Yes, there are no gays in Mormonism’s Heaven
Mike Cammock recently wrote a guest post on Gina Colvin’s blog KiwiMormon turning a question into the assertion that There are no gays in Heaven. As he discussed the infamous church policy towards those in same-sex relationships and their children (which the church rapidly seems to be elevating in terms of importance and value), he wrote:
Mormonism’s insistence that “practicing homosexuality” is sin, especially within the bonds of a loving committed monogamous relationship, is indicative of a theological reality that Mormon leaders clearly believe, but never directly articulate: There Are No Gays In Heaven.
This seemed obvious to me, but from Mike’s post, it looks like he is not convinced. (And by not convinced, I’m not discussing whether he should be convinced that there are no gays in Heaven…but he seems not convinced that in 2016, Mormonism believes that there are no gays in Heaven.) So, at several places in the post, he seems to minimize LDS attitudes, beliefs, and policies toward homosexuality. For example, he says:
As I contemplated and “ponderized” this history I realized that my present uncertainty regarding the church’s stance on homosexuality stems from my religious tradition’s recent history on the wrong side of social change.
Equally problematic is the recognition that the church has been driven to address the issue of homosexuality, not out of a desire to explore our own theological inconsistencies, nor out of the need to engage the hard question of whether our own bias and culture may have us at odds with Christ. Instead we have arrived in this heated debate driven by the fear that our institutional status quo may be at risk.
Throughout the piece, it appears that Cammock believes that Mormonism’s views on homosexuality are not driven by theological considerations, but are rather axiomatic. He also seems to imply that the only reason Mormonism is so committed to these beliefs is because of its political commitments. There is an implicit message in the post that if the church really underwent a deep theological investigation, it would come to different conclusions.
I don’t think this is correct.
As much as I probably personally agree with Mike (and I’m pretty sure I would agree with Mike on a great many issues), I feel that his probably misses a lot of what’s going on in a Mormon theological and institutional POV. As stated before, I think that Mormonism probably *does* answer that There Are No Gays in Heaven, but this isn’t totally frivolous…rather, Mormonism is (at the present) theologically committed to heterosexuality in non-trivial ways. As a result, LGBT identity is recognized at worst as fictional (or some form of false consciousness) and at best as a product of a fallen mortal world — and under the same worldview, there would be no reason to believe that such fallen aspects would continue to exist in a perfect body/redeemed world.
As I presented at Sunstone, I think relatively common rhetoric supports this view. Even as members come to terms with the idea that homosexuality is not a choice, that doesn’t mean that everyone becomes OK with homosexuality. Rather, they instead see it as a horrible trial in this life that gay people should just rely upon hope in the Atonement regarding having it fixed/healed in the afterlife. I think that’s similar to how some members looked on race [at least, the one guy who commented to me with the comment] — they saw that being black was unfortunate, and one couldn’t through willpower change that, but with the atonement, of course, people could become white and delightsome in the afterlife.
In this case, all that’s needed is for the gay person to endure to the end in faith.
Cammock seems to see no theological or institutional reasoning for the church’s positions. The church is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of social issues, the church is driven by fear that the institutional status quo is at risk, its position is based on politically motivated power struggle, etc., etc.,
While I may agree with a lot of that (and while I don’t think that the LDS church is a theological powerhouse), I would give the church slightly more credit. Its heteronormativity not just a political fight. It’s not just a social carryover. It’s not just the status quo. Rather, I think that a lot of Mormons would proactively believe heterosexuality is sacred. At worst, I would say this is based on a lack of creativity than anything else. To paint the picture briefly: Mormonism is big on family, and even the very idea of deity is entwined with eternal increase. So, the question for Mormons is how that happens. I say there’s “lack of creativity” because I think people believe that eternal increase looks the same as increase on earth — a man and a woman, birds and bees, etc.,
In this sense, I don’t agree with the implication that if the church did theological investigation, it would come to believe its views are un-Christlike. Even if Mormonism’s current rhetoric is not theologically thorough, I wouldn’t say there aren’t theological deep arguments in favor of heteronormativity. But here, I just wonder: would Cammock say that any religious community that favors heteronormativity is doing so out of over-reliance on tradition and so forth?
But speaking on Christlike behavior, that serves as a large part of Cammock’s article. Mike writes about exclusion being at odds with Christ-like love. In his post, it seems simple:
The Church urgently needs to start engaging in the real substance of its present position: We exclude Gays. Christ loves all. What are we to make of world in which Christ’s love and our exclusion coexist. What is it about the ontology of Mormon cosmology that justifies the expulsion of otherwise Christlike homosexuals from heaven? We have not even begun to engage in the hard theological work needed to justify our discriminatory policies.
Again, I wouldn’t try to argue that Mike (or anyone) should believe the church’s viewpoint here. But to me, it seems very strange for someone not to recognize a Christianity that’s consistent with exclusion.
We talk about Christ being about love and all that jazz, but maybe it’s because I have always lived in the Bible Belt, but I have always heard that love can look…kinda harsh. You know, tough love? I think from the institution’s perspective (and many Christians’ perspectives), Christ-like love involves speaking the truth and not shying away from the consequences. In this case, because (as written above), Mormonism believes the “truth” is heteronormativity, it pushes that at all times. Thus, to be in fellowship with this community, everyone — gay, straight, or otherwise — must strive to live according to that truth (among others). Someone who tries this (even if they struggle and fail occasionally or often) is certainly welcome…but someone who doesn’t try this is by definition not a member of a community. Whether the institution takes the action or not, these people have excommunicated themselves in their hearts.
And since LDS heteronormativity isn’t very appealing to most gay people, and it has in fact been disastrous in the past, it seems like a total non starter. But from an LDS perspective, righteousness is hard (that’s why you need an Atonement for it), but worth it.