When it comes to equality, which side of history are you on?

Feb 21, 14 When it comes to equality, which side of history are you on?

When I look back through history, I’ve always thought that I would be the person speaking out for change if I were born into eras of oppression. I look through old pictures and choose which person I would be. I hope that I’d be able to see through the fog of society and see people for who they really are, then be part of the revolution. I’m spunky as all get out, and I’m pretty good at calling it like it is—I like to think that I’d have what it takes to be on the right side of history. Honestly though, who doesn’t really think of themselves this way? I assume most people think that they’d recognize that slavery is wrong, or that women deserve to vote, or that racism on any level is wrong and that we’d be part of the change for good.

     Women protesting for the right to vote    The saddest part of these historical narratives for me has always been that religion has often been the leading or supporting cause for pain and bigotry. Small verses of scripture have enabled hatred and exclusionary practices to go on for thousands of years, and it gave the oppressors the ability to feel correct and just in their actions. If you want to read it that way, the Bible absolutely vindicates slavery, oppression of women, and cultural racism. However, the Bible also is full of pleas for love, compassion, mercy, charity, and serving your fellowman. It’s amazing that such a dichotomy of concepts are all included in a canon of Holy Scripture.
       You know up top in that first paragraph when I said that I think that I’d be perceptive enough to call it like it is and see through the fog of social bigotry? Yeah, that wasn’t really true. Not for the majority of my life anyway. Given that this is 2014, I assume that the majority of our astute readership here at Rational Faiths know what I’m about to get at. I gotta be honest: I grew up rather homophobic. Young boy supporting racismLike the boy in the picture to the right (though the scope and scale of the issues of our time differ greatly), I lived and believed as the majority of society did and was blind to the hurt that my beliefs caused others. For me personally, I was taught at church and seminary that being gay is a choice made by those who sought to purposefully pervert the ways of God. People who had taken heterosexual acts of intimacy to such depravity, the only way to keep the edge was to be with people of the same sex. They did this for attention, they did this because they were hurt or abused when they were younger and they wanted to hurt society to get back. Lucky for us, God created AIDS to eradicate these people. In the meantime of their destruction, these perverse people took nice words like “gay” which used to just mean happy, and tried to taint and twist it to represent themselves; thus tricking us into thinking they are not as abhorrent as they actually are. This is how that wily Lucifer works, right? Takes a rainbow and uses its beauty to distract from sin?
The sad part is: I’m only 31 years old. That means that within the last 25 years, I believed these things. I didn’t like them, but it is what it is, right? That’s the cost of piety.
I’m saddened to say that though much of humanity has progressed in their understanding and acceptance of homosexual people, the LDS church continues to use its massive weight to halt or prevent civil equality measures. The LDS church’s teachings about homosexuality have been softened and nuanced greatly, but the underlying message remains the same: God has no room for LGBT people. If a person is physically or mentally unable to be part of a heterosexual relationship, then the joy of intimate companionship and family are withheld from them completely. This is God’s plan as currently presented by church leaders. Unfortunately, this does not sound like a plan. This sounds like an unmerited disciplinary sentence.
Still though, I was able to get behind this. I’m a firm believer in the power of the atonement. It is boundless, after all. All LGBT people needed to do is repent! There isn’t a single thing in my life that it took me more than a year of hard repenty work to overcome. Go to church, give it to the Lord, be humble, partake of the sacrament, follow your leaders, and you can become clean and that sinful part of you is no more. So jump on board LGBT people! It’ll be hard at first, but SO worth it. The promise is right here in Matthew 11:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

       If you hand it to the Lord, he will make the burden light. Other scriptures teach us that through repentance, we can become clean and worthy again. I take this very seriously because I have felt it in my own life. If there is something you need to overcome, you absolutely can and the Lord will help you do it. Even big, hard things. My point of view on this application of the atonement while on earth all changed though when I started actually getting to know LGBT people in real life. To hear their stories; to feel their humanity and the reality of their situation. I heard or read story after story and the common theme they had among them was that this was something that the Lord does not take away. My friend Steve (50) writes:

       “Sometimes it takes awhile to gain clarity on yourself, on who you are and on what you can and cannot change about yourself. When you’re young you look to your parents and church leaders to guide you, and the day comes when you realize that they have told you something about yourself that isn’t true. What they told me was that I had “same-sex attraction”. And what I realized is that there is no such thing. That would be like trying to say that my parent’s own marriage and family and life together could somehow fit into the word “attraction”. Sure, they were attracted to each other, but attraction doesn’t describe the spectrum of a full loving life together.
I practiced my faith for 38 years and I attended Evergreen (a church-sponsored sexual orientation reassignment program) for 12 years. During this time, five of the fifteen men in my group committed suicide. My time in Evergreen and my LDS faith brought clarity to me. I was told I would be cured of homosexuality and I was told that my core self was a sinful choice. But all those years taught me that all I wanted was what they had: A full loving life and family with the right person. And that person had to be male, because I had already been married to a woman for 16 years and I knew clearly that it wasn’t working and it never would. I wasn’t even opposite-sex attracted at all. Ultimately, I was staring suicide in the face. Either it was all going to end, or I was going to embrace the fact that this was not something about myself that anyone could remove; nor should they.
And so I went about finding my bliss and leaving any structure or person that impeded my happiness. And as it turned out, that meant I would leave my parents, my siblings, my Mormon friends (only a few out of a lifetime of friends stuck with me) and my faith. And all of the fear that I felt melted away, because those scary stories I was told turned out to be false, and it turned out that following my heart was the right thing to do. And I am now in my tenth year together with my husband and we have found our bliss, and so have our six kids that we raise together.”

     Steve’s life is a truth that cannot be denied, nor is it a rare story in the LGBT community. John Dehlin did the most in-depth to-date study of Mormons who are LGBT people. His research has been peer-reviewed and accepted to be published in medical health journals. This research entailed interviewing over 1600 Mormon or post-Mormon people who identify as LGBT and these were the results:

“A minimum of 66% of participants reported engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, usually through multiple methods, and across more than 10 years (on average). Religious change efforts such as personal righteousness (e.g., prayer, fasting, scripture study, improved relationship with Jesus Christ) and counseling with church leaders (e.g., bishops), along with individual methods (e.g., introspection, private study, mental suppression) were found to be far more prevalent, and significantly more damaging than therapist-led (e.g., psychotherapy, psychiatry) or group-led change efforts. Overall, 0% of those attempting change reported an elimination of same-sex attraction, and less than 4% reported any change in sexual orientation. Conversely, the majority of participants reported these efforts to be either ineffective or damaging.”

“Personal Righteousness was rated as the most “severely harmful” of all SOCE [Sexual Orientation Change Efforts] methods for our sample, particularly noteworthy given that it was also rated as the most commonly used SOCE method (76%) for the longest average duration (12 years for men, 8 for women).”1

       So, not only was this not taken away in any instance… but those who try to cope with their homosexuality by bringing it to the Lord were those who were the most damaged by the process? Who felt the most rejected and despaired? How can this be? If it is something that people don’t choose to be, and also is not taken from them when they do their complete utmost to repent and leave it behind them entirely, my only hypothesis I could personally draw from this is that perhaps this is not something that Jesus finds as a sin in the first place. Perhaps this is just part of who you are and not something to try to change.

If reading stories about people’s crushing failure to overcome being gay after a lifetime of supplication isn’t hard enough to face, the toll that rigorous religious teachings about homosexuality is having on our LGBT youth is far sadder. The following study was done by Caitlyn Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project and San Francisco State University. Their research and conclusions were peer-reviewed and published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.” 2

       Utah has an estimated 5,000 homeless youths, about 40 percent of which identify as LGBT people. And of that 40 percent, 50 percent say they were raised in families who were members of  the LDS church.3 It is seriously just so sad. Some are as young as 14 and 15 years old. Youth are rejected by their families and friends, are without a place to call their own, or are committing suicide, and those who live longer and choose to suppress their homosexuality tend to have debilitating depression. Yes, there must be exceptions to this rule, but they are far, far too rare.

In my discussions and research, a full internal peace only came to people after they accepted themselves for who they are. Furthermore, their chances for a successful life raise exponentially when they are accepted as peers and equals by their neighbors instead of “loving the sinner and hating the sin” and being refused an equal place in society. Just look at all that is gained in the quality of life of those who live in states and countries where same sex marriage is accepted and homosexuals are treated as another variation of normal1:

https://scontent-a-sea.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/t1/1798755_747644348799_950953718_n.jpg-The red line that says “Lupus Erythematosus” signifies the happiness levels reported by those who have Lupus, an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue resulting in inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, and lungs. It is known as one of the hardest incurable ailments to live with, and yet the quality of life for LGBT individuals in societies that do not treat them as equals is significantly lower than those who have Lupus.

But we can’t let them into society! They’ll ruin the whole thing, right? Study after study (from the 80s and 90s) show that homosexuals are horrible parents, have unstable relationships, and are ticking time bombs. But what we need to understand is that yes, those studies may have shown that—but what options were homosexual people given during those years to be successful? When all of society treats you like a scourge, your families reject you, and you have to hide your true self—of COURSE the outcome is always going to be poor. But the most recent studies done in societies that treat homosexuals as equals show that they are indeed equally prone to success (or failure) as heterosexuals. The American Psychological Association states:

“In summary, there is no evidence to suggest that lesbian women or gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of lesbian women or gay men is compromised relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth”.4

 cynthia

So where does this leave spirituality and religion? For those who have walked this hard path and who have not committed suicide, the most common answer made by those who remain religious is that it was only is only after they decided to embrace their truth that they felt closeness with the Lord again. They say that they felt spiritual approval and a new sense of purpose; a closeness to the Lord that they hadn’t felt in their whole life. And this is BECAUSE they understand now this is who the Lord intended the to be. Who am I to tell them that their experiences are wrong? Of course it’s easy to say “you’re such and such” from my place of security and endless options for happiness. Plus, I have a few scriptures to back it up! Even General Conference talks! It’s so easy to be “right” here and refuse to see people for who they really are and stop listening to the pleas for help. But one day I read this quote:

“Privilege is when you think that something’s not a problem because it’s not a problem for you personally. If you’re part of a group that’s being catered to, you believe that’s the way it should be. It’s always been that way, why would that be a problem for anyone?” -David Gaider

I, like the many racists and oppressors of yore, have been led into a false sense of reality due to my privilege. I was trying to do what was right, when in reality I was lacking love and empathy. And who has more love and empathy than anyone? Jesus. When faced with the dichotomy between how I felt, the facts before me, and what was taught at church, I turned to Jesus himself. When I went to the scriptures to see what He said about homosexuality, there was nothing there to my great surprise. But perhaps that was edited out of the Bible? Yes! It must be in the Book of Mormon then? It is, after all, a book of scripture that was written just for our day. So I looked there… and… nope. Nothing, not even from Book of Mormon prophets. Jesus came to the Americas and never once mentioned homosexuality in his sermons. He’s never said a single thing about it as recorded by those nearest to Him during His time on this earth. I know that that doesn’t erase the few places in Leviticus, Exodus, or 1st Corinthians that mention it; but I think that history has shown us that prophets are indeed fallible and occasionally allow their own biases to enter their preachings. Honestly, the following were the most important and powerful scriptures for me as I made my choice:

1st John 4:8 God is love.
Romans 13:8  Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
1 John 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

 Packer

I choose love! Perhaps homosexuality is somehow an abomination that the Lord sees fit to irrevocably give to some of his children to… what? Teach them humility? Yeesh, I don’t know. If that is indeed the case, I’m going to leave that up to Christ’s judgment and not my own. All I know is that abstaining from all other kinds of sin allows me to still enjoy all that this life has to offer: intimate companionship, marriage, a family, a good place in society, and the fullness of the spectrum of life. Men are that they might have joy, right? Forcing people to abstain from homosexuality is the only “sin” that also forces them to give up on the majority of what makes life great. Homosexual love isn’t murder, this isn’t rape or abuse. This is love! Consensual, beautiful, life-affirming LOVE! And those who seek marriage are seeking permanent union, monogomy, and commitment. I see nothing to object to here. For me, I choose to love those who are also loving. I choose to see people for the amazing souls that they are and treat them with dignity and let them share in all of the things that have brought my own life such joy.

For those of you who feel spiritual confirmations that homosexuality should be barred at all costs, then that is obviously your conviction to keep. Please realize, however, that raising a child in a home in which it is taught that homosexuality is a horrible sin increases the odds of a child attempting or committing suicide by 800% if the child is an LGBT youth. It also fosters an environment of bullying in schools. Please ponder the fact that the most damaging and hurtful modes of coping with LGBT issues are those that are based on seeking spiritual reprieve or internal change vs secular counseling.

 harper

Choose your own path for yourself, that is up to you—but do you truly feel this is such a deal breaker that you cannot leave room for those who feel differently? The 11th and 12th articles of faith and D&C 134:9 urge us to let others choose to live their lives as they see fit and not mingle religious influence with the law:

 The 11th states: “”We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may”
The 12th article of faith states: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”
D&C 134:9 “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied”

     I know that many say that it is unjust to accept and allow LGBTs equality in this life since there allegedly is no place for same sex marriages in the eternal scheme. But honestly, Mormonism is a religion that is based off of perpetuating revelation! Line upon line, precept upon precept. Just look at all of the doctrine that has changed: polygamy was the only way to reach the Celestial Kingdom, slavery was acceptable, black families could not be sealed together, interracial couples were considered a grievous sin… the world has gained more knowledge and further revelation on all of these things when its people were deemed ready to receive it. Who is to say that we know all there is to know about eternal procreation and the entirety of God’s plan for his children?

At this point in time, I know what I am choosing to do. I am choosing to do unto others as I would have done unto me. I’m choosing my side in the pages of history. I know that God is loving and thus I know he has a plan for ALL of us. I know I am supposed to love my fellowman and that God wants us to be authentically happy in this life. I know that if homosexuality is indeed a sin, that the atonement can cover it on the other side of the veil.
If opposing homosexuality on all levels is ultimately the right path in God’s eyes and I’m wrong, I risk having loved too deeply and trying too hard to be empathetic and I will be punished accordingly. If, however, equal rights for homosexuals is actually in line with Christ’s will and I didn’t help my fellowman—I risk causing pain, suicide, distancing people from God, and depriving other people of the things in life I love best. Which risks do you think are more severe? I believe that those who oppose homosexuality based off obedience to biblical laws are counted on the Lord’s side. I feel equally confident that those of us who are for LGBT equality and rights are also on the Lord’s side. I believe the Lord’s side is quite spacious when you make room for love.

 wwhitman

1) “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, Identity Conflict, and Psychosocial Health Amongst Same-sex Attracted Mormons”, John P. Dehlin, 2014

2) “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults”. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW; David Heubner PhD, MPH; Rafael M. Diaz, PhD; Jorge Sanchez, BA.  Pediatrics Vol. 123 No. 1 January 1, 2009 . pp. 346 -352
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/123/1/346.full?ijkey=NrncY0H897lAU&keytype=ref&siteid=aapjournals

3) Standard-Examiner, Nancy Van Valkenburg, Oct 29 2013. http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/10/29/40-percent-homeless-utah-children-identified-lgbt

4) American Psychological Association, “Lesbian and Gay Parenting” is a joint publication of APA’s Committee on Lesbian,Gay, and Bisexual Concerns, Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, and Committee on Women in Psychology. http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/parenting.aspx

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Lori Burkman

Lori grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She received a BA in English from Brigham Young University and also served a mission for the LDS church. She was married in the Portland temple in 2005 and has three young children. She was a web designer during college, then went on to be a technical writer and editor for 3 years until she went on hiatus to take care of her kids full-time. She loves photography, music, recreational sports, reading, and studying. She's incredibly passionate about Mormonism and is excited to share her story with others.

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98 Comments

  1. Thank you, Lori, for stating the breadth and depth of the issue so well. As a happily married hetero man I have grappled with why the LDS church teaches/taught so forcefully against homosexuality and other similar issues (race of Cain, women’s equality, etc.) ever since I was a pre-teen. Such church positions always felt wrong even though I had no idea why or how to do anything about them at the time. It was decades of scripture study that led me to where I am today in my personal beliefs, and I applaud all those who are willing to step outside of dogma to see the full spectrum of truth in love, compassion, and similar attributes that are the most becoming of humanity. Thanks again!

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  2. Tom Montgomery

    Lori, I loved everything about this article. Your brought together all the aspects of this very well.

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      Thank you so much Tom! I was nervous to put it out there but I simply had to. I saw that you shared it on your FB wall as well, I hope it helps your family and friends. Thanks for your support!

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  3. Esteban Lee-O'Neal /

    Putting this data and these thoughts together really help me see the big picture. The damage and pain that gay members and gay persons experience simply trying not to hurt their families because of their beliefs is staggering. It’s tough enough to be gay, and trying to deal with your own sexual orientation is difficult enough, but then the added pressure from families, church leaders, and society to remain accepted and equal is almost unbearable, and for some it is unbearble and the pain is eased only by ending their lives. And then once they end it, remarks can be heard that it was better they had died. It is truly overwhelming. Love is the lesson, life is the classroom. Great work, Lori.

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  4. Alison Udall /

    So well done and filled with tons of good information. I wanted to jump up and down at this part…

    “If opposing homosexuality on all levels is ultimately the right path in God’s eyes and I’m wrong, I risk having loved too deeply and trying too hard to be empathetic and I will be punished accordingly. If, however, equal rights for homosexuals is actually in line with Christ’s will and I didn’t help my fellowman—I risk causing pain, suicide, distancing people from God, and depriving people of the things in life I love best. Which risks do you think are more severe? I believe that those who oppose homosexuality based off obedience to biblical laws are counted on the Lord’s side. I feel equally confident that those of us who are for LGBT equality and rights are also on the Lord’s side. I believe the Lord’s side is quite spacious when you make room for love.”

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  5. Well done!

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  6. I was never homophobic. The plight of the LGBT community just wasn’t on my radar.

    When I was 14 my mother gave me Carol Lynn Pearson’s “Goodbye, I Love You” to read. It opened my eyes and instilled a sense of compassion in me. But it still remained off my radar.

    Then Prop 8 happened. And for the first time in my life I could not align my heart w/ the words of the prophet. I spent many hours agonizing, trying to find a way to make the church’s rhetoric make sense to me.

    That kick-started my faith crisis.

    I felt called to be an ally before I even knew any gay people. (Well, I knew gay people. I just didn’t know that they were gay.) It was an issue that just wormed its way into my heart and wouldn’t let go. It’s the mountain I’m willing to die on. It’s one of the predominant reasons I’m done with the church.

    And when I came out as a staunch ally to my family recently (we’ve talked about the issue in the past, and they knew where I stood, but I recently had a strongly-worded email to the family about it) my 40 year old brother came out to me. He told me that I had given him a huge gift. That my bravery in coming out to the family as an ally gave him the courage to come out as gay. And he sent us all a picture of him and his long-term boyfriend.

    He further told me that he believes that I have had the struggles I have had with the church in order to put me in a position to be an ally to him. Without my struggle he would still be in the closet with our family.

    You never know who might need an ally. You never know who is listening. You never know who might need a safe person to talk to.

    I’m an ally. Because it’s the right thing to be. It’s as simple as that. It’s the right thing. It’s the compassionate thing. It’s the kind thing. It’s the fair thing.

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! Simply beautiful.

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    • Desiree Casperson /

      You did post your comment here, Maren. :) I love how well you put this. And this article, Lori, is easily the best article on this issue that I have ever read. I shared it on my Facebook wall as well, because this needs to be shared. I also emailed the link to one of my sisters so that she might better understand this issue from a different perspective. Thank you for your bravery in writing this, and for sharing it with the world.

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      • Lori Burkman
        Lori Burkman /

        Thank you Desiree, that means a lot! I hope that it helps anyone that you send it to. Thank you for your comment.

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  7. Just a little nit on this comment:

    “The saddest part of these historical narratives for me has always been that religion has often been the leading cause for pain and bigotry.”

    I’m not sure this is really accurate (I’m not an expert so feel free to push this argument a little more).

    I think rather, the world is full of pain, hatred and bigotry and at times, people have used religion as a vehicle to push it. I don’t think religious faith is the foundational cause. And there are plenty of times when religion has been on the receiving end of bigotry, pain and hate.

    One more nit, if you don’t mind, I’m not sure I care much about whether or not I’m on the right or wrong side of history. I’m wrong all the time, but I think we all are.

    What I care more about is that when I do engage with my fellow human being – I do so in a respectful, thoughtful and loving manner. That even when we disagree, we can disagree as friends.

    I think this is the great challenge facing society today. We obviously need space for the gay community in our society that’s safe and empowering. But we also need space for the religious community and sometimes different communities clash on issues. Great! Democracy!

    The problem isn’t that we disagree, it’s how we do it.

    The disagreement, though is important. We need to have a healthy exchange of ideas which is I think is the best antidote against mistakes and the greatest prevention against oppression and pain.

    Which is why I don’t care much about what side of history I’m on. If I defend what turns out to be a bad argument. I hope that one day, those who see it clearer then me will be able to convince me. And I’ll learn and come out of it a better person.

    But even when I hold a minority position, I hope I have the safety to express that position because I may be able to convince another that my position is worth considering.

    Sorry for the long comment.

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    • Just a one more quick addendum to my comment. I absolutely agree that no matter what, we should be loving, caring and compassionate to everyone. And if we all behaved that way, the world would be a far better place. So I agree with most of this post, just a couple of nits.

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      • Lori Burkman
        Lori Burkman /

        Don’t be sorry for a long comment! I enjoyed hearing your POV and I definitely agree that there needs to be room for all.

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  8. Fantastic post. You have clearly expressed many of the ideas I’ve tried to share with my church friends who, though very compassionate in so many other ways, seem to have a very large blind spot when it comes to the rights of others to find their own happiness.

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  9. Michael Husk /

    Lori,

    Your article was a very thought provoking, well researched and heartfelt. I’m glad I took the time to read it. Thank you for bringing your views to this forum. Still, I’m perplexed with your reason for equating the struggles that women faced in their attempt to finally receive the ability to vote and to be thought of as equals with that of the LGBT community. The same can be said for all of those that struggled in obtaining civil rights for all people of color during that epic fight for equality and voting rights to that now faced by homosexuals.

    Are those that are LGBT discriminated against when it comes to education, housing, employment, voting, etc.? No they are not, at least legally. I freely admit that many people still harbor prejudice against homosexuals but that may take generations to change and while extremely unfortunate is illegal to practice when it comes to the previously mentioned list. I respectfully believe that to equate their challenge to be the same as what was faced by these two groups, (women and minorities) diminishes what they had to go through. After all it was they who paved the way for those in in the present LGBT community to have voice and expect, even demand to be treated as equals, at least in the eyes of the law.

    Are homosexuals frequently found drown, raped, beaten, whipped, hanged, fire hosed, stepped on, bombed, jailed, spit on, publicly humiliated, and more as these brave men and women were? No! Thankfully these for the most part are things of our racist past. Unfortunately there are still occasional, isolated instances where these things still occur to minorities, but it’s not something that happens often or without the protection of the law.

    Bottom line, the fight for equality for all LGBT’s is not the same as it was for civil rights or women’s rights.

    Respectfully,
    Michael Husk

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      I totally get what you are saying and I appreciate it. The pictures up above were solely my own introspection of what I would do if I were in those pictures. That doesn’t mean this is the same fight or of the same scale. It simply meant that I look into the past and hope that I would have been the ones on the helping side rather than the suppression side.

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    • Though your point has merit, I don’t see the connection to the article. I don’t think she’s saying LGBT struggles are equal to the struggles of civil rights or women’s rights. The point she’s calling out that LGBT rights are our generation’s struggle(GenX/Y/Millenials) as opposed to women’s rights and civil rights which were previous generations’ struggle.

      This article’s focus is on her realization that she had mistakenly and passively taken a stand on one side by not knowing/acknowledging there was a legitimate struggle, and she came to a new decision after her studies legitimized the struggle for her.

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    • “Are those that are LGBT discriminated against when it comes to education, housing, employment, voting, etc.? No they are not, at least legally.” Michael H. comment

      The correct answer is YES Michael. Two examples below.

      “Arizona’s Legislature has passed a controversial bill that would allow business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.”
      Utah also just failed to pass SB100, a bill barring housing and employment discrimination against the LGBT community.

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    • With all due respect, you are quite wrong in the assumptions you make. Currently still in many states a couple or person can be denied housing, employment, etc. based solely on the reason of them being gay. (Society has advanced much further in this day and age, so those that choose to do that will face social repercussions, rather than legal ones.) It is not illegal in most places to discriminate for being gay. Some states have taken measures to cover that under discrimination laws, but many have not. That’s just within the states, we aren’t including the world here and certain countries that place flat out bans on homosexuality.

      As for the physical violence aspect, throughout history they have suffered many of the same abuses. Not on the scale that black people or women have had to go through (to note, homosexual people are a much smaller % of the population also), but there are reasons why many of them have had to hide that about themselves. Much of the abuse and torture they have had to suffer from society has been emotional, and verbal. Incredibly punishing, and leads to high suicide rates (especially in the LDS community.) So it is no leap at all to compare these struggles for equality in much the same way without insulting the horrible things people of the past went through.

      Bottom line, you’re right. It’s not the same, but it is the same concept, and the same idea being fought for. Rights, equality, and being invited to the table of ‘normal’ society.

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    • Alan /

      Excuse me, this response bothers me. People in the LGBT community have been and still ARE spit on, harassed, beaten, raped, killed. And while in some places being being prejudice to them in housing, jobs, education, etc. is now not government supported, that is NOT true everywhere. It many places in this world they are put to death by the government. In Iran gay men must go through a sex change operation or be put to death, and many other places have other legally enforced tortures. No matter what side of the issue we chose, the gay community has been and is treated much like what the blacks went through. This takes nothing away from the horror that blacks went through, nor the struggle of women suffrage.

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  10. Russell Baughman /

    As I read this, I felt like all my past thoughts on the subject and past discussions I have had with people were being written into this text. Truly incredible the way you organized and supported your arguments in this piece. I will share with everyone I know to help those who are ready to hear it and open their hearts more. Thank you so much for writing and publishing this. It made my day Lori :)

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  11. I really loved this article. I for once want the church to err on the side of love. I think if they were to do that, they would find that God is on their side after all. It’s so heartbreaking to see our youth growing up with damaging messages all around them. It’s sad for the LGBT person, but also for their friends who question their own hearts by being friends.

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  12. So according to your article a child can get along perfectly well with just two mothers or just two fathers. A parent of both sexes is just not necessary.Sorry but my own life tells me this is a great lie! Both sexes of parents are needed. Nature shows this if nothing else.

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    • What nature shows is best illustrated and quantified by the scientific method. Your own experiences may cause you to doubt the conclusions of many careful scientific studies, but both the tiny N and the lack of controls make anecdote all-but useless if you are trying to formulate generalizable rules and models. Certainly your own experiences are of great value in formulating your own model of the world, but they are not sufficient for you to be able to lay down accurate models that apply to all people.

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    • Lisa Glad /

      CoCo, I’m sorry for whatever in your parenting background that has been less than ideal. But your experience with not having both a mother and father (or whatever your situation was; this is only what I can assume since you did not elaborate) does not condemn all homosexual parents any more than the countless children of dysfunctional heterosexual parents condemn being raised in a home with both a father and mother. Yes, biology requires both a father and a mother to create a baby, but it is the love and commitment to the family (no matter how it is created) that bonds them together and creates a loving outcome.

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  13. Well said Lori and I agree with your assessment of rights for women, people of color and are gay brothers and sisters. I want to be on the right side of these issues and that to me means looking at things with love and understanding and not judgment.

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  14. Lisa Glad /

    THANK YOU, LORI! I picked this up off of Tom’s post, and you SO clearly state exactly what is in my heart. In my journey of accepting my two gay daughters, I have learned and grown so much more than I ever knew was possible. MY God and MY Savior (the Ones that I know and worship) would not create a group of people destined to either be eternally alone (as even same-sex friends are frowned upon for gay people) or to go to hell. Where is the love in that? Your post is so rational and clear and it truly spoke to my heart. Thank you for sharing, and for the implicit permission to share with others. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

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  15. anonymous for this-- /

    I haven’t processed the entire essay, and I don’t believe that government (licensing) should be involved in any kind of marriage.

    What prompted me to comment was the quote from Boyd K. Packer.

    What a terrible, cruel thing for this man to say, ostensibly to a group of students, some of whom would never (it is from 1963) experience “romance”, for one reason or another.

    What right does he have to dash the hearts out of those who will never be dated or courted or proposed to, by anyone, whatever gender.

    There have been many people, male and female, over the milennia, who never had romantic relationships, experiences. Some of them, many of them, perhaps, as long as they didn’t have an Elder Packer telling them they couldn’t have an “abundant life” had fulfilling lives.

    But I can tell you that the entire concept of ‘romance’ has led to many divorces. Unhappy children, unhappy men and women. Because “romance” is so important? To heck with romance. Fideltiy is by far of greater importance. And shame on Packer!!! He should know that! He has spent a lot of time circumscribing who may or may not have romance, and yet his words have contributed, if in a small way, to the heartaches and heartbreaks of many duped people who think life is not worth living without it (romance).

    Fie, Elder Packer!

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  16. Michael Husk,

    Michael,

    Thank you for your point of view.
    I personally see a huge parallel between the seeds of intolerance and discrimination sown against the LGBT community and civil and women rights issues. In addition, in some countries, the outcome is just about the same. In either case, it starts as a small seed of self righteous indignity or superiority, which is allowed to grow and yield unthinkable fruits of persecution, abuse, and sometime death, etc… the struggle becomes the same: to seek love, acceptance and equality. There may be some differences, but that is close enough for my moral compass.

    Michael Husk,

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  17. Michael Husk,

    It is false to state that LGBT folks are not legally discriminated against in housing, employment, and public accommodation. This discrimination is still legal in many US states. And rape continues to be a primary weapon of choice to attack and shame LGBT people. Forgive me, but the ignorance in this comment makes my jaw drop.

    The article itself is great.

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  18. Katherine /

    What is the purpose of marriage? Is it to validate love? Nope. In the eyes of the law, it’s about children and property rights. Does every relationship, even meaningful ones, need to be validated by law? No.

    I hold no objections to gay people being able to have weddings and live lives together as they choose. I do have a problem with the government forcing me to recognize same-sex unions in the same way that I acknowledge heterosexual marriages.

    There have incidences, both currently and in the past, where a business owner was sued or even jailed for refusing to participate in a gay wedding for religious reasons.

    If a person has the right to marry whomever he/she pleases, a business owner should have the right to choose with whom he/she does business. You cannot argue for one without actively undermining the other.

    I do not support state sponsored same-sex marriage. The main reason because there is too much potential of infringing upon the religious freedoms of others. This has already started to happen.

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    • Katherine,

      Your comment piqued my interest for a few reasons:

      1) You claimed marriage is about children and property rights and that not every relationship needs to be validated by law. Did you intend to imply that my marriage (a two-dude marriage) is not deserving of those legal protections (e.g., property rights, children)?

      2) You stated that you have a problem with the government forcing you to recognize same-sex unions. How *is* the government doing that to you right now? Can you provide examples from your own personal narrative?

      3) You claim that if a person has the right to marry who they want, a business owner has the right to refuse service to someone. Someone else offered the example of Arizona. Are you okay with being denied service because you are a woman? Are you okay with a Catholic baker refusing service to a Mormon family? If you were to draw a line, where would you draw it?
      Finally, I refute your claim (and that of Dallin H. Oaks, whom you might be parroting) that same-sex marriage will infringe on the religious freedoms of others. I encourage you to become more educated: a) discrimination laws exist independent of same-sex marriage laws and b) many laws about same-sex marriage include more protections for religion than protections for same-sex couples (ironically).

      So, when you say “a business owner was sued…for refusing to participate in a gay wedding for religious reasons”, what you’re actually talking about is a business owner who refused to serve someone who identifies as gay/lesbian — and that violates many states discrimination protections. If protecting a Christian person’s right to deny service is your goal, support laws like the one in Arizona. And when you say, “You cannot argue for one without actively undermining the other”, turns out you can: discrimination laws are separate from marriage laws.

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    • So much unwarranted, baseless fear. But I am not going to change your mind on any of that, but I will touch on the incident of somebody being sued for not participating in a gay wedding for religious reasons.

      It’s simple. As a business owner in most states, you do have the right to refuse service to anybody. You do not have the right to discriminate though. That is to say, you cannot refuse service based solely on something such as people being black, or women, or gay. Their religious freedom would only be threatened in this manner if they only provided service within, and for their own specific church and then were forced to provide for outside of their faith. When you provide service for the general public and populace, you are subject to the laws, and discrimination can open you up to civil action.

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      • A business owner should have the right to deny service to anyone for whatever reason. If I am a baker, and I am asked to make a cake in the shape of male genitalia, Am I forced to comply with that request? Or if I am a photographer, can I be forced to to take pictures of people making love? This is America, right? If I walked into a nice restaurant without my shirt, they can refuse me service, right? The baker who denies to bake a cake for a gay wedding has every right to do so. The person who was denied service for whatever reason goes to the baker across the street and asks that baker to bake the cake. Or maybe an enterprising gay person, who likes to bake, opens a bakery to cater to that community. if you can dictate who they must serve, what stops the government from dictating how much you can charge for that cake? It’s called freedom, embrace it.

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    • Alan /

      IF marriage is “In the eyes of the law, it’s about children and property rights” then anyone who never has children should not be allowed to marry, anyone who has no property should never be allowed to marry. So all heterosexual marriages that have no children nor property, need to be dissolved by the government. Right?

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  19. Get right with history and accept others for who they are;
    Immutable is immutable like it or not;
    There is no changing what is right from being right;
    There is no way of making cold ice be hot.

    Why can’t we search once and for all deep, deep inside?
    What do we get from wasting the treasure of our lives?
    Denying some else’s right to be just who they are?
    And stubbornly keep taking the wrong side.

    Just because we think we are different doesn’t make it true;
    Just because we haven’t seen it, lived it, or tasted it before;
    Come on; give others and yourself a chance to love anew;
    Let love, not hate be our guide, today and forever more.

    I don’t know if what they taught me is always right;
    I don’t care to judge another because I don’t want;
    To be denied my own right to live for lack of others’ sight,
    That they suffer from because they choose to remain blind.

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  20. Another Point Of View /

    I appreciate Lori’s outreach and love to all of God’s children. At the same time, I think we should remember the first and greatest commandment – to love God (not ourselves, not others) more than anything. Truly it is about love…but love of God first. Christ’s own life showed that he put the Father’s will above his own. Everything in his daily step was to praise and love God…including love and blessing those around him, as Lori so appropriately states.

    So the crux of the matter is if God approves of homosexual behavior…whether one is born with it or they educate their desires through a lifetime of choices, doesn’t really matter. The atonement that was referenced here was executed out of love of God and obedience to him alone. Christ even asked that the cup be removed from him, but he continued out of obedience to Father. What do we learn from Christ’s actions? That we will be asked, all of us, to forsake things in our life that we don’t want to do. Things that may feel entirely natural to do…but we put them aside out of love of God. The scriptures are overflowing with story after story that demonstrate this principle. So can a person have a complete life, a wonderful, fullfilling life if they are obedient to God in all things? Why would he ask such sacrifices of us? Because he asked it of his son.

    So while I don’t believe in gay marriage and don’t believe LGBT sexual behavior is pleasing in the sight of God (and this is probably not the forum to explain why), I do believe in loving them as deeply as Lori professes. Because they are not defined by their sexual behavior, but by their obedience to God…as we all are. Why were we sent to this earth? To become like Father.

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  21. Jeremy

    Arizona just passed a bill to allow discrimination based on religious conscience that has Jim Crow written all over it. If it weren’t for civil rights paving the way my guess is the gay rights movement might look very similar with the exception one could hide what they were, though still living in terror of being found out.

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  22. David Bryce /

    I enjoyed your compassionate and insightful perspective. It seems clear to me that few LDS members (or others!) would ever make the “choice” to be gay given the inevitable hardship, pain, and ostracism that follows. The fact that they do so anyway is itself evidence of an intrinsic nature that should not be dismissed.

    However, I’d like to raise the issue of whether Jesus ever commented on homosexuality. Consider the following scripture which are words of Jesus in reference to those who choose never to marry. Matt 19:12,

    12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 19)

    I know what he means when he speaks of eunuchs made of men. I think I know what he means by eunuchs for the kingdom of God’s sake (monks?). But what does he mean by eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb? Context suggest he’s not talking about men born without genitals (an extremely rare event). Rather, the context seems to suggest he’s talking about eunuchs in the broad sense of those who have no sexual desire for women and therefore do not marry. Of course, gay marriage at the time of Christ would be an institutional impossibility.

    If he’s not referring here to being born gay, what is he referring to?

    David Bryce, BYU professor
    Twitter: @dave_bryce

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      That is a cool way to look at that scripture. From how I read it (under your direction), it would show that Jesus knows people are born gay. I don’t see this as any kind of condemnation on them though, unless I’m missing the greater context.

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    • I’ve never seen evidence that the word ‘eunuch’ was applied to gay men during the time of the KJV translation. This is comfirmed by the Oxford English Dictionary which only defines eunuch as a castrated male or the use of the term as a harem attendant or other official position.

      I see no reason to read into this verse more than what’s there – why should “eunuchs…so born from their mother’s womb” be anything more than individuals that were born impotent or intersex for whatever reason? It’s also very plausible that this was more common 2,000 years ago than it is today. We know very little about the historicity of the prevalence rates of these conditions in Christ’s day.

      I’ll have to do some more research into the original Greek that was translated as ‘eunuch’ later, but I think this interpretation is quite weak.

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  23. Love this! So well said! Thank you!

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  24. Loraine /

    Michael Husk,

    Michael, yes, homosexuals are found dead, beaten, hanged, tortured. Often. For no reason other than being homosexual. It’s appallingly common, and rarely reported on in the news

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  25. Loraine /

    Lori, thank you for a beautifully written, thoughtful article. And thank you for the citations, as I am always comforted by evidence. And lastly, thank you for noting that Jesus, as described in the scriptures, never said anything about homosexuality. Thank you taking a stand for principle and human rights. All humans rights. Well done.

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  26. Lori, thanks for this wonderful write-up. It has indeed moved my understand of the issue higher than before. And though i may not be on the side you stand with, i certainly appreciate & understand your choice.
    David Bryce, thanks for that scriptural connection of Eunuchs – its indeed a fresh lense.

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  27. Lori, you are a rock star. Thank you so, so much for this. What’s funny is that I stayed up late last night writing my own blog post about this exact topic, and haven’t decided yet if I’m going to publish it or if I just needed to write it for me. (You have to be in the right mood for the inevitable backlash, you know? You probably know. ha.) Anyway, thank you for your courage in hitting publish. I know it can be so hard, but it is so, so encouraging to find an ally who feels the same way I do about this, and it encourages me to be that for other people and bravely share my thoughts too. If anything, the comments/stories from people above who are so relieved to hear a voice for their own feelings, hopefully make this post so worth it to you! I’ll let you know if/when I hit my own publish button :)

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      Thanks so much Katie! I really appreciate it. It’s hard to put something like this out there, but I have been shocked and overwhelmed by the many people who needed to hear it and are excited to share it. There is backlash, but the good it’s doing is outweighing it. Send me a link when you publish!

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  28. This is fantastic and I feel the exact same way. Thank you!

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  29. Lori,
    As a Latter-day Saint and an Ally, I have struggled how to answer the question, “do you support gay marriage?” I think I’ll just make it simple on myself and show them this article instead. Thanks for this!

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  30. I think it’s really great that we can have discussions like this and people can have different viewpoints, and that it can be okay. I have been enjoying the comments on this post, and appreciate the respectful nature of most of them.

    I have read much written on this topic by angry same-sex marriage supporters (and justifiably angry in many ways, I’m sure) who then proceed to be just as unfair to those who do not agree with them. I was shocked to see people commenting on a recent article about alleged discrimination against gays by The Salvation Army (an article with accusations that, from what I could dig up, were unfounded and untrue) where the people commenting were accusing anyone with hesitancy to accept gay marriage as being hateful people who were just hiding behind religion to excuse their own behavior. I guess it hadn’t occurred to me that someone would think I wasn’t genuinely just doing my best to worship God.

    I think that if we can accept that the LGBT community is made up of people who are sincerely embracing their own beliefs and desires to be themselves, it would follow that people who oppose same sex marriage might also be doing their best to make sense of their own convictions and trying to be true to themselves and God as well.

    I have always identified with the argument that being LGBorT can be very difficult and that those of that community might not have chosen it for themselves had they been given a choice. It does not seem like an easy path. I cannot imagine the heartbreak and suffering so many belonging to this community have experienced.

    So I would hope that those who have suffered with this difficult path might understand where I am coming from, too. Honestly, I think it would be much easier for me to approve of same-sex marriage whole-heartedly. The movement has grown so large and has so many supporters, and is filled with so many people motivated by love and understanding. It has had so much success, and seems to be the general way the state laws will be going in the near future if they haven’t already.

    It is very difficult and very unpopular for me to oppose it. I am saddened to automatically be labeled a bigot or a homophobe. In this vein, I hope that people can be empathetic toward my cause and my struggle, too. I think it’s really easy to assume the worst about someone else’s motivations, but in reality, I don’t have any motivations except what my own heart and personal revelation have confirmed to me. I do not oppose the movement because I hate anybody.

    Is it so impossible to believe that someone would do a hard, unpopular thing because it felt right? It’s the same argument the LGBT community is making, so I appreciate it when that same line of reasoning and compassion can be extended to me and to my beliefs, too.

    I appreciate the heartfelt tone and self-deprecation in your post. I totally identify with it. I agree that the awareness of the suffering of our fellowman and fellowwoman is a must. I also think that you personally, as my dear friend and as someone with a similar background to mine, might understand better than others what my struggle is and hopefully can support me in my own heartfelt choices. I have been wanting to blog about my feelings on the subject but, like you, have been fearful of the inevitable backlash.

    It’s amazing what the Internet has done to connect people and open up national and even global discussions about really tough issues. Here’s hoping that there can be more posts and articles like this one that are respectful, kind, and tolerant, and that can continue to open up a dialogue. Maybe some solutions can be reached that can benefit everybody. I really hate the division this issue can create between two opposing sides who really just each want room for their own beliefs and freedoms.

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    • You are always worthy of respect as a person and an individual, but the stances we take, no matter how firmly we believe in them do not always deserve the same respect as the individual with the stance. I do not wish to disrespect you as a person in my response, and if it comes across as a personal insult I do apologize.

      The divide on this issue can be so vehement because of the mentality of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” At it’s core it is still saying being homosexual is not right. You cannot be who you are. It is contrary to the will of God. You are only to suffer, and suffer alone except for you can turn to God. That’s all you get in life. That is what is being told to gay people. That whole you can disagree with somebody, and still love them argument then comes up. But you are disagreeing with who that person is. Disagreeing with something they did not choose for themselves. In essence, calling them either a liar, or a failure if they want to embrace it rather than follow the will of your God (this will tend to produce defensive, or angry responses, and has to the point where many people are angry and tired of it.)

      There really is no win for them from your viewpoint. How can they compromise, when a compromise is not what is being asked for? They are being asked to make complete sacrifices, and for those sacrifices not only to be willing choices of suppressing their agency, but ones sanctioned by law and society to further destroy their psyche.

      Really, in all honesty what would your side of things lose? That society around them acknowledges, and accepts these people as equals? Do you truly believe if they start getting married, society is going to crumble around you? Children are going to be harmed? Even though there is absolutely no evidence to support these fears, and the little evidence we do have shows quite the contrary?

      I remember a few scriptures. “There is no fear in love.” “God is love.” So if those really are the case, is it following the will of God to oppose this, or is it following the fears of other men mingled as the word of God?

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  31. Jeff Kindred /

    Lori, Happened upon your article. I am curious if you are a still a member of the LDS faith? If not you can stop here, I can respect and have no problems with your opinion. If you are I have some sincere questions– (I am really not trying to cause a fight, but I am curious). Do you believe that the Church is truly led by revelation? Do you believe that God and/or Christ are leading the Church? If so, how do you justify the stance (we heard from multiple GA’s and apostles in last conference and take a look at the March issue of the Ensign) that the Church has clearly taken? Lastly, is there anywhere in the Bible or Book of Mormon where it was wise to not follow the prophets voice and/or counsel (even in the case of Blacks and the Priesthood– what would it have profited someone to speak out before the revelation came)?
    Thanks,
    Jeff

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      I am still a member but am not currently in the pews. I am having a hard time coming to terms with the difference between what I always thought the church to be and what it actually is and has been historically and am sorting that out.
      Brigham Young said:

      “What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.” (JD 9:150)
      I do think that the church is led by inspired men, but I do not think that that means that every single thing they say is the voice of the Lord Himself. Historically, the practices and doctrines of the church show that they were not always in line with the Lord but were swayed by the prejudices of the time. The ban on the priesthood for african americans shows as much, and that was heavily preached and justified from the pulpit for 150 and our 180 years as a church. It caused families to not be sealed together. I believe we are to hearken to the voices of the prophets, carefully pray over what they ask of us, bring it to the Lord for confirmation, and live according to our confirmation. Prophets and apostles are not infallible, so yes I think there is room to take an alternate stance from the pulpit and still be in line with God. All of the people who were excommunicated for not supporting the priesthood ban on african americans would agree. http://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

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      • Lori Burkman
        Lori Burkman /

        President Joseph F. Smith said, “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.” (Journal of Discources (JD) 16:248)

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  32. David Bryce /

    Lori Burkman,

    Certainly not a condemnation. None whatsoever. Just a statement by him of realities. That’s why I find it fascinating.

    -DB

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  33. David Bryce /

    Capricornus,

    My interpretation is speculative of course. However, it cannot be disproved by looking up the definition of eunuch in the dictionary. I obviously know what a eunuch is, but Christ shows in the scripture itself that he’s not using the “castrated” definition, except in the case of eunuchs “made of men.” Frankly, even if the original Greek uses this word, it doesn’t prove anything, since context alone disproves it.

    And yes, I am willing to accept the possibility that Christ is referring to birth defects. But it seems doubtful to me he would call this out and create an entire category around it. Nevertheless, it is possible. But then, why would he insist such people don’t marry? Seems odd.

    (Suggesting that Christ is referring to birth defects by the way undermines your first point – that we must use the standard definition of eunuch. You can’t have it both ways. Either he’s redefing, broadening, the definition or he’s not.)

    Regardless, assuming he’s referring to birth defects is no stronger than my argument that he may be referring to sexual preferences. All is speculative without further light and knowledge.

    David Bryce

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    • David Bryce /

      By the way, I am bringing up the scripture because so many members of the church assert that being gay is a choice. I find it fascinating that Christ himself may have recognized that homosexuality is inborn. Agree with my interpretation of the scripture or not, but it’s tough to find an explanation that’s any more plausible than the one I offer for that scripture.

      David Bryce

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    • Where’s the problem in taking ‘eunuch’ at face value and applying it to Christ’s words? Eunuch, meaning a castrated male, makes total sense in those that were “made eunuchs of men” and those who have “made themselves eunuchs”.

      As far as those “eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb”, how does it make more sense to bring orientation into this over someone born with traits similar to those exemplified by eunuchs (i.e. non-standard genitalia)?

      The thing is – ‘eunuch’ means something, and I’ve never seen that it’s meant anything relative to one’s sexual orientation outside of modern interpretations like yours. I see no contextual conflicts here in starting from the standard definition.

      Granted, it’s a weird verse and I can’t really explain the reason for the categorical division or the associated prohibition. (Frankly I can’t picture Christ telling anyone not to marry, whether their gay or intersex).

      But bringing in sexual orientation to verses that really seem to have very little to do with it doesn’t provide any additional clarification. When a hypothesis lacks evidence and doesn’t provide answers or insight, that’s when it’s time to come up with a better hypothesis.

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  34. I enjoyed reading your commentary. I do have some amount of difficulty when individuals try to compare the current homosexual climate in the church with past doctrine, as I don’t see that the doctrine in the church has changed since it’s inception. Homosexuality cannot be compared to polygamy as it seems only the earthly practice of polygamy has been stopped, but eternally it continues if one is to believe in the sealing power. There was never a doctrine that forbade blacks from the priesthood, rather a misunderstanding that was perpetuated this poor practice.

    On the other hand the proclamation to the world clearly states: “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife”

    I don’t mean to argue, but to understand how an LDS individual can fit the above statement with the possible idea of eternal homosexuality.

    This is not a statement made by a member of the 12 or some gospel scholar, but written and accepted as revelation by the First Presidency as the word of God. If one wishes to accept this as the fallacy of religion I completely accept that, but how does a believer of LDS doctrine reconcile the words of the very recent prophet with what you have said concerning homosexual relations.

    I find it interesting that you bring up the chart showing the amount of joy available to individuals that suffer from Lupus. We accept that Lupus is incurable based on our current scientific knowledge, but when someone is born with Lupus we accept that as their burden to bear during this life knowing full well that most of the suffering that comes as a result of their condition will not be alleviated in this mortal life, and we seem to be okay with a loving God allowing that to happen.

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      “I don’t see that the doctrine in the church has changed since it’s inception.”
      I recommend reading the book “This Is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology” by Charles R. Harrell if you think that doctrine has not changed.
      To name a few: Joseph smith AND the book of mormon’s first edition taught a trinitarian (three in one) god for nearly a decade, Adam/God doctrine was taught by Brigham Young during his entire life and was also taught in the temple as 100% doctrine, Temple rites have changed dramatically, and the doctrine of polygamy has certainly changed. Multiple prophets taught that monogamy would be the downfall of society and is a degenerate form of marriage, the only true form and the ONLY way into the celestial kingdom being a polygamous union. There are way, way more aspects of doctrine that have changed.

      As for this “There was never a doctrine that forbade blacks from the priesthood, rather a misunderstanding that was perpetuated this poor practice.”
      A letter given to congregations of the church read as follows and was signed by the entire first presidency:

      A letter in 1947 reads:
      Dear Brother Nelson:

      As you have been advised, your letter of June 16 was received in due course . . . We have carefully considered [its] content; and are glad to advise you as follows:

      We make this initial remark: the social side of the Restored Gospel is only an incident of it; it is not the end thereof.

      The basic element of your ideas and concepts seems to be that all God’s children stand in equal positions before Him in all things. Your knowledge of the Gospel will indicate to you that this is contrary to the very fundamentals of God’s dealings with Israel dating from the time of His promise to Abraham regarding Abraham’s seed and their position vis-a-vis God Himself. Indeed, some of God’s children were assinged to superior positions before the world was formed.

      We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept this, but the Church does. Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the pre-existence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born, have a religionship in the life heretofore.

      From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.

      Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God’s rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous. Modern Israel has been similarly directed.

      We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this are, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.

      Faithfully yours,

      [signed]

      George Albert Smith
      J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
      David O. McKay

      The First Presidency

      Also, this was an actual statement given to congregations to read and ponder over also signed by the first presidency:
      “August 17, 1949

      The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.

      The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

      The First Presidency”

      There were multiple statements signed by the entire first presidency mandating this is from god and will not change, not until every last human male who will live on the earth gets the priesthood first, ONLY then will blacks get the priesthood.

      The race and the priesthood essay published by the church this past summer neglected to include that this was taught as DOCTRINE, as a straight up commandment by the Lord for 150 years. Look it up yourself if you don’t believe me. That book I suggested outlines it well, and so do the books written by Michael Quinn, a foremost church historian who references the original papers. Doctrine has absolutely changed, and it has ultimately led to a better existence for all god’s children. For this reason, I am choosing to support LGBT equal rights at this juncture in time. There is room for further light and knowledge on this subject and I will support my brothers and sisters in the interim and leave judgment up to God. If you yourself are gay and are choosing celibacy and a complete lack of options for a family of your own in this life then I commend you for your willingness to follow the prophets and I wish you the best, I sincerely do.

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      “I find it interesting that you bring up the chart showing the amount of joy available to individuals that suffer from Lupus. We accept that Lupus is incurable based on our current scientific knowledge, but when someone is born with Lupus we accept that as their burden to bear during this life knowing full well that most of the suffering that comes as a result of their condition will not be alleviated in this mortal life, and we seem to be okay with a loving God allowing that to happen.”

      The key difference here is that Lupus is not a sin. Nor is any other physical ailment. To have big, hard bouts of lupus flares has nothing to do with your closeness to the lord or his approval of you. You can get married, be intimate, have a family of your own, and have equal rights with the rest of society if you have Lupus. They compare in the graph from John Dehlin’s study just to show quality of life as a reference point. I personally do not see these remotely related in the way you are pairing them since one is a physical illness and the other isn’t an illness at all.

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      • The difference is as you have stated, or placed another way, we have a very good understanding of many physical laws so we don’t question the suffering that comes as a result, but may not have a good grasp on spiritual laws. It can be inferred from you discussion that the happiness may be a result of societies acceptance that allows for inner peace. There are other diseases such as tuberous sclerosis that result in extreme unhappiness, not because of the physical malady, but because of societies reaction to the deformity.

        You state that the difference is that Lupus is not a sin, but your whole premise is that homosexuality isn’t a sin either, so the comparison becomes valid.

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  35. Jeff Kindred /

    Lori,

    No, I don’t worry about that (being led to utter destruction by a man that I sustain as a Prophet of God). If I didn’t have faith he was truly a Prophet of God than that would change things. The prophet Joseph Smith said, “I will give you a key that will never rust, if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.”

    I don’t need to pray to receive a spiritual confirmation about the Word of Wisdom because it is already in scripture and clearly taught by His prophets. Also, as a physician and human I can clearly see the dangers that alcohol, tobacco, poor eating habits, etc can have on me and society. Ironically smoking tobacco was seen as healthy up until the 1960’s. There were probably many members who had trouble with the WoW or decided not to obey because they couldn’t understand why it was important for many years. Polygamy was another issue that didn’t make sense to the members of the Church. Unfortunately many left the Church over this point of doctrine that they couldn’t forced many members out of the Church because they couldn’t believe God would command such a thing.

    So, while it may seem bad to be on the wrong side of a heated political or civil rights issue, I believe that it would be much worse to be on the wrong side of a spiritual issue. What if the Apostles, Prophet and GA’s are not mistaken on this? What if God really has a law of morality that does not condone LGTB relationships and it will not change? Now there is no reason I see that I cannot love, care for, befriend any of these individuals nor should I judge them as people but I must judge their actions to be wrong if God has spoken.

    It seems you have an influence on many people- just by seeing the comments from your article. It is very imperative that you find out if the Church is led by revelation because if it is, you don’t want to be fighting against it (I don’t think). I ask the same question as before….is there ever an instance in the Bible or BoM where people followed a prophet and it didn’t lead to safety and peace— I have not found one. My faith lies in who the teachings, commandments and doctrines of this Church have helped me to become. It hasn’t been an easy journey and it hasn’t been without doubts but I really believe that it is true.

    Take Care,
    Jeff

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    • Jeff,

      I agree

      Jake Corry

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    • Jeff,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love seeing people share their convictions and show their great love and loyalty to what they believe.

      Your comments did raise a big question for me, though, particularly when you said:

      “I don’t need to pray to receive a spiritual confirmation about the Word of Wisdom because it is already in scripture and clearly taught by His prophets.”

      Are you sure about that? Have you not studied the origins of our church doctrine? Have you not studied the processes in which official policies of the Church have been made?

      Are you suggesting that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not need to pray about which church was true? Are you saying that he didn’t need to pray about the use of tobacco when Emma began complaining about the messy tobacco cans he and his friends would use, which allowed him to receive the Word of Wisdom? Almost every great revelation was given as a result of someone praying about something. What about the scripture that inspired Joseph to pray and receive the First Vision?

      “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).

      Notice the use of the words “all men.” God gives revelation to all people who ask Him.

      The leaders of the Church are known to have been wrong many, many times in the past. Just to name a few:

      Wilford Woodruff instructed the Twelve during the dedication of the Manti Temple that they were “not going to stop the practice of plural marriage until the coming of the Son of man” (Heber J. Grant Diary, 17 May 1888). And he said again in 1889 that “the Lord will never give a revelation to abandon plural marriage” (L. John Nuttall Diary, 24 Nov. 1889). Obviously, he was wrong about that.

      Brigham Young denied blacks the priesthood and temple blessings, and he even taught that if blacks marry whites, “the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110). Today, blacks marry whites in the temple. He was obviously wrong about that.

      Bruce R. McConkie taught that blacks wouldn’t receive the priesthood until after the millennium. He was wrong. His book “Mormon Doctrine” was once accepted as part of the Church’s official library. Now it is not.

      The civil rights movement happened in the 60s, and yet it took clear until 1979 for blacks to receive the priesthood. It didn’t happen until President Kimball prayed many, many times in the temple inquiring the Lord about the subject. Even then, he was mostly worried about the reaction he would get from the Twelve because he was about to embarrass them by basically saying that everything they had been teaching up to that point about blacks and the priesthood wasn’t true. That’s gotta be a tough pill to swallow.

      The point is, it is absolutely crucial that we are always prayerful and inquisitive to God, even about those things we read in the scriptures and hear from the leaders of the Church. Even the leaders of the Church sometimes get ahead of themselves and attempt to teach God’s will before He actually gives it.

      Joseph F. Smith said, “If we give you counsel, we do not ask you to obey that counsel without you knowing that it is right to do so. But how shall we know that it is right? By getting the Spirit of God in our hearts, by which our minds may be opened and enlightened, that we may know the doctrine for ourselves, and be able to divide truth from error, light from darkness and good from evil” (Joseph F. Smith, Collected Discourses, ed. Brian H. Stuy, Vol. 3).

      Joseph Smith said, “We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them [even] if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings” (Millennial Star, vol. 14, #38, p 593-595).

      The brethren are running a really big church with millions of people and thousands of issues. They are doing the best they can, but they are prone to mistakes, even big ones sometimes. That doesn’t mean they aren’t prophets. It just means they are human. I think every one of us should always be prayerful about these issues and not just blindly accept what we’re told, no matter who is teaching us.

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    • Jeff, I actually agree with the basic idea you’ve expressed here that it is better to be on the right side of things spiritually than to be on the right side of “history.” I actually don’t think invoking “the right side of history” is useful in moving discussion of this issue forward. And I say that as a professionally trained historian.

      But in answer to your scriptural question… I would say that the scriptures are full of examples of prophets who got it wrong and had to be corrected by God. We see examples of this in modern and ancient times. Examples include Moses (in Numbers 20), Peter (Acts 10), Joseph Smith (D&C 3). Those examples just spring to mind off the top of my head… There are other examples.

      I can also think of an example of an individual refusing to take “no” for an answer from Jesus (Mark 7/Matt. 15). As it turned out, Jesus was refusing to bless her as a test of her faith.

      You seemed frustrated with the idea that we should have to pray about and test all things to know if they’re true, but that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul insisted we must do… 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Not convenient, since it requires more work on our part, but I think that’s the kind of disciples the trials and challenges of this life are intended to make us.

      Although I grimace a bit every time I see someone use the “history is on our side” argument (how can we know that in advance, as if history has already played itself out?). But I appreciate Lori’s compassion, and I am familiar with the many, many stories of LGBT people who faithfully did exactly what Church leaders asked them to, only to have it end in disaster. These were extraordinary individuals, showing extraordinary faith.

      I do think God is testing us, to see how great our compassion is in these circumstances. Lori seems to want to err on the side of compassion, and that seems in harmony with the latest words of a living prophet in the closing talk of this past General Conference: “I’ve never yet felt a tinge of regret for being a little too kind.”

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  36. Kyle,

    I can’t speak for Jeff, but I believe you may have answered your own question.

    You quoted Jeff with the following.

    “I don’t need to pray to receive a spiritual confirmation about the Word of Wisdom because it is already in scripture and clearly taught by His prophets.”

    Then you made the jump to Joseph’s situation.

    “Are you suggesting that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not need to pray about which church was true? Are you saying that he didn’t need to pray about the use of tobacco when Emma began complaining about the messy tobacco cans he and his friends would use, which allowed him to receive the Word of Wisdom? Almost every great revelation was given as a result of someone praying about something. What about the scripture that inspired Joseph to pray and receive the First Vision?”

    There was obviously not clear doctrine available to Joseph until it was established through him. So praying about the Word of Wisdom now is entirely different from praying about the Word of Wisdom 150 years ago.

    Should the lord command me, as he did Nephi, to take someones life I would certainly question that, but I don’t feel a need to pray about whether or not I should go out and kill my neighbor. Are you suggesting that I should?

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  37. Jeff Kindred /

    Kyle,
    Appreciate your comments although I don’t think they are reasoned very well. If I used your reasoning I would be spending my entire awake life praying if genesis is true, what about Leviticus, what about exodus….. My concern is when Christ comes and we need oil in our lamp, the excuse that we were still trying to figure out if the vessel was actually truly a vessel is not going to work.

    So, yes I am quite certain about that. Once again I don’t worry about being led to utter destruction by a man that I sustain as a Prophet of God. However, if I didn’t have faith he was truly a Prophet of God than that would change things. Once again, the prophet Joseph Smith said, “I will give you a key that will never rust, if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.”

    I ask the you same question as Lori….is there ever an instance in the Bible or BoM where people followed a prophet and it didn’t lead to safety and peace— I have not found one.

    I will continue on my journey of learning line upon line, seeking revelation on matters that I feel I need revelation on and hopefully, through the grace of Christ, become what God wants me to become.

    Take care,
    Jeff

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    • Jeff-
      So what you are telling me is this – “don’t think, just obey and you will be ok.” Does that sound right? Feel free to correct me if that doesn’t sound like what you are saying.

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      Safety and peace for whom? The survivors? The ones who lived to record the story from their POV? Do you honestly stand behind the many stories in which entire ethnicities of people are eradicated violently? The Amalekite Genocide in which men, women, children, and babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys are all slaughtered and NO ONE was spared? Seriously? Or the massacre of the Canaanites? Or King Asa purging the land of all non-Judaic worship by killing everyone in gory battle? Sampson killing 1000 people with the jawbone of an ass? How about in Judges 21, where the benjamites failed to assemble with the other tribes for discourse so God told the prophets to go kill have the entire tribe decimated (including their women and children) and then their virgins were kept to be given to others.

      I’m sure that there is some good, semi-godly reason for all of these stories, and yet I’m also sure that the prophets and “speakers of God” of the time most definitely could have thought a bit harder about how to love God’s children better. I’m also rather confident that if someone refused to kill a baby, they wouldn’t be in too much trouble in the hereafter for refusing such a cruel commandment.

      So I’m with the nonbaby killers. Let’s teach and live with love and let God decide and judge in the end.

      There are multiple instances in the restored church (publicly lying repeatedly about polygamy being a big one) in which the revelations and advice of prophets led to hurt, pain, great suffering, and pretty much the worst lifely outcomes you could ever hope to face. You really don’t have to look too far into our history to see this. Yes, WE turned out fine 200 years later? But at what cost? SOOOO many people have suffered at the behest of prophets. If you think that is just how God rolls, then that is your personal interpretation of God. For me, I honestly think that there is a lot more room on God’s side. If a prophet asks you to do something you’re morally uncomfortable with, then why would we be punished for that? This isn’t coming from laziness on my part. This is coming from a willingness to stand up for what I find to be right, for what has been confirmed to me through deep study and prayer.

      If you yourself are gay and are excited about your celibate life you have before you in which the very yearning for a companion and family of your own is a sin you must refrain from, then I support you in your quest and I hope it works out for you. If you are not gay, however, how about we love them and let them find God on their own terms?

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      • Lori Burkman
        Lori Burkman /

        Did I mention blood atonement doctrine? That one too. Doctrine that caused or threatened murder because there are sins for which the atonement cannot cover without the shedding of blood. Also taught by Brigham Young in the temple.

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  38. Beautiful! Thank you. Posts like these give me so much hope for the church and make me think that maybe I don’t have to actually leave because the deepest most intricate feelings I can feel as a human being tell me I’m in love with another good and moral man who loves me in return.

    Thanks again! :)

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  39. This was so beautiful that it brought me to tears. I feel blessed to have read it. Thank you so much for sharing it with so many people who need to hear what you have to say.

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  40. I love this article. As an LDS mother of a bisexual child, I have had a LOT to ponder and pray about since my child came out to me…and I skill have a LOT of praying ahead of me…that being said, I have let this child know that I still love and accept them for who they are..a kind, loving, person. My goal has been to learn to love everyone with a more Christ-like love, and leave my stone UN-thrown. I know that many people are “born this way” and it is NOT my place to tell them it is because they did something in the pre-existence to make this some kind of “punishment” for them…that doesn’t even make sense!! God created man that we might have joy…not to feel that every burden we must bear is somehow a punishment. We must all be able to accept every part of who we are…even the”negative” parts, because everything combined his who GOD created us as. The more we fight against ourselves, the further we become from our Heavenly Father…telling him He made some kind of mistake…but when we truly love ALL of our “selfs”, then we can truly feel the Lords love for us.

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  41. In this article you have stated so beautifully many of the feelings I feel. Love is the answer. Thank you!

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      Denise, Kelly, and Emy–I’m so glad you enjoyed it, feel free to share! I really hope that it helps anyone who reads it.

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  42. Lori–

    John P. Dehlin–his article that you cite–where can I find a copy of it? Your citation didn’t look complete.

    Thanks

    Rachel

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  43. Kyle /

    Jeff Kindred,

    Jeff,

    “I ask the you same question as Lori….is there ever an instance in the Bible or BoM where people followed a prophet and it didn’t lead to safety and peace— I have not found one.”

    I don’t know. Books that were written and translated hundreds of years ago long before I was born, about people who lived thousands of years ago, which books I must authenticate purely on faith because I was not around to see any of it for myself, so I have to take everyone else’s word for it; I obviously don’t know if any of them were not led to safety and peace by their prophet.

    But I do know what I personally experienced for myself. I know that all the years that I lived my life purely on what the general authorities taught, from the time I was 12 till a year after my mission, my life was an endless hell of anxiety, depression, and extreme self-loathing. I knew I was gay. I knew I didn’t choose it. I tried for years to get fixed. When I finally decided to pray and ask God for myself, I found the first feeling of peace and pure divine love that I had ever felt. And step by step, God pulled me out of the mess I was in. My life is finally peaceful, happy, and absolutely wonderful. I feel closer to God than I ever did. That’s how I know that what the general authorities are currently teaching about homosexuality is not true. I found that out for myself.

    Of course most of what they are teaching IS true. I’ve also found that out for myself. But the gay issue is just another repeat of things like polygamy and the black issue. I know everyone will see that someday, but it’s awkward living in this time because most members of the Church disagree.

    I realize there were some holes in parts of my last argument. Thanks for pointing them out. I can always use coaching. :)

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  44. Carla /

    Best. Paragraph. Ever. Everything is so well said; I wish I’d written it myself!

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  45. Carla /

    Oops…Best. Essay. Ever. Thank you!

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    • Lori Burkman
      Lori Burkman /

      Thanks Carla! I appreciate it. Feel free to share it with anyone that it might help or resonate with!

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