic I’ve ever heard.
      My point boils down to this:
      1. You and I aren’t going to get anywhere with this. You don’t believe in God and rely on yourself to make sense of life. Really, anything goes for you as long as its not doing harm to others. 2. God loves gays because they are still his children. But in order to be gay and justify a gay lifestyle while believing in God, they must create in their own mind what God accepts.
      That is like creating your own test that has no wrong answers.

  36. Rick,

    The problem is that you think you follow God and his prophets — whereas every other religious believer similarly believes that *he* or *she* is the one who is really following God and his prophets. All of you will disagree, and each of you will have the audacity to think that you alone are right on this issue.

    So, the problem is that you speak of other people being prideful, and you do not even consider for a moment that the same thing could apply to you. You create a narrative to speak for other people (but everyone else does the same, so you’re not special in this regard), and you are utterly ignorant to the possibility that your narrative could be wrong (but then again, most people do the same, so you aren’t really special here either.)

    Once again, I have never in this discussion used the word “prove.” Again, you are pointing out things that YOU do and then you are trying to project it out to other people. You are trying to justify your own judgmentalism by projecting your own behavior out to other people.

    The reason why “you and I aren’t going to get anywhere on this” is because you are coming from a different vantage point, and you won’t even consider that 1) your position isn’t the only position, and 2) you haven’t done any work to argue for your position’s correctness. You simply assume that it is correct.

    • Rick permalink

      You are so obsessed with other people judging you, and being self righteous that you take offense to everyone and everything. That’s why you don’t believe in God and were probably one of those dark mysterious weird kids growing up. Are you seriously implying that I don’t think I’m prideful? The fact that you and I are going back and forth on this is evidence that both of us have major pride issues because we won’t back down. The difference is that you let your pride extend to the Prophets and God. You think you know better so you do things your own way. My pride only extends to other people who speak falsehoods about God. Does that make my pride justified? No. But I would much rather deal have temporal and carnal pride than your spiritual pride. Regarding my vantage point, it’s irrational for you to say I think mine is the only one and that I assume I’m correct without “legwork.” I’ve argued for the correctness of my point the whole time. Very simply, if you believe in God, follow his way of doing things. If you struggle with things that are different than what he established such as X,Y, and Z and same sex attraction then use Christ in your struggle. Gid still lives tou and everyone else does too. It’s going to suck but what’s the other choice? For people like you it is to stop believing in God so you don’t have to feel guilty. Get over it, life is hard, learn how to deal with life and stupid people and trust in God.

  37. Rick,

    I don’t even know where you’re coming up with this stuff, but it’s hilarious. Keep reading the crystal ball, Rick. XD

    I think the fact that you would say “my pride only extends to other people who speak falsehoods about god” shows exactly that you don’t think you’re prideful.

    • Rick permalink

      Really Andrew? That’s the best you can do? All you can do is continue to try to say that im prideful even after i acknowleged that i am prideful? Haha. Andrew you are an Atheist who started a blog about how you can’t let go of the Mormon Culture. You don’t have a clue what you believe. Depressing.

  38. XD, Rick, XD. Thanks for playing.

    • Rick permalink

      Insecurity about what you believe must suck. Good luck with your Mormon culture loving atheist lifestyle.

      • No need for luck; I have skill…but thanks for the kind thoughts.

        I hope the rest of your weekend is pretty cool; any time, man, any time.

        • Rick permalink

          Ohhhh Andrew you mean to tell me that your sweet “thanks for playing” comment wasn’t good enough for your last word? You sure got me on that one! Haha

          • What can I say. I find it rude to leave things unaddressed…

          • Rick permalink

            Totally. If I had such unsound ideas about life I would hate to leave things unaddressed as well…

  39. The best thing is how that comment didn’t even make sense.

    • Rick permalink

      I know. Your mind is on such a higher level than everyone else so it’s no surprise that you can’t understand my comments. You’ve changed my life. I think I too will now become an insecure atheist who can’t let go of Mormon Culture. I’m excited!

      • I would sign up for your newsletter…truly.

  40. Ug I know what you mean! I talk about this too in my blog, you should check it out. I went to BYU and I am out now.

  41. Any Local-Culture with the Jesus Cross «forgotten» outside Jerusalem is a dying culture for bringing out the Culture of Death. The Culture of Jesus has His Cross steady fixed at its very center, to radiate His Life, His Freedom and His Hope to all People and Nations.

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