11 September 2020

Jacob Hess’ Bridge is Falling Down

 Tyler Perry

Note: I get a little sweary at the end.  But it’s fine.  I’m fine.  We’re all fine here.  How are you?

Because 2020 sucks, Jacob Hess has delivered a Part 2 to his eloquent and well-written dissertation on Mormons Building Bridges (MBB) and their ilk that is certain to convince all wayward souls to return back to the fold of Mormonism.  In an absolute stunning display of excellent pacing, smooth prose, and entertaining education, Jacob Hess has solved Mormon bigotry, cured the divide between LGBTQ people and the church, and offered up a stunning solution to world hunger.  He also included the chemical formula to a 99% effective COVID vaccine that is going to be available on the market next week.

The above is what sarcasm looks like.  Sarcasm is my defense mechanism when I have decided that beating my head against the wall until either the wall breaks or I do is an improper strategy for coping with ignorance, condescending behavior, and an essay so boring it makes me want to read Steinbeck. 

Yes, English majors, Steinbeck is the worst and you are all wrong for thinking that he is a good writer in any way.  Seriously, Of Mice and Men is like 60 pages long, and it is honestly 50 pages longer than it should be.  How in the world did this guy get added to the list of required reading for high school English classes?  I am fairly certain that Steinbeck was read to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to get them to talk.

But I digress.

What we have in Part 2 is a major misunderstanding of the purpose of the story of Nehor, a hollow call to repentance, and terrible epistemology.

I am going to make every attempt, as a fully grown, adult human person, to minimize my Nehor jokes.  However, I still giggle whenever I talk about Beaver Dick Park in Rexburg, so I would not recommend setting your expectations very high.

Epistemology

I am going to just go wild and crazy here and start with the end of Hess’ essay.  Hess ends his essay with what may be the worst bit of epistemology imaginable.  He suggests that there is a chance he may be wrong about his assertions (he is), and that the only evidence that either side can bring to bear is how they “feel”.  Spoken like a man who has used “feelings” to determine truth for far too long (this guy has a PhD!  HOW???).

He then asks the correct question.  If all we have to go on are feelings, and someone can feel the opposite of what he has said is true, then how do we determine who is correct?  The answer?  Well, Hess suggests “peace” is the answer.

Get a job, you dirty hippie!

Now that I have put Spencer W. Kimball back in his box, let me explain why this is bad reasoning for Hess to use.

First, there’s the obvious issue that “peace” is not something that we can hold or observe any more clearly than “feelings” can be.  This makes peace just as useful for determining what is true as feelings are.  A thought experiment: Let’s say that Hess and I are sitting in a room and Joseph Smith walks in with an opaque jar of cookies.  Brother Joseph shows us that there are cookies in the jar, and says, “In this jar is a certain number of cookies.  That number is either even or odd.”  Being rational people, both Hess and I agree that it is true that the number of cookies in the jar is either even or odd.  I say that the number of cookies in the jar is even.  Hess asks me why I think that.  I answer, “I feel it very strongly, and that feeling brings me peace.”  Should Hess agree with me that the number of cookies in Joseph Smith’s opaque cookie jar is even?

No!

Why?

Because Emma was a perfectionist who always baked an even number of cookies, but Joseph was a problem child who would steal one and eat it when Emma was not looking, resulting in an odd number of cookies in Joseph Smith’s cookie jar.  The answer was obvious from the start.

In seriousness, the answer is because “feelings” and “peace” are not sufficient justification to accept a position as being truthful.  Hess should only accept that the number of cookies in the jar is even or odd after a measure has demonstrated that the number of cookies is even or odd.  Until that time, he should make no affirmative statement about the quality of the number of cookies in the jar.

Are we clear on this example?  I hope so because we are moving on.

The second problem has to do with “peace” itself in Mormonism.  When I was on my mission, I had trouble sleeping.  Part of it was the fact that the schedule does not work well with my natural rhythms.  I am a night owl, and 10:30 P.M. is much too early for me to be going to bed most nights.  The other reason I had trouble sleeping was because I had some spooky dreams.  There was the “death by tornado” dream, the “my companion is a creeper” dream, and the classic “spooky Mormon Hell” dream.

As an out and proud gay man, I have had exactly zero of those dreams.  This begs the question, does being an out and proud gay man bring me peace, or did being an active Mormon bring me peace?

There is also the fact that Muslims will say that the Quran brings them peace, Scientologists will say that Dianetics brings them peace, and Hindus will say that the Bhagavad Gita brings them peace.  So, are Mormons right?  Are Muslims?  Scientologists?  Hindus?  It seems that “peace”, for an outside observer, is not a good metric for determining truth.  And if two Mormons cannot agree on what brings them peace, then we have an even bigger issue to address here.

But that is another issue for another essay.

The point of this is that the epistemology that Hess asserts at the end of his article is asinine.  Allow me to offer a real alternative.  The view that we should go with is the one best supported by the data.  I have shared that data in previous posts.  I suggest going to the Trevor Project website or reading Evan Smith’s Gay Latter-Day Saint Crossroads for a solid collection of data on the subject.  And do additional research on the data, as well.  See who is able to read the data with the least amount of inferences and interpolations, appeals to supernatural authority, logical fallacies, or dismissals of data that they do not like.

Like a Bridge Over No Water

What does Hess actually suggest as the bridge, like he promised he would reveal to us in Part 1?

Are you guys ready for this?

No, really?  Are you ready for this biting insight?  Are you sitting down?

Okay, here it goes.

Repent.

Holy motherforking shirtballs!  How did I not think of that?  Repent?  What insight!  What wisdom!

I mean, I have literally never once ever heard a homophobic Christian tell me to repent, ever.  In all my life.  At all.  Even once.

See, kiddos, there was the sarcasm, again.  I would say that I am trying to be better about that, but the truth is that I am just leaning into it more and more.

And then, it just gets better.  This expert on LGBTQ issues suggests NorthStar, that organization with strong ties to the old Evergreen International, ya know, that organization that advocated for conversion therapy and murdered (not a legal, but rhetorical allegation) LGBTQ kids who just needed acceptance [1].  Yeah, that organization.  Yeah, survey says hell no, Hess.

And Hess has the audacity to drag Tom Christofferson into this.  Tom Christofferson is not someone who I agree with, but I hear that he is a wonderful person.  He does not want his story used like this, Hess [2].  He would probably be appalled at how he was used in Hess’ vapid arguments.

Do You Wanna Build A Straw Man?

According to Hess, we are all just a bunch of Nehors.  I mean, my boyfriend would call me one, and you can interpret that however you want to (this is the only Nehor joke I will make, I don’t promise that at all).

Nehor was this guy in the Book of Alma, in the Book of Mormon, who preached a doctrine of universal salvation and priestcraft.  Hess asserts that we can just ignore the priestcraft, the part that Alma and company were really upset about, and focus on the universal salvation.  I am going to dive into both issues and why this was not a smart story for Hess to bring into his argument.

First, it is interesting that universal salvation is discussed in the Book of Mormon at all.  The Book of Mormon is a peculiar book when treated as a literal translation of historical, divine text.  One of the things that is so interesting about that is how much the text addresses the questions New England Christians had in Joseph Smith’s day.  Questions like: Where did the American Indians come from?  If God loves all his children, why did they not have prophets in the Ancient Americas?  What happened to the Lost Tribes of Israel?  Is universal salvation correct, or are we saved by grace?

Yeah, that last question was a pretty big deal in Joseph Smith’s day.  And the Book of Mormon seemed to favor the “saved by grace” approach.  But Mormon doctrine found in the Doctrine and Covenants presents more support for the universalist approach [3].

First, let us get a couple of definitions out of the way.  “Salvation” is defined as the rescue from death, the condition introduced to mankind by the Fall of Adam.  “Exaltation” is the state wherein saved souls become like God the Father.  Mormons tend to conflate those two words, and, in standard Mormon dialogue, that is fine.  However, the distinction is important.  Everyone who comes to Earth will be “saved”, in the sense that Jesus died and was resurrected and now he has gone full Oprah with resurrected bodies.  The overwhelming majority of people who have lived on Earth will also be saved from spiritual death, since only those cast into Outer Darkness will not enjoy the presence of a member of the Godhead for all eternity [4].  That’s right, folks, Mormons are, in a manner of speaking, universalists, just like Nehor.

Look at you Hess, being a filthy, filthy Nehor, just like us gays.

Exaltation may not be assured, but, since the Nephites were practicing the Law of Moses, at the time of Nehor, there is no reason to believe that Nehor was speaking of exaltation.  In that sense, Nehor was correct.  As Obi-Wan Kenobi taught, “Many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.”  Also, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”  But really just that first thing.

Doctrinally speaking, Nehor was not wrong.  Thus, Hess’ point is what we call “a bad argument”.

Then there is the fact that Hess consciously ignores the priestcraft discussion.  And this is going to seem like maybe I am spewing “anti-Mormon garbage”, but this is just the truth.  The Q15 receive sizable stipends for their positions as prophets, seers, and revelators.  It is only because of Mormon Leaks that we know about that [5].  They have not been transparent in those dealings.  It is also only because of a whistleblower that we know about $100 billion in liquid assets [6] that the church has that it is not using to support research into a COVID vaccine [7].  Justify that however you need to.  That idea just does not bring me any peace at all.

HULK ANGRY!!!

Which leads me to the last point, and the point that Hess spends most of his essay complaining about.  This all makes me kinda angry.  The Book of Mormon has this big issue with anger except when it does not (it’s cool for Captain Moroni to do it, trust me).  Hess ignores that time that Jesus flipped over tables and chased people with a whip because they were using the temple to make money [8].  I suggest that we accept that there are times when anger is justified and times when anger is bad.

I am angry because kids are killing themselves because God will not send an angel with a flaming sword to tell the Brethren that the current teachings are wrong and, frankly, evil.  They have blood on their hands, and God is complicit in that, since angels and flaming swords have been a viable option for compelling prophets in the past [9].  I am angry because so-called Christians continue with this “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit that justifies their homophobia, because their best way of loving you is to tell you to repent of your sins.  I am angry because I was bamboozled into fighting against my own interests (Prop 8).  I am angry because the church continues to harm people like me just for the identities that they have struggled and agonized over (November policy, BYU Honor Code February 2020).

And I am angry because pretentious pseudo-intellectuals like Jacob Hess assume that I take any of this for granted.  You have no idea what I, or any other LGBTQ+ person has been through.  You are being little more than an ignorant, malicious asshole, and MBB is going to be better without your stench anywhere near it.

I hope you repent, Jacob Hess.  I hope you become an ally.  But right now, you embody the worst of what humanity has to offer: bigotry wrapped in compassion.

I am sure that that has never caused any harm.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evergreen_International

[2] https://www.deseret.com/2017/9/13/20619341/gay-brother-of-mormon-apostle-shares-his-spiritual-journey#tom-christofferson-brother-of-elder-d-todd-christofferson-of-the-quorum-of-the-twelve-apostles-shares-his-journey-and-perspective-as-a-gay-mormon-in-a-new-book-titled-that-we-may-be-one

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universalism_and_the_Latter_Day_Saint_movement

[4] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/salvation?lang=eng

[5] https://www.standard.net/lifestyle/faith/new-mormonleaks-documents-unveil-lds-church-leaders-salaries-meetings/article_b4baf4ea-4bdb-569b-8ceb-80ba62ad5e7c.html

[6] https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/18/us/latter-day-saints-charity-funds-complaint/index.html

[7] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/08/08/feds-spending-more-than-9-billion-covid-19-vaccine-candidates/5575206002/ Essentially, the church could spend around 1% of its liquid assets on COVID vaccine research and be competitive with what these companies are receiving from the government.  They are saving that money for an emergency, I guess…

[8] https://gephardtdaily.com/local/lds-church-releases-plans-for-residential-community-near-tooele-valley-utah-temple/ Draw your own conclusions here.

[9] https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith/Polygamy/Did_Joseph_Smith_coerce_women_to_marry_him#Question:_Did_Joseph_claim_that_an_angel_threatened_him_with_a_.22drawn_sword.22_or_.22flaming_sword.22_if_a_woman_refused_to_marry_him.3F Always good when I can use apologist sources to prove my point.

10 September 2020

Mormon Cosmology is Cool

Tyler Perry

Are You Not Entertained?

I am going to say something that will probably make some of my gay friends very unhappy with me.

I love Ender’s Game.  Hands down, my favorite novel of all-time.  In so many ways, it defined my adolescence.  I felt such a connection to the struggle of Ender Wiggin as a kid who just did not quite fit in at home or at school.  I better understand the reasons why I struggled with those connections now, but that book gave me a sense of belonging and shared experience that I could hardly find anywhere else.

Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender’s Game, tends to slip Mormon cosmology into his writing.  He literally wrote a series that is little more than a sci-fi retelling of the Book of Mormon.  He also participated in the writing of the script for my favorite original Xbox game, Advent Rising.  You have probably never heard of Advent Rising, as it was not terribly popular, it was super buggy, and it had bad graphics, even for the time.  However, I love Advent Rising.

Advent Rising tells the story of Gideon Wyeth, a space pilot tasked to participate in the first contact meeting with an alien species that has just mysteriously arrived over his homeworld.  Gideon learns that humanity was once anciently worshipped as gods, and that he has the potential to achieve unfathomable power.  Sound familiar?  Well, it is my theory that Card slipped in some references to Mormon cosmology into the text.

As a side note, the Halo series tends to be regarded as the Xbox series with the best soundtrack, but Advent Rising absolutely blows it out of the water.  I am a sucker for soundtracks, and Advent Rising was, in my infallible and always correct opinion, the best of the original Xbox generation in that category.

Going back a few decades, another Mormon creative by the name of Glen Larson created a science fiction series for television called Battlestar Galactica that borrowed themes and imagery from Star Wars and Star Trek.  This little series was reimagined in 2003 by Ron Moore and David Eick, and it retained many of the elements that Glen Larson had worked into the mythology of the series.

Battlestar Galactica tells the story of the survivors of the destruction of the Twelve Tribes, or Colonies, of Kobol, who are cast into exile searching for a new home on a planet called Earth.  There is a government called the Quorum of Twelve that rules over the Twelve Colonies.  The original series had many more references to Mormon cosmology and theology than the reimagined, but the heart of that mythology survived the generations.

Also, Battlestar Galactica (2003) has an incredible soundtrack composed by Bear McCreary.  It has the best use of music I have ever seen in television.  Honestly, the show is worth watching just for the soundtrack, but it is an amazing show on top of that.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, however, I am not writing this essay because I want to gush over a few of my favorite pieces of entertainment.  Instead, I am using these pieces of entertainment to make another point.

Space, Space, I Love Space

Mormon cosmology is absolutely fascinating.  Even orthodox belief in the cosmology can lend space for scientific learning that seemingly runs contrary to the Biblical narrative, and the nature of Mormon cosmology makes it really easy to put external contradictions on the shelf. 

Honestly, my favorite thing about Mormonism is the cosmology.  This may sound shallow to some, but when the third-highest ordinance (behind the sealing and the second anointing) is all about cosmology, it’s difficult to deny that the cosmology of the faith is an important and significant aspect of the religion.

The story is absolutely amazing.  I am going to share with you the version I was able to build up as my mission drew to a close (peak spirituality of course).  This was the result of extensive study into the cosmology, history of the temple ordinances, and the doctrines of the Plan of Salvation, inasmuch as the resources were available to me on my mission (this is important to note since I was only authorized to study from the canonized scriptures, Preach My Gospel, Jesus the Christ, issues of the Ensign, and very few additional sources).

Well before the beginning, all that would become human life existed as intelligences, or intelligent matter.  These intelligences are eternal, but they existed in some kind of unformed state.  God the Father, Elohim, who dwelled near the star Kolob, looked upon these intelligences, saw that they were good, and, in concert with his wife (or wives, if you ask Brigham Young), organized them into spiritual beings.  His spirit children.  This process of organizing intelligences into spirts is not well-defined, but it is believed that it is analogous to the earthly reproductive power.

It is believed that the first spirit child of our Heavenly Father, Elohim, and Heavenly Mother(s) was Jehovah, who would later come to the world in a tabernacle of flesh and blood as Jesus the Christ.  Thus, Jehovah is our Elder Brother.

Among the great spirit children of Elohim were Michael, the man we would know as Adam; Gabriel, the man we would know as Noah; and Lucifer, who would become Satan.  A pet theory that I held, in part because I think it is awesome, is that all the “dispensation-opening” prophets were archangels.  Adam was Michael, Noah was Gabriel, and Joseph Smith was afraid to talk about the ordering of spirits in the pre-existence because he thought he would be killed for making such a claim [1].  There were 7 archangels in ancient Judeo-Christian tradition [2] and 7 dispensations in Mormon theology [3].  It would stand to reason that the spirit children Elohim chose to open gospel dispensations would be the elite among the elite.  Since Mormons hold the endowment sacred, I will not be diving into details of that ceremony, but there is implication within that ceremony that indicates that Peter may have had a major role in the early gospel history of man, which gives further credence to this archangel theory.

Elohim taught and trained his spirit children.  As his children, they were the same species as Elohim (a species that we will refer to as Homo sapien deus), and they had the potential to become like him.  However, Elohim has a body of flesh and bone, which his spirit children did not possess.  He also has wisdom that they did not possess.  To mature into beings like him, Elohim, in council, developed a plan whereby his children would obtain bodies of flesh and blood and be tested to see if they could become like him.  He would create a world for them to come to, and they would enter the next phase of the Homo sapien deus life cycle.

Thus, on Earth, we are gods in embryo (this is an idea alluded to in The Miracle of Forgiveness).

Elohim’s plan required the perfection of his children, a standard that few would be able to meet.  As such, an intercessor would be required to allow Elohim’s children to be made clean before returning to his presence.

Lucifer proposed a plan whereby all of Elohim’s children would be able to live with him for eternity, but the glory for the execution of this plan would go to Lucifer.  For his hubris in placing himself above Elohim, Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven, and Lucifer became Satan.  Jehovah, on the other hand, supported Elohim’s plan, and agreed to be the Intercessor, or Savior, of humanity, with the glory to be given to Elohim.

And so, Jehovah was chosen as the Savior.

Jehovah and Michael, who would become Adam, the first man, were put in charge of creating the Earth.  The works of the temporal creation of the universe and the world began at some point around this era of the premortal life.

Weird Science

The Creation of the Earth in Mormon cosmology works better with our scientific understanding than orthodox Christian cosmology does.  Even if General Conference talks by supposedly scientifically literate prophets dismiss the idea of the Big Bang Theory, Mormon cosmology absolutely has space for the theory.  Unlike the idea that the Big Bang was a sudden explosion of matter, the actual scientific theory describes a rapid expansion of matter and anti-matter.  When matter and anti-matter collide, they release photons [5].

And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.

Where Mormon cosmology runs into a bit of a problem with the current scientific consensus is in the beginning of life and the variety of life.  Evolution by natural selection requires reproduction and death to function.  However, according to Mormon theology, death did not enter the world until the fall of Man, approximately 6000 years ago [6].  Thus, evolution by natural selection, a scientific theory that is supported by a massive amount of evidence, is incompatible with Mormon theology, but not necessarily Mormon cosmology.

I want to posit the cosmological hypothesis I was operating under to balance out these conflicting ideas that I held to be true.  Death, being a natural part of temporal existence, was found in the animals, plants, bacteria, and other organisms not of the Homo sapien deus species found outside the Garden of Eden before the Fall.  Only in Eden was death not known.  In fact, a genetically compatible species or two of Homo sapiens were on the Earth outside the Garden of Eden in the years before Adam’s Fall.  It is from these other Homo sapiens that Adam’s first generation of children found their mates [7].

Humanity exists on this world to go through the life cycle steps necessary to become like Elohim.  Michael, as Adam, began the process by partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This gave humanity the ability to discern good from bad, right from wrong, but it also distanced us from Elohim for a time.  Jehovah, who came to the Earth as Jesus the Christ, closed the gap between humanity and Elohim, making it possible for Elohim’s children to return to him.

Those who are seeking to fulfill the life cycle steps of Homo sapien deus must be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, receive temple ordinances, be sealed for time and all eternity, and may receive the second anointing if they are righteous enough.  All will eventually die.

At death, the spiritual component of the Homo sapien deus body goes to a waystation of sorts known as the Spirit World.  In the Spirit World, spirits continue to learn and to teach as they await the day of their resurrection, when their sprit and their body, now perfected, will join to never die again.  After the resurrection, each child of Elohim will be judged for their worthiness to become as he is.  Those who have passed the test will be welcomed into the Celestial Kingdom, wherein they will enter the final stage of the Homo sapien deus life cycle.

They will then become as Elohim is, and they will propagate the Homo sapien deus species by forming intelligences into spirit children of their own.

I remember having a conversation with my grandmother where I posited that one day, science will advance to the point that we will be able to measure all of the truth claims of Mormon cosmology, proving them to be true.  Eventually, we would have the technology necessary to fold space-time, detect higher dimensional beings, and quantify our own status as pre-divine children of Elohim.  I think the insinuation that human learning could achieve harmony with celestial learning was a bit difficult to accept for someone with more orthodox views, but it lined up very well with my views.

Guys, Cosmology Is, Like, Super Rad, But...

Mormon cosmology is amazing, and I do not think that it gets enough attention for its potential as a source of storytelling and wonder.  I spent most of my mission making the sorts of questionably blasphemous jokes that missionaries make about creating worlds of my own.  In those jokes was wonder and awe, not belittlement or flippancy.

In a way, the cosmology of the faith was what tied me to it so closely.  What other faith offered something so impressive?  The very doctrine of the eternal family was inextricably linked to this incredible story of man’s potential to become so much more than what we are now.  And I was excited to participate in that plan.

And then, I came to realize something.

Before I get into that, I want to talk about a conversation I had with my roommates at BYU-Idaho.  We were talking about aliens.  Bunch of nerds.  I mentioned that if we ever met fully sapient aliens that were not human, it would cause me to question, or perhaps lose, my faith in Mormonism.  It did not make sense to my understanding of Mormon cosmology that Elohim would organize sapient intelligences into bodies that could not become like him.  That were not the same species as him.  Thus, the discovery of intelligent alien life that was not human would disprove Mormon cosmology.

And then I met an alien.  And it was not human.

I’m kidding!

What actually happened was much more ordinary.  I have written about this before, but I hope that this essay puts that account into better context.  I read a comment on a YouTube video or a Greg Trimble blog or something (I will never find this comment ever again) in the wake of the November 2015 policy that asked the question, “Why would gay people want to be made straight in the resurrection?”

Understand, my understanding of Mormon cosmology was that every worthy child of Elohim would become like Elohim, creating worlds and spirit children.  That act of creation requires a man and a woman.  It had not occurred to me, for some reason, that being forced into a heterosexual union against their very nature could be hell for gay people.

And the sneaky issue was that I had spent the last couple decades hiding from myself the fact that I am gay.  This question, not in that moment, but over time, completely shattered my worldview and my love of Mormon cosmology as a truth claim (I still do honestly believe that Mormon cosmology is a fantastic story that should be the inspiration for more awesome stories like Battlestar Galactica and Advent Rising).  The more that I wrestled with my identity as a gay Mormon, the more that I struggled with this cosmological question.  And the cosmology of the Plan of Salvation started to fall apart at the seams.

How could this be the correct cosmology of a benevolent and loving god, as I believed Elohim to be?  How could this be the true plan if there was no place in it for upwards of 10% of Elohim’s children?  I mean, 10% is a tithe.  Is Elohim tithing his children with LGBTQ+ identities as some sort of twisted sacrifice?  If so, why would I want anything to do with him?

Honestly, within the confines of Mormon cosmology, I do not have good answers to those questions.  No one that I have talked to does either.  The best that I have seen were in Evan Smith’s Gay Latter-Day Saint Crossroads, and, as far as answers to cosmological questions are concerned, even that comes up short [8].

Mormon cosmology was the bedrock of my faith. Placing that bedrock on my shelf was more weight than it could bear.

References

[1]https://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Quotes/If%20I%20were%20to%20tell%20you%20all%20I%20know%20%20JosephSmith.html This definitely falls into the category of "deep doctrine".

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Archangels Even more "deep doctrine".  You might hear about this during a High Priest Group meeting or on a mission.  If you have a really fun Gospel Doctrine teacher, you also might dive into this a little bit.  Otherwise, the Seven Archangels and their relationship to Mormonism is a bit of a fringe topic.  "Just don't teach it as doctrine."

[3] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/dispensations?lang=eng Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter (Christ), Joseph Smith.  Dispensations should be designated by the giving of certain keys.  These keys can all be identified by how they were restored in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.  Elijah does appear to function as a restorer of the keys of Enoch.  He possessed Melchizedek Priesthood authority and the sealing keys during the dispensation of Moses, which was also the Levitical era.  Enoch’s lack of appearance in the dispensation of the fulness of times is notable (though there are some who argue that the reference to Raphael in Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a reference to Enoch), and for that reason it has been argued that Elijah acts as a restorationist of the dispensation of Enoch.  The exact definition of a dispensation is a bit fuzzy, however.  There is an implication that a dispensation ends with an apostasy and the next begins with some sort of restoration, though the amount of restored teachings vary from dispensation to dispensation.  The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, the modern dispensation, is meant to have all knowledge and keys restored.

[4] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2012/04/thanks-be-to-god?lang=eng I was on my mission when this talk was given, and it made me uncomfortable then.  I agreed with parts of it, but I knew that this characterization of the Big Bang was just bad, let alone the allusions to evolution that do no better.  And coming from the "science guy" of the Twelve just made it all the worse.  There is good stuff in here, like when he talks about how incredible the heart is.  I absolutely agree that the heart is an amazing organ.  The way it functions as an electromechanical device is nothing short of amazing, but it has some serious inefficiencies that call into question God's skill as a designer.  I mean, congenital atrial septum defects are so common that if the heart was deliberately designed, the designer should be fired for such a gross oversight.  This talk points to a few issues with trying to use science as part of your theology that routinely rejects science.

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilation My use of this reference is part of an oversimplified discussion of the Big Bang Theory, but I am not a physicist, nor is my intended audience.  Getting much deeper into this discussion is not beneficial for my intentions here.  I do encourage the reader to do their own study into the Big Bang Theory, the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, and other scientific theories.

[6] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/death-physical?lang=eng

[7] This is completely supposition and personal belief, not the official teachings of the church.  I am also very aware that this is a “God of the gaps” style of argument, more or less fitting God into wherever there is gray area in our current scientific understanding.  As I worked with rationalizing my faith in God with my increasing scientific literacy, this type of thinking was important to me.  Since my shelf has fallen apart in recent years, however, I have much less need to fit God into those gaps.  If he exists, I am willing to go with “Hasa diga Eebowai” as my response to anything about him.  If he does not exist, then our current scientific understanding is the best explanation for these things anyway, so why waste energy on trying to fit God into that?

[8] https://www.gayldscrossroads.org/ First of all, this book is amazing.  It is the book that I wish I had when I was 14.  Evan Smith is awesome, his family is incredible, and this book is wonderful.  Please read and support it.  I understand that Evan is not really trying to answer cosmological questions with his book.  He does propose some theological answers to these questions, and, while I appreciate those attempts, and I hope that he continues to maintain his activity and membership in the church, since we need allies like him on the inside, I do not agree with the conclusions that he has reached on the theological and cosmological issues.  I do think that they are the best attempts, and, if you ask any more “why’s” on top of what Evan presents, I think you arrive in John Dehlin, Bill Reel, and Tyler Perry territory.  Read this book and go as far as Evan goes if you want to be an LGBTQ+ ally but remain a believing member of the church.  Do not ask those next questions if you are not interested in following them where they lead.  It is a bitter and painful road.  I would contend that it is worth it, if you are looking to follow truth wherever it leads, but the cost of asking those next questions is high.

30 August 2020

How Mormons Building Bridges (et. al.) Are Awesome and Jacob Z. Hess Is Not

Tyler Perry

When I came out as a broken straight person who likes masculine bodies, the clear and apparent conflict with my Mormon upbringing was brought to the forefront of my conversations with others in the church.  How do I rationalize my faith with my identity?  How do I deal with the apparent lack of hope within the Plan of Salvation?  Where do I turn to for a sense of community?  These were difficult questions with difficult answers.  So, I am going to answer each of them as concisely as possible in order.

I don’t.  I wrote an essay on it [1].  Mormons Building Bridges and similar groups.

So, when I see the writings [2] of a stunning intellect, such as those by Jacob Z. Hess, PhD and mindfulness extraordinaire, telling me that Mormons Building Bridges is leading people away from the church, I have to wonder how much he actually understands about the issues at hand.  In fact, his entire way too long essay that is going to get a part 2 (because 2020 wasn’t bad enough already), is rife with a failure to understand the very community he is writing about.

Also, please don’t suffer reading through his entire essay.  It won’t do you any good, and I hope that this takedown of it is adequate to inform you that patronizing this pile of pseudointellectual fecal matter is not worth ruining your day over.

Hess starts things off great with a deep, insightful question about the protests at BYU earlier this year.  “How does a committed Latter-Day Saint arrive at a place of being willing to shout demands in Provo or in front of the Church office building?”  I believe that for most active Mormons in the Wasatch area, that answer is either a car or UTA.  Some may choose to walk or bike, but I think the dominant mode of transportation is a car.

Now, he does admit that if you had done your research on the protests of BYU’s abusive practices from the end of February to the beginning of March towards LGBTQ students (please, ESPN, cancel your broadcast contract with BYU until they stop being homophobic jerks #DefundBYU), you may have come across an answer from the “8 or 9 [unsourced] articles” that were written by the Tribune or other sources.  Hess doesn’t like the answer that the protests were because the church and BYU have a long history of abusing LGBTQ students and church members.  Hess seems to think that this a bad or dishonest answer.

What Hess does think caused people to protest the hateful, bigoted practices of BYU was not listening too good in church or something.  He talks about two types of listening that he observed in Mormons Building Bridges and similar groups.  The first is listening to the LGBTQ people and their allies about their struggles in dealing with the church and its leaders.  This is done with compassion and understanding.  As someone who has personally benefited from Mormons Building Bridges, I can attest that it is a very affirming, positive group that acts in love.

What Hess seems almost offended by is the “indifference and sometimes outright contempt” that the Mormons Building Bridges community has toward essays and writings and ideas that may suggest that it’s okay to be in the middle of a church that seems to actively despise who you are as a person.  What he fails to understand, because he has no capacity to understand, is the pain that so many LGBTQ members have actually experienced.

Now, you may at this point be thinking two things.  First, you may be thinking, “But, Tyler, aren’t you just showing indifference or outright contempt to Jacob Hess and his writing here?”  And the answer to that question is yes I am, but there’s a good reason for it.  The second thing you may be thinking is “I’m hungry and Hess’ essay is so boring.”  And if you’re thinking that, then go eat something, and I told you that reading that essay is a bad idea!  So quit your complaining.  You chose this.

What you didn’t choose was to be LGBTQ+.  Hess doesn’t understand that concept.  But I digress.

Hess ventures into this diatribe about the gay rights movement being this recent movement that acts as an inheritor to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  Well, allow me to learn you a little history here, Hess.  The modern Gay Rights Movement, as we know it today, began outside a dingy bar in New York City called the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969.  Though Marsha P. Johnson is often credited for throwing the first brick (black trans women for the win on this one!), the truth is that no one knows who threw the first brick.  However, the record on this from the people who were there paints it as perhaps the most fabulously gay protest imaginable [3][4].

See, Hess seems to think that Stonewall or the associated Pride events that followed never really happened.  At least, he never acknowledges them.  He instead seems to think that the Gay Rights Movement started in the late 90s or early 2000s, when the church’s political activism against gay marriage really took off.  In this, Hess reveals a bias.  He supports the church’s position, and he does not understand the LGBTQ+ or ally position.

This is also the section that made it clear to me that Hess is not acting in good faith.  He does not present steelman arguments of his LGBTQ+ readers’ positions on the issues.  He presents this weird strawman that ignores the history of the Gay Rights Movement.  He tries instead to describe the Gay Rights Movement as arising from the Black Civil Rights Movement.  While there is certainly some connection there, it is not as though Stonewall was a natural consequence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He also makes this weird comparison to the way “Christians lost the 1970’s debate around abortion” that I think is telling about his mindset in approaching LGBTQ issues.

And another question came to my mind as I read this section: “Why, Jacob Z. Hess, is the church always behind the curve on accepting marginalized people?  Why was the Lord’s church among the last to accept black people?  Why is the Lord’s church still not accepting of the Lord’s LGBTQ children?  How does it make sense to you that it is okay for the Lord’s Kingdom to feature such a long and storied history of bigotry and exclusion?”  For the record, there is this street in Layton, Utah called “Gentile”, because that street was once a popular place for the non-Mormons to live.

Mormon inclusivity.

Following some more nonsensical rambling, Hess gets on to the point with this common “boo hoo, I have to learn new words” section, where he mentions words like “cis”, “heteronormative”, “pansexual”, and “trans”, as well as others.  Allow me to define those mentioned terms, briefly:

  • Cis – refers to someone whose gender identity aligns with their sex at birth
  • Heteronormative – the societal standards that expect or even require heterosexuality
  • Pansexual – people who have a sexual attraction to cookware; people who can be attracted to a person irrespective of their gender identity
  • Trans – refers to someone whose gender identity does not align with their sex at birth

I know that it can be really hard to learn new words, but I think you can use that PhD brain and figure it out.

Hess then uses comments about members of Mormons Building Bridges or Encircle sharing stories about places in the church where they found acceptance, and then he paints that as bad thing.  It is weird.  I mean, he has spent the body of this article complaining and insinuating that Mormons Building Bridges and similar groups are leading LGBTQ members out of the church, so I am not certain why these comments that would actually be useful for keeping someone in the church are bad.

Truly, the master of mindfulness understands the greater mysteries that I, myself, cannot bear witness to.

Now, I hope y’all were ready for the real homophobia of Hess’ essay, because we are about to get all sorts of weird, backwards claims about queer identities.  So, strap in folks!

Okay, so these questions are often asked in quite convoluted and frankly stupid ways, so I am going to ask them better.  Ask yourself, have you ever considered any of these questions?

  • Is the message we share on Mormons Building Bridges more correct than the teachings of the Brethren on LGBTQ issues?
  • Are the fruits of our messages good?  Do they promote faithfulness?  Do they cause harm?
  • Could it be that the reason why you, a broken straight person, feel hurt be because you cannot reconcile your identity with your faith?

If you thought, “Of course I have considered all of that.  The reason why I joined MBB was because I felt that the Brethren needed to change their messaging, and I was glad to find a community of people who support those who have been hurt by those teachings.  The fruits of these messages we share are good because studies have shown that queer kids who receive affirmation are less likely to attempt suicide than those who don’t [5].  And I think that most of our messaging is not going to change the faithfulness decisions of those in the group.  We have active church members in our group, and we have inactive or post-Mormon members of the group.  Everyone is welcome.  And yeah, something that leads a lot of LGBTQ members out of the church, or into even worse circumstances, is that they cannot reconcile their identity with their faith.  Seems pretty cut and dry to me.  What was your point in asking that?”, then you and I can hang out.

So, after these questions that seem to suppose that LGBTQ Mormons have not spent years of their lives grappling with these exact questions, Hess proceeds to make some seriously ignorant comments.  He demonstrates that he has no understanding of the pain, confusion, and anger that comes with accepting who you are as an LGBTQ person.  Since he has no means of conceptualizing this problem, Hess gives a long list of ignorant comments that I do not have the patience to tackle individually.  Honestly, even thinking about them just costs me so much energy that I don’t have just to keep from setting my computer on fire for daring to show that text to me.

Hess’ bigotry and ignorance really crescendos when he lists five “casualties” that result from the “ideology” of accepting gay people for who they are.  In summary, they are people leaving the church, the termination of mixed-orientation marriages, the fact that some gay men just refuse to pretend to fall in love with a woman and marry her, teens who accept themselves and feel that they have no place in the church because of it, and a lack of scrutiny of the people who convince kids to leave an institution that disproportionately drives them to suicidal ideation.  Hess thinks that these are serious charges.

I laugh at these charges for the blatantly ignorant views that they uphold.

First off, I am just going to say it, either the Brethren are wrong about LGBTQ issues and they need to get a clarifying revelation from God to fix that problem (where’s an angel with a flaming sword when you need one?), or God treats his LGBTQ children sadistically and eternity with Him would be Hell, or the church isn’t true.  Now you can pick your flavor of the week.  Hess seems to have chosen option 2, though he dresses it in sophistry and dull, uninspired writing.

Hess does not seem to realize that mixed-orientation marriages are generally not a good thing.  While they work in extremely rare circumstances, often they leave the participants in the marriage hurt and broken [6].  They are generally unfair to both the queer and the not-as-cool-but-alright-I-guess partner in the marriage.

And then there are the children.  Hess, your views here are frankly despicable.  The church is responsible for the innocent blood of queer teens that has been spilled in its communities.  Whether that blood is shed through bullying, attacks, or suicidality, there is blood on the hands of every church leader who professes to speak in the name of the Lord while uttering words that sink the hearts of these children into despair.  It would be better that a millstone be hanged about their necks (Luke 17:2).  Hess talks about physical and spiritual casualties of what he calls a war.  If so, then the physical casualties have been caused by the church, and the spiritual casualties were inevitable because of the church’s doctrines and teachings that leave LGBTQ members with little recourse within its confines.

Hess seems to think that he has struck gold with this argument that the protests of BYU happened because of queer-affirming organizations like Mormons Building Bridges, Affirmation, and Encircle.  What he has found is a concoction of one part iron and two parts sulfur.  Fool’s gold.  Of course that was why people were out protesting.  This is not some grand revelation of some hidden mystery that he managed to stumble upon.  This is a basic, low-level observation that did not necessitate a ten-thousand-word essay to explain.

Yeah, we were pissed, and we made our voices known.  Pretty simple story.

Hess ends by asking if true bridge-building is possible.  The answer to that question is yes.  It may be the only time in this whole essay that I actually agree with him.  However, he is probably going to ruin that in part 2, which is supposed to detail how building these bridges is even possible.  To be honest, it doesn’t take that long to ruin it, though.  He spends his time concluding the essay with sophistry about building bridges, but doesn’t even get into how trusses work, so, I don’t think he actually has the training for this.  He should probably consult with a structural engineer before he even considers getting started on building a bridge.

Hess’ article is bad.  The points raised in it are bad.  The argumentation is bad.  There is no point where Hess makes a substantial, actionable point.  Instead, he disparages groups that are actually trying to help the situation because they gave his feelings an “owie”.  This article is not worth your respect, nor is it worth your time.  If you have already read Hess’ article, and you were at all hurt by it, know that you are not alone in that feeling.  And know that Hess has presented himself as ignorant and a bad actor.  His efforts to build bridges should be seen with Admiral Ackbar eyes.

It’s a trap.

References

[1] https://perryekimae.blogspot.com/2020/06/is-there-place-for-me.html I referenced myself.  I think that means I’m a real blogger now!

[2] https://www.millennialstar.org/how-mormons-building-bridge-et-al-became-a-bridge-distancing-many-from-their-spiritual-home/comment-page-1/?fbclid=IwAR0S6vZzVjVhCUhbYwbkC_ZOzAh-U5M9CWUPDNdu0ejnpiJhNYea-jBo9nQ#comment-176253 Filled with homophobia and misinformation. 1/10.  Would not recommend.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7jnzOMxb14 A fabulous set of interviews about the myths and facts surrounding the Stonewall riots.

[5] https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Introduction The Trevor Project is another fantastic organization that does good work.  We should support them, alongside groups like MBB and Encircle.

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duzfHnYnTro I know, gotta watch out for that scary John Dehlin, but this is honestly a fantastic interview from a man who entered into a mixed-orientation marriage.  Generally speaking, doing a mixed-orientation marriage is a bad move.


22 August 2020

Awkward Sex Talk with Grandpa Packer

 Tyler Perry

I want to preface this essay by saying that the Church has removed this talk from its website, as of August 2019, and the associated pamphlet was discontinued in 2016 [1].  The intent of this essay is not to air the dirty laundry, but to give insight into the influences of how many church members view sex, sexuality, and LGBTQ issues.  The pamphlet was distributed for almost forty years, and it has undoubtedly had an impact on the language, beliefs, and culture of many church members.

It was shown to me almost as a joke.  I had never seen the pamphlet before, and when another Elder showed it to me, it seemed silly that this was spoken over the pulpit at General Conference.  The opening of the talk was deliberate and unequivocating, while the body of the speech was filled with corny metaphors and unhelpful, though familiar, advice.

“To Young Men Only” was the transcript of a talk by Boyd Packer in the Priesthood Session of the October 1976 General Conference.  Assured that his words would be safely kept among the boys, Packer spoke about sex, sexuality, puberty, adolescence, and homophobia in the most 1970’s grandpa way that he could manage.  It is awkward.  It is not good advice.  And it advocates for violence against homosexuals.  Pretty standard fare for 1970’s Mormonism.

The talk begins with Packer asserting that fathers should be talking to their sons about these things, which is true, but that some fathers may not be up to the task.  So, he is going to go ahead and do it for them.  He then gives some body-positive messaging, as well as good advice on avoiding tobacco, eating healthy, and getting good exercise.  So far, so good.  Then he suggests that young men will want to one day find a woman to marry and have sex with.

In this case, boy, was he wrong!

He then proceeds to the usual awkward sex ed video stuff about voice drops and hair in strange in wonderful places.  “You become very interested in young women – this is as it should be,” he says.  I mean, I am completely straight, and I have never been interested in women.  I have no idea what this guy is talking about.  It just seems like he has gone off the rails already.  Clearly, he is into some unnatural stuff.

You know that point in the sex ed videos when they actually talk about attraction to the opposite sex and they say things like, “This is totally normal, Timmy.  Now go play football!”  Yeah, Boyd is going to go one step further and prescribe this condition as an “ought-to” state.

I have not gotten to the homophobic part yet, by the way.

Anyway, most of that section is the usual “don’t do co-ed wrestling until you’re married” stuff that the Church usually espouses.  “We only want boys wrestling boys at our house,” Boyd indirectly tells us.  I understand Boyd.  As a totally straight guy, I know how much fun it can be to get down and dirty with the other boys, just showing off your masculine strength and rippling, sweaty muscles…

Sorry, um, where was I?

Right, no sex before marriage, kids!  You might catch a pregnant!

From here, we proceed on to my favorite part of this talk.  I like to refer to this as the “Don’t Touch Your Little Factory” section.  Packer compares the production of sperm to a “little factory”.  I mean, who said anything about it being little?  Speak for yourself, Boyd.

Anyway, the analogy goes that sperm production ramps up like a factory coming online and the production goes through a learning curve, process improvement, optimization, unionization, OSHA regulations, and eventual closure as the company moves operations offshore.  Sometimes, because the quality management team sucks at their job, the factory produces too much, and the only option is to just spew out the excess all over the bedsheets.

This is the weirdest metaphor for a nocturnal emission.  And it may seem like I am making this up, but I am only making up the part about OSHA regulations.

The factory really did shut down after Denise left for that Italian plumber.

Things have just never been the same since.

Nocturnal emissions are a completely normal part of adolescent development.  The exact mechanisms leading up to a nocturnal emission are not well understood, since human sexuality is a notoriously difficult field to study.  However, there was a study contemporary to this talk that suggested that nocturnal emissions serve to promote concentrations of healthy sperm during intercoital (between sex) periods [2].

But Boyd wants you to know that the one thing you should not do is open the release valve yourself.  Whatever you do, do not send orders down the pipe for the foreman to release the production for the customers to enjoy before the customer is your wife.  This is a serious transgression because it… um… well… God just doesn’t like it when you do that, okay?  Jesus cries because you touch yourself at night!  “It is not pleasing to the Lord, and it is not pleasing to you,” says the man who has never tried it.

And now for the part of this talk that was super damaging on my shame cycles!

“There are ways to conquer such a habit.  First of all, you must leave that factory alone long enough for it to slow down.  Resisting is not easy.  It will take weeks, even months.  But you can get the little factory slowed back down to where it should be.”

So, that’s not really how it works.  Let me tell you how this does work (one man’s own experience being used to generalize for all men; there is absolutely no way that this could end badly).  Essentially, just like your body has an appetite for food, air, and a good cry after seeing that one dog movie, you know the one, your body has an appetite for sex.  This does not turn off.  With age, changing hormones, and other factors, it can slow down, but for most of the target audience of this talk, it is full steam ahead all the time every time.

What that means is that your body is constantly signaling you to deal with the fact that you’ve been walking funny all month, and then it gives up on waiting, wet dream, reset the cycle.  Cycle after cycle after cycle.  The whole time, your psyche is being assaulted by the dissonance between “what does Jesus want” and “you have a basic biological need, why aren’t you just dealing with that and getting on with your life”.

Some people can endure this cycle for years.  Most people will not even reach one loop on this cycle.

But you can overcome this challenge.  The only reason why you failed is because you are not doing the things that Packer suggested well enough.  It is your fault.  Oh, and everyone knows, by the way.  Everyone knows why you are not taking the sacrament.  You were doing so well too.  Just last week, you were up there blessing the sacrament, weren’t you?  And now, here you are, waving off the tray when your mom offers it to you.  Everybody knows what you did.

So, yeah, masturbation is like super normal, hurts nobody at all, and helps you to not be a little weirdo all the time.  Yet here we have Boyd telling us that it is super bad because of all those times in the Bible where God said to not masturbate.  You know, like that one time in that one book, oh which one is it?  You know.  You know the part I’m talking about, don’t you?

To put into perspective how freaking damaging this cycle is, I came to associate Alma the Younger’s sin with my “struggles with masturbation”.  Yeah, no joke.  I saw overcoming it like Packer says as this great redemption story.  Again, I equated my masturbating with Alma the Younger’s deliberate attempts to tear down the church of God.  Can you imagine the impact that that had on my 100% hetero heart and mind?  I could also share some journal entries that will give some fascinating insight into how much I just hated myself for this.  I think I was so busy hating myself for masturbating that I never got around to hating myself for being a total hetero dude bro.  That was the part of myself that had to go!

Boyd gives this useless analogy about this time that he forgot how fluid mechanics works.  So, that’s fun.

After that, we get another fantastic metaphor that forgets that Pavlov is a scientist who learned some things about behavioral programming.  Yup, this is not going to cause any problems at all.  I can’t wait to see what we find here.

If you have ever had the pleasure of hearing a Priesthood leader refer to your mind as a stage in which only one actor can occupy at any time, well, they probably got that from this pamphlet, even if they are a telling or two removed.  The purpose of the analogy is to say that if you are thinking about sexy, muscular dudes running around without their shirts on the beach as the sun beats down on their sweaty bodies, then you can’t be thinking about Jesus.  But, if you are thinking about Jesus, then you probably aren’t imagining him and the disciples running around shirtless on the beach, but now you are.

We then have this totally brilliant, will not backfire in any way, idea.  If you start imagining Jesus and the disciples shirtless on the beach… Whoops, I mean, if you have an immoral thought, then what you want to do is start singing a favorite hymn.  Boyd suggests “I Am a Child of God”.  Personally, I like “Come Ye Children of the Lord” or “How Firm a Foundation” or “The Iron Rod” or “Come, Come Ye Saints”.  Not sure why I like those so much…

So, anyway, I now get an erection whenever I hear “I Am a Child of God”.

“Now a warning!”  We know that Boyd means business now.  This warning is also a trigger warning for blatant and disgusting homophobia.  “There are some circumstances in which young men may be tempted to handle one another… Sometimes this begins in a moment of idle foolishness, when boys are just playing around.”  So, we all agree that Boyd Packer totally had a gay fling with one of the boys he grew up with, right?  Like, this is just a basic point of fact.  I mean, he grew up in an age when boys would play strip poker, have literal pissing contests, and otherwise goof around unsupervised in the woods together.  This whole part here is definitely described from experience.

He continues, “When a young man is finding his way into manhood, such experiences can misdirect his normal desires and pervert him not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.”  In other words, if you want your homie to catch the gay, then you just gotta help him play.

If you think that the homophobia is bad already, just you wait.  No 1970’s homophobia would be complete without the pedophilia analogy!  “There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts.  If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist.”  Yeah, Boyd, if you are a minor and a creepy old dude with a 1970’s mustache approaches you for sex, that’s a creepy pedophile.  That’s a good situation to get out of.

What that is not is a situation in which two consenting adults are engaging in a loving, healthy relationship.  Not that I would know anything about that, seeing as to how I am as straight as a rainbow arrow.

You might be thinking that the homophobia has hit its peak and we can move on to the outro.  But we cannot.  Because the casual homophobia ventures into something much worse.  Again, the church has removed all traces of this talk and the associated pamphlet from its website.  This next section is likely the reason why.  Again, I need to emphasize that this can be triggering, especially considering the source that this is coming from.  I am not going to filter this, because I think it is best taken as Packer spoke it.  But I will mark the text in red so you can identify where to skip to if you do not want to read extremely hateful speech disguised as teachings from an Apostle.

“While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess.  I was very worried because he just could not get himself to tell me what he had done.

“After patient encouragement, he finally blurted out, ‘I hit my companion.’

“‘Oh, is that all,’ I said in great relief.

“‘But I floored him,’ he said.

“After learning a little more, my response was ‘Well, thanks.  Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.’

“I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it.  You must protect yourself.”

That, my dear reader, is a supposed Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, casually advocating for violence against homosexuals.  That is not a teaching of love.  That is not a teaching of understanding.  That is not a teaching of acceptance.  That is a teaching of hate.  For forty years this pamphlet went around the church.  How many queer kids were taught to hate themselves because of it?

Packer will continue the essay with some transphobia as well, saying that “There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits.  Boys are to become men – masculine, manly men” (the kind I like).  I have seen some pretty manly trans dudes too, Boyd.  It’s too bad that you were too closed off to ever get to know them.

The talk finishes out with a repeat of the same sorts of things as before.  “Don’t touch yourself.”  “Don’t touch your best friend while you lie next to each other under the stars as the frigid air chills you both to the bone and the only source of warmth is the embrace of each other.”  “Wait until you’re married to have sex with a woman” (On it, chief!).  “Eventually, you can become a father” (I sure hope so).

As I stated at the beginning, my purpose in writing this is not to air out the Church’s dirty laundry.  The point was to show some of the historical influences and teachings that impact the way members today view LGBTQ people.  For almost forty years, “To Young Men Only” was distributed by the church.  Some of its ideas are used by members to this day.  This has certainly left an impact on the church and its culture.

If we are going to be better, then we must learn from the past.  While I appreciate the Church’s removal of this hateful, damaging speech, this was done quietly, and without a denunciation of anything taught therein.  There is little more available than a statement that the “retirement” of these publications is normal [3].

There is a saying that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.  The Church continues to hide these things away without showing that they have learned to be better.  What sort of history are we doomed to repeat?

“To Young Men Only” is the sort of awkward sex talk that your grandpa might have given you.  It is awkward, filled with bad metaphors, and served with a side helping of casual homophobia, with a smattering of transphobia to really spice it up a little.  Its retirement came 40 years too late, but the lack of denunciation of any of its teachings will be another stain on the Church’s record.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Young_Men_Only (retrieved 22 August 2020).

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0306987775900535 (retrieved 22 August 2020).  The article refers to both nocturnal emission and masturbation as being useful for essentially replacing unhealthy sperm cells with new healthy ones.  There is some additional research that may suggest that masturbation is an evolutionary tool for promoting male fertility by this very mechanism.

[3] https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=4584556&itype=CMSID (retrieved 22 August 2020).  I am not impressed with the reporting in this article.  It makes the entire talk seem funny and silly, which, part of it definitely is.  But it ignores the reasons why this talk needed to be retired, namely, the casual advocating for violence against homosexuals.

Jacob Hess’ Bridge is Falling Down

  Tyler Perry Note: I get a little sweary at the end.   But it’s fine.   I’m fine.   We’re all fine here.   How are you? Because 2020 su...