Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’
I’ve been doing some critical thinking about a couple of recent statements made by J. Michael Bailey. He is the Northwestern psychology professor who has been the subject of so much media attention due to the live sex demonstration in his human sexuality classroom last month. You can Google the story if you want the details.
What intrigued me was the challenging nature of the defensive statements he offered when the story became public knowledge. He said that he didn’t expect everyone to agree with his decision to allow the demonstration to take place and that “thoughtful discussion of controversial topics is a cornerstone of learning.”
I happen to be enrolled in a critical thinking class right now so this idea caught my attention. While I don’t agree with his decision, I do agree with his statement. So I expected someone to take him up on his challenge, because he offered it as such. Maybe it is too soon but I have yet to see a serious response to his justification.
An Argument to Illuminate Reasoning
A couple of days after the story broke, professor Bailey continued his defense by saying that he would give an F to those who objected to his teaching method. He wrote that the responses conveyed disapproval but did not “illuminate reasoning.” Apparently he has yet to receive an explanation as to why his demo was a problem.
I hope someone with more knowledge of this subject will respond to his proposal for a thoughtful discussion and offer a few reasons why his demonstration was not the best choice. I’m looking for arguments that will illuminate reasoning and do more than to just express disapproval. I could use it when I argue this in my class.
The Man who would be Queen
A little more background information on professor Baily might be helpful. He wrote and published a controversial book in 2003, The Man who would be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. He admitted that he had sex with his research subjects and said he thought there was nothing wrong with this.
Coincidently, about that same year he found himself divorced and no longer the chair of the psychology department at Northwestern University. According to published reports from students, he is not a great lecturer, but makes up for it by presenting extremely controversial aspects of human sexuality in his classroom.
Teaching Should Benefit Society
I love to teach so maybe this is an area in which we can agree. Professor Bailey is an educator; therefore I’ll assume that it is his intent to help his students learn. As a professor of psychology, I would hope that it is his desire to prevent psychological damage in his students. After all, isn’t that the objective of studying the subject?
We study human behavior to understand it and to be able to deal more effectively with activities that are disturbing, distressing or problematic for the individual or society. For most practitioners, a goal of applied psychology is to benefit society. A university professor is in a particularly influential position upon civilization.
Pornography in the Classroom
Professor Bailey said he uses pornography in his classroom. “I don’t see anything wrong with showing pornography in the classroom provided it has some purpose in the class. Some can be a little explicit,” he said. “I teach the truth – as I understand it…[which] sometimes conflicts with people’s assumptions. That is controversial.”
Bill Yarber, a researcher at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute and author of the widely used textbook Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America, said he’s never heard of a naked woman being brought to orgasm in front of a class of students. Watching a video is one thing but seeing a live demo is pushing things.
A commentary from a Catholic blogger about this episode illustrates a typical reaction, “Professor J. Michael Bailey’s Human Sexuality class has nothing to do with psychosexual development, morality, biology — nothing worthy of study; just an excuse for presenting risqué and deviant sexual behaviors as normative.”
Sexual Relations Should be Private
It is my contention that demonstrating the use of a motorized phallus to a group of students is not a legitimate form of sexual education, especially in the classroom. In fact, I will go so far as to say that viewing of pornographic material is equally inappropriate and unnecessary to meet the requirements of human sex education.
I believe that sexual relations should be expressed privately in marriage, between a husband and wife. I therefore believe that all public displays of sexual activity are inappropriate. I believe that pornography is harmful and destructive to the souls of those who create it and those who consume it. It is not needed for sexual education.
Professor Bailey’s demonstration was controversial because as far as I can tell, it was the first time live sex has been used in a classroom setting. But the real issue is how diametrically opposed this is to the values of virtue, modesty and respect for human sexual relations. It is degrading and cheapens it to something undesirable.
Achieving a Fulfilling Love
I think the comment of a student studying to be a therapist who then reported on her human sexuality class says it best for me. She stated that she had become a sexual zombie; that sex meant nothing to her because she had tried it all. She found no joy in sexuality. And yet she wants to become a therapist to fix others like her.
Pornography is any material describing or depicting the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings. Pornography degrades the heart, mind and spirit. It robs us of self-respect and the sense of beauties of life. It tears us down and does not lift us up. It does not help us achieve fulfilling human love.
I will be leading a classroom discussion of this current event in my critical thinking class in a few weeks. When I shared my subject with the professor he was pleased and said that I might be surprised to learn how many in the class feel the same way I do. That would be a pleasant discovery that I hope is not limited to my college.
One of the greatest blessings of membership in the LDS Church is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Of course we are not the only people in the world with whom the Lord works through his spirit. But we are the only people who have claim upon the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. That is a very unique and special claim.
When asked by a President of the United States, “How is your religion different from all the other religions of the day?” The Prophet Joseph Smith answered, “We are different from all other religions in the mode of baptism (immersion) and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (by those who have authority).”
God inspires all
In section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.” All honest seekers of the truth can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, leading them to Jesus Christ and His gospel. People everywhere can be inspired by the Holy Ghost.
However, the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is available only to those who receive the gift through the laying on of hands by one who is authorized and then remain worthy of that gift. This basic doctrine is taught and emphasized often from the pulpit and in the classrooms of our church each week.
One of the most important duties we have in this life is to learn how to interpret the impressions of the Holy Ghost that we receive though this gift. Sometimes they come unbidden but most of the time we need to prepare for and ask for spiritual guidance. With this sacred gift, we can be confident that the Lord will respond.
God will guide us
This gift contains an inherent covenant promise that the Lord will respond to our requests for guidance. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” As long as we do our part in striving to keep his commandments, repent and seek his spirit, we can rely on his promise.
However, the gift needs to be exercised and developed until we can go before the Lord with confidence and ask in faith for what we want. We need to learn what specific things we need to do to achieve the results we desire. “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
We know we must study things out and come to an understanding or a decision on a subject before we approach the Lord for a confirmation of our decision or course of action. Sometimes it can take years to fully consider and achieve a mastery of a subject before we can approach the Lord and ask to guide us to further knowledge.
Much already revealed
That’s why the Lord and his prophets counsel us to study the scriptures and the words of the living prophets and apostles. When we ask the Lord for help in some area of our lives, we can expect him to answer through both the promptings of the spirit and very often by directing us to what he has already revealed on the subject.
It is amazing to me the number of times I feel impressed to look to the scriptures or a recent conference talk for the answer I am seeking. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” It is while I am reading the scriptures or conference talks that I feel the impressions of the spirit.
I think it is in the process of reading revealed words that we become most familiar with the mind and will of the Lord for us. We begin to think like the Lord and develop a greater understanding of how he speaks. The mind of the natural man is not attuned to God’s way of thinking so it takes effort to understand revelation.
Revelation requires humility
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Even our natural reasoning processes, if they are not directed by the spirit of the Lord, can lead us to false conclusions. “For the natural man is an enemy to God … and will be forever … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.”
The rest of the verse (Mosiah 3:19) emphasizes being submissive. I guess if there is nothing else I have learned about receiving revelation, it is the idea that in order to receive it, I must be in a submissive state of mind and willing to do whatever it is that the Lord reveals to me. Indeed, I must strive to become like a little child.
Of course, I know that the Lord will not tell me to do something that is contrary to what he has already revealed. For example, if I ask the Lord for help in knowing the best way to get out of debt, I am confident that he will not direct me to play the lottery, nor respond to email invitations to send money to Nigerian scammers.
Revelation is real
That is why I am confident that the Lord is sincere in his promise to reveal the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The key phrase there is “with real intent.” Like you, I have witnessed this promise fulfilled over and over again throughout my life. I have seen it happen for young and old when they ask with real intent.
I do not doubt the revelatory process. It is real. I have witnessed it in action throughout my life in Bishopric meetings, High Council meetings, in disciplinary councils and in preparing and presenting talks and lessons over the years. It seems to flow easiest for me when the revelation being requested is meant to help others.
But the Lord never reveals things that are outside the stewardship of my family, my own life or my specific callings in the church. While I may feel a desire to help another, if I do not have a direct responsibility for them, then I need to be very careful about what I feel impressed to tell them the Lord would have them do.
Revelation for others
I had a recent experience with this that confirmed to me how easy it is to step over the line into imposing my will on another. The Lord will never direct us to do that. In counseling with a fellow church member about a difficult situation in their life I shared some personal observations about what I thought got them into trouble.
Since I was not this individual’s priesthood leader, I was not entitled to know the whole story and made a judgment based only on what I saw. My counsel to this individual was flawed and was offensive because it was lacking in understanding. Gratefully, they were forgiving when I apologized after the error became apparent.
My point is that the Lord will never reveal something to me that another person should do unless I am responsible for that person as a husband, father or priesthood leader. That can even be applied to prospective marriage partners. The Lord will not tell us that another person should marry us. It should not be phrased that way.
Revelation to marry
When I asked my wife to marry me, I felt the Lord whisper to me that we could be happy together. Of course Carol had her agency and could have said no. It was an act of faith on her part to accept my marriage proposal. The Lord knew I needed that revelation to prompt me to propose, but it was intended for me and not Carol.
I knew the Lord wanted me to marry. I had been praying about it for some time and was actively seeking a marriage partner. I knew that the Lord had revealed through his prophet that “soul mates are fiction and an illusion.” So I wasn’t looking for that one special person, just someone with whom I could be happy.
I know that’s not very romantic but what made it special for me was the intensely strong and powerful impression that flowed into my heart and mind as I pondered asking Carol to marry me. In my mind’s eye, I saw us many years down the road, even in these years today, enjoying each other’s company, growing old together.
What I have learned
In conclusion, I guess there are two things I have learned about revelation. First, we must be humble and submissive to receive it and second, we can never receive revelation for anyone else’s life outside our own immediate family. It just doesn’t work that way unless the Lord puts us in a priesthood position that requires it.
Impressions of the spirit are very private and should be kept so. They are personal and unless you are the prophet of the Lord or have a direct priesthood stewardship for someone else, are meant specifically for one individual – you. They are not to be shared with others unless you feel prompted to do so and then only carefully.
I have been blessed throughout my life with impressions from the Holy Ghost. It is specifically because of the Gift of the Holy Ghost that they seem so abundant. Receiving revelation can be almost a daily occurrence, but usually it comes in the form of very quiet, subtle impressions that are sometimes almost imperceptible.
After reviewing one of my previous essays, a thoughtful reader asked my opinion about the idea of perfection and if the requirements for salvation had changed. He said, “Open just about any page of the book of Leviticus and you’ll see laws that were of life and death importance to the early church, but not today. In contrast, there is no mention of baptism or confirmation in the Old Testament as a requirement for salvation, yet today, they are taught as essential.”
He also asked about the need for the Word of Wisdom, temple ordinances, plural marriage and the second anointing. He concluded, “If God is eternal, and heaven doesn’t change, shouldn’t the requirements to get into heaven be the same, no matter when you were born or what culture you lived in?” Although his email was private, great questions like these deserve a response that can be shared in my blog so others who might be interested can benefit from the dialog.
Perfection means completed
The savior taught in 3 Ne 12:48, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection to me has always meant complete or completed as in finished or fulfilled, certainly not something we will achieve in this life and not in the spirit world to come. Perfection is a state that is achieved only after we have learned all there is to know about becoming like God. And that can’t happen until we are resurrected beings because we will never understand what God is like until we have the same type of body that he has.
The Prophet Joseph said, “…go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”
Joseph F. Smith said, “Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things … for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. But here we lay the foundation.”
Flaws and errors removed
I have never equated perfection as meaning without flaw or error, rather as having flaws and errors removed. That of course can only come through the atonement of the Savior. It is not something that I can accomplish on my own. That is my understanding of perfection – having flaws and errors removed by the Savior. Therefore, it is my desire to meet the requirements for the atonement to be effective in my life as set forth by the savior and as revealed to his prophets. I’m not talking about temporal salvation. The resurrection is a free gift to all. We will all live again with immortal bodies. But the quality of our life in the hereafter depends entirely upon us and our efforts to be worthy and prepared for the greatest of all the gifts of God – eternal life.
Requirements of Salvation
So that brings us to the second point – meeting the requirements of salvation. I guess I’m not so concerned about what the people of the Old Testament had to do to please the Lord. I’m glad I don’t live in the harsh conditions of those days when a man could be stoned for what today would seem to be a minor infraction. They had a different law back then and the Lord taught us clearly that he fulfilled that law. The Mosaic Law was to bring them to Christ, even though most of the Israelites who lived back then did not understand that. The Lord described them as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people. I would hope that we are not like some of those early Israelites. Someday, they must receive the ordinances of the higher priesthood just as it is required of us.
Baptism in ancient times
We are taught in Moses 6 that Adam was baptized. When Peter said on the day of Pentecost that they must repent and be baptized, the people obviously had a clear understanding of the concept. John the Baptist did not practice something that was new and unknown. I am confident that baptism was practiced in the old world. We know that Alma baptized in the Waters of Mormon. I think we can be certain that the Book of Mormon people brought the practice with them from the Old World. Baptism is a priesthood ordinance and is one of the requirements of salvation. The laying on of hands was a common practice as evidenced by priesthood blessings given by the early patriarchs to their children as well as by many references in the New Testament.
Temple ordinances required
I think there is ample evidence that temple ordinances were a part of the religious practice of the ancient people of Israel. The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples where they are gathered in numbers of sufficient strength. Where they were not, his saints were endowed with power from on high on the tops of mountains. No, the majority of the Israelites did not receive the endowment as they lived the Mosaic Law. But yes, all must be endowed and sealed someday. That is one of the purposes of the Millennium.
Word of Wisdom for our day
Even though it is based on eternal principles such as moderation and self-control, the Word of Wisdom is a modern revelation given for our benefit in our day. As the Lord said, it was given “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.” Just as the Israelites were given a law of health with many specific things to not do, we have been given a few guidelines for our health in our day. Isn’t that part of the principle of ongoing revelation – specifics suited for our times? No, it’s true that Jesus didn’t teach the Word of Wisdom when he came in the Meridian of Time, but he did reveal it for us in our day. Thank God for living prophets and modern revelation that gives us that direction we need now.
Plural Marriage not required
Let’s consider why we no longer participate in the Second Anointing or Plural Marriage. Both of those subjects are fascinating to study and can produce a lot of fruitful discovery if we choose to get into them. I have always considered plural marriage to be optional, while entering into the law of celestial marriage to be a requirement. We must receive that sealing ordinance to make progress according to section 131. But plural marriage is not a requirement of exaltation. You can read that in section 132, verse 61. It says that if a man “desire to espouse another,” and the first wife consents and she is given or sealed unto him by the prophet then he does not commit adultery. It is never worded that a man must take another wife. Only certain brethren were commanded in the early days of the church to do so as part of the restoration of all things.
Timing of the Second Anointing
We don’t know much about the Second Anointing, do we? We certainly aren’t taught about it in our standard Sunday curriculum or even in any of the CES curriculum as far as I can determine. To be honest, I like the Wikipedia article. It’s a pretty good summary of everything I have read over the years. I know it bothers some people that this is not openly taught, but I guess they feel the same way that the temple ceremony is not openly taught. Of course you can read the whole thing today on the Internet. I like the fact that we work harder in the church today to ensure that people are more prepared for the first anointing. To me, it is a lifetime of faithful service in the Lord’s church that prepares us for the second anointing, either in this life or in the resurrection.
Dormant religious practices
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if these things have really changed or are just dormant. I am one who believes that those two practices in particular will once again be a part of our worship. Yes, I am convinced that the day will come when even the “regular” member of the church will be able to receive the second anointing just as soon as he is ready and can participate in plural marriage if he so chooses and his wives are given to him under the direction of the prophet. Of course, that’s not going to happen while we live under the laws of the government of the United States, but as we all know, the government of the United States will not stand forever. Yes, the constitution is an inspired document, but when the Savior comes, we will enter a theocracy.
Be Faithful to Joseph
I guess the reason I’m not bothered by a lot of things that I read out there on the Internet about the church, including some very convincing arguments that make you think, is that I like to think of myself more like Hyrum Smith than Joseph. I don’t see visions or hear the voice of the Lord like Joseph, but I have been blessed with the gift of believing. That’s what I meant when I said that I choose to believe. After many years of experience, I can tell you that feel happiest when I exercise faith and choose to believe what was revealed through Joseph Smith. I believe Joseph. I trust the brethren who lead this church today. I have listened to them and studied their words for all my life. I have never been disappointed nor had cause to doubt their spiritual leadership. Like Hyrum, I want to remain faithful and supportive of their direction to the end of my days.
Be forewarned: This essay contains references to masturbation and other sexual acts. Once again by assignment, I examine the social impact of a controversial book first published over forty years ago, at the height of the sexual revolution. I’ve noticed a trend among most of the short stories and books that we have considered this year in our American Literature classes: many of them contain material that would be considered to be shocking or offensive to more conservative readers. Portnoy’s Complaint is no exception. In fact, if Ginsberg hadn’t broken the indecency barrier with his poem Howl a decade earlier, I am certain that Philip Roth would have been charged with breaking some sort of obscenity law. As it was, attempts were made to prohibit the distribution of the book in some countries and many U.S. libraries banned the book as too vulgar. Of course that was in 1969. Today it is considered an American classic.
I would like to address in this essay just what it is that makes Portnoy’s Complaint such an American classic, to discuss its universal appeal beyond the context of the Jewish culture in which the story takes place and to delve into the very important theme of religious influence on sexual thought, development and behavior. I can’t think of any two subjects that are more a part of our American literature tradition than religion and sex. Put them together in the same paper or book and you introduce conflict. Make them one in your treatise and you have broken a taboo. Roth’s book was a bestseller because he did just that. If you aren’t familiar with the novel, it was Portnoy’s Complaint that he could not enjoy sex because of the guilt that he felt from his religious culture. It is my thesis that the majority of American literature addressing this theme is faulty because of an incorrect understanding of the place of sex in religion. In fact, it is my contention that Portnoy’s Complaint is deeply flawed because of the focus on guilt as a direct result of religious culture and upbringing. But then, that’s what makes it so very American.
Alexander Portnoy understood the principle of guilt. He was an expert at guilt. In fact, he was a slave to it. He lived with it day in and day out. And where did he get it? He tells us that it came from his parents. After providing numerous examples he exclaims, “Doctor, these people are incredible! These people are unbelievable! These two are the outstanding producers and packagers of guilt in our time! They render it from me like fat from a chicken!” (p39) Did they do it on purpose? Are they to blame? Perhaps this later observation from Alex makes it clearer. “Doctor, what do you call this sickness I have? Is this the Jewish suffering I used to hear so much about? Is this what has come down to me from the pogroms and the persecution? from the mockery and abuse bestowed by the goyim over these two thousand lovely years?” (p40) In other words, he did not necessarily blame his parents for the guilt he felt; he blamed his religion. He equated Jewish suffering, and in particular, his own guilt, upon his cultural religious history.
At the age of fourteen, coincidentally about the age that most boys are in the midst of puberty, Alex decided that he would no longer participate in the traditional religious practices of his parents. He told them that he would no longer go to the synagogue with them. Since Alex has been masturbating, he has been experiencing guilt. It is clear that he attributes this guilt to his religious culture. In Jewish tradition, masturbation is prohibited, as are impure thoughts and sexual relations before marriage. In the midst of a long-winded diatribe directed at his father but more generally directed at his people, he says, “… instead of crying over he-who refuses at the age of fourteen ever to set foot inside a synagogue again, instead of wailing for he-who has turned his back on the saga of his people, weep for your own pathetic selves … It is coming out of my ears already, the saga of the suffering Jews! Do me a favor, my people, and stick your suffering heritage up your suffering ass– I happen also to be a human being!” (p84) But he could not get away from the guilt he continued to experience because of his ongoing sexual activities.
Portnoy’s Complaint is not just a novel about masturbation or the sexual activities of a young Jewish man. It is really a very Catholic book, which means that the subject matter has universal and widespread appeal. Every young man goes through puberty, and if we are to believe the statistics, the majority of them (90% by some accounts) will have masturbated at least once by the time they are 18, with 60% masturbating regularly during their adolescent years. In America, the land of porn, we have the unique distinction of also being a very religious country. According to recent statistics, 83% of Americans claim to belong to a religious organization even though less than 40% formally participate by attending church regularly. Do you see my point? If the majority of young men masturbate and the majority of people in America have some sort of religious tradition in their lives, then this really is an American conflict that Roth has brought to our attention in such an entertaining manner. It is a characteristically American problem.
Portnoy’s answer to his complaint of guilt was to disassociate himself with his religious practices, a common solution for many young men in America who experience their own crisis of faith. In his case, he continued to have a very difficult time with guilt because being Jewish is more than just a religion. It is also his cultural heritage. He simply could not get away from the terrible feelings of shame and remorse he experienced even though he had renounced his faith. As he so eloquently exclaimed, “Doctor, I can’t stand any more being frightened like this over nothing! Bless me with manhood! Make me brave! Make me strong! Make me whole! Enough being a nice Jewish boy, publicly pleasing my parents while privately pulling my putz!” (p 40) Even many years after his vow of non-participation, he still felt like he had to be a nice Jewish boy to please his parents. Even though he had graduated first in his law school class and was a very successful government lawyer, he could not free himself from the control of his parent’s beliefs, especially his mother’s ability to manipulate his feelings after so many years.
That was the wrong answer. Instead of rejecting his faith, maybe he should have listened to his father and embraced it, or at least the good parts of it. Alex went to Israel in a spontaneous attempt to find himself, his roots and some peace to his predicament. Unfortunately, he did not approach his quest with the right attitude. To him, it was purely an intellectual exercise. “I set off traveling about the country as though the trip had been undertaken deliberately, with forethought, desire, and for praiseworthy, if conventional, reasons. Yes, I would have (now that I was unaccountably here) what is called an educational experience. I would improve myself, which is my way, after all. Or was, wasn’t it? Isn’t that why I still read with a pencil in my hand? To learn? To become better? (than whom?) So, I studied maps in my bed, bought historical and archeological texts and read them with my meals, hired guides, rented cars—doggedly in that sweltering heat, I searched out and saw everything I could.” (pp284-285) In the middle of his travels, he hits up on the local Israeli girls but finds that he has suddenly become impotent.
Alex concludes that he has been cursed by God, or at least by some sort of all-powerful judge because of the way he treated the women in his life. He resolves nothing and returns to America to a long session with his psychoanalyst, which results in the book we have read. Of course this is a fictional account but it so aptly describes the typical intellectual approach of some to finding answers to the really big questions in life – like how to be free of guilt. I have read the writings of a good rabbi who advocates the need to feel remorse and make amends. If Alex had looked deeper into his faith, I am convinced that he could have found an intelligent way to eliminate guilt that is both rational and practical. Guilt is a universal part of the human condition. It is something that we all feel when we have done something that goes against our own moral beliefs. In Alex’s case, he knew that it was wrong to masturbate, or at least to take it to the level that he did. He also knew that he had hurt each of the women he introduced us to in the book. If he had studied his own religion even just a little bit (how did he ever get through his own Bar Mitzvah?), he just might have learned the true meaning of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, one of the holiest days of the year for his people.
To me, guilt is an indication that you still care about something that you once valued. If Alex didn’t care about these girls and their feelings, why did he keep bringing them up? If he didn’t really believe deep down in his heart that masturbation was wrong, then why did he feel so guilty after all these years? Alex was a good man, an intelligent man, but a confused man. He was confused by the idea that sex was something only meant for personal pleasure. If he would have considered that maybe, just maybe, what his faith taught about sex was worth considering, then maybe he could also have accepted the idea that he could be forgiven for whatever he has done that has caused him so much guilt. In Judaism, sex is reserved for marriage. It is intended to draw the married couple close to one another and to bind them as partners in their family. It is not just Judaism that believes this, so again this is a very catholic book with universal appeal. Alex did not want to get married, because to him, marriage was all about lust.
“Look, at least I don’t find myself still in my early thirties locked into a marriage with some nice person whose body has ceased to be of any genuine interest to me. How much longer do I go on conducting these experiments with women?” (p114) That’s pretty shallow. People do get old. Bodies change. Yet they stay married. Why? Because they are comfortable and happy together. It’s not all about sex. Marriage is more about a relationship, helping each other find happiness, learning and growing together. It’s not an experiment. It’s a commitment to one another. “I have affairs that last as long as a year, a year and a half, months and months of love, both tender and voluptuous, but in the end-it is as inevitable as death-time marches on and lust peters out. In the end, I just cannot take that step into marriage. But why should I? Why? Is there a law saying Alex Portnoy has to be somebody’s husband and father? I simply cannot, I simply will not, enter into a contract to sleep with just one woman for the rest of my days.” (p116)
No, Alex, there’s no law, but you are missing out on wonderful things that come from marriage and in no other way: a sense of security and belonging that lasts. People get married because they love each other. They get married for love. And because you love another person you agree to be faithful to them and to do all you can to help them want to be faithful to you. But he continues, “For love? What love? Is that what binds all these couples we know together– the ones who even bother to let themselves be bound? Isn’t it something more like weakness? Isn’t it rather convenience and apathy and guilt? Isn’t it rather fear and exhaustion and inertia, gutlessness plain and simple, far, far more than that ‘love’ that the marriage counselors and the songwriters and the psychotherapists are forever dreaming about?” (p117)
No Alex, love isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength, but then you’ve admitted that you know nothing about love. You don’t understand that love involves sacrifice and giving and caring. Actually, Alex, love is not convenient at all, it is often very inconvenient. Love is the opposite of fear, it is faith. One doesn’t enter into a marriage relationship at the end of a long series of exhausting sexual escapades, but at the beginning, when sex is a novelty to be discovered together by two people who are committed to each other and want to please each other for a lifetime. I think we can safely conclude that Alex is against marriage. He does not want to be married. He does not want to be faithful to one woman. He seems to think that a marriage will only work as long as there is a strong lust element. Yet, he also complains over and over that he is not satisfied with his lustful, perverted life.
He won’t marry because he doesn’t believe he can or will be faithful. He justifies dumping these girls because he says he knows that he will just tire of them and that he doesn’t want to cause them grief or pain down the road. He tells us that he knows he will have a mistress a few years into the marriage, and asks why “… my devoted wife, who has made me such a lovely home, et cetera, bravely suffers her loneliness and rejection? How could I face her terrible tears? I couldn’t. How could I face my adoring children? And then the divorce, right? The child support. The alimony. The visitation rights. Wonderful prospect, just wonderful.” (p117) He’s already decided that marriage will never work for him. He does not want to get married and probably never will. He does not see that it brings him anything that he is not already getting, because apparently all he wants is sex. Oh Alex, that is such a small part of marriage. You have no clue, you have no idea what joy can be found in a marriage relationship that does not involve the bedroom. You idiot! You’re so smart, but you’re such a schmuck! Grow up!
Get rid of that guilt by forgiving your parents, forgiving yourself and getting on with your life. Decide that you’re going to change your approach to sex and marriage into something much more wholesome. Get a clue from your religion. Talk to your rabbis again. Maybe you should study your theology and discover what it really teaches about how to overcome guilt. You’re not the first person to ever experience this you know. And Alex, thanks for the entertaining novel and for contributing greatly to this very American literary tradition of religion and sex in such a unique way. But couldn’t you have done it without so much obscenity and vulgarity?
Roth, Phillip, Portnoy’s Complaint, New York: Bantam Books,1969
If you have read a few of my past essays, you may have noted that one of my favorite subjects is revelation, and specifically personal revelation. It is only within the last few years since I started blogging that I have come to realize revelation is a controversial subject even among members of the church. To me, it is a foundational doctrine, much like faith, and the basis for a testimony.
Sharing sacred experiences
I have shared a couple of examples of personal revelation from my own life in previous essays. I know we have been counseled to keep sacred experiences private, but I felt impressed to share them as evidence that the Lord does give revelation to common members of the church like me. I like to think that my experiences are typical, or at least I thought so until I started sharing them.
Elder Oaks said, “Although we are generally counseled not to speak of sacred things … there are times when the Spirit prompts us to share these experiences, sometimes even in a setting where our account will be published.” Brigham Young said he would rather hear the people tell of their own powerful sacred experiences with the Holy Ghost than to hear any other kind of preaching.
Leaving a Record for Others
So I’d like to add another one of those experiences to my online record. A fellow blogger shared with me that one of his primary motivations for writing and posting essays was so that his sons would have a record of his faith, experiences and testimony. I feel the same way and hope that someday what I disclose here will help to strengthen the testimonies of others who may read this.
In the Young Single Adult ward where I serve as ward clerk, Carol and I recently shared the story of how we met and married. My part of the story involves a sacred revelatory experience. In order to get the full story, you might want to review Carol’s side of the tale as found on her blog. She provides much more of the background leading up to the experience I address here.
No Date before Proposal
Carol and I did not date before I proposed marriage to her. I had been off my mission for a few years and had graduated with a degree as a professional computer nerd. I had started my career in tech support and was working in Hollywood when she came home from her mission. I happened to be dating her best friend who invited Carol along on our date to Mormon Night at Disneyland.
It was a fun date – for Carol and me. We hit it off immediately. Carol was happy to be home and was talkative. Of course, what she talked about was her mission and the young lady I was dating just couldn’t relate. I could. I loved Carol’s enthusiasm and found myself commiserating with her sadness at having to leave and go back to the real world. We talked almost all night.
Doing my Homework
For the next three months I continued to pursue Carol’s friend through dating and other social activities such as church firesides. Occasionally Carol would be part of a group of young adults going to the movies, to the San Diego Zoo or some other activity. It was Carol that came over to keep me company several nights while I was recovering from having a wisdom tooth pulled.
Yet I was infatuated with this other girl and kept petitioning the Lord in prayer to soften her heart towards me. I fasted often, went to the temple and did all I could to show the Lord that I was serious about getting married. I sent this young lady a dozen red roses with a note confessing my love for her. I simply could not understand why she didn’t seem to respond with enthusiasm.
The Dodger Game
One day Carol invited me to meet her at Dodger Stadium, which I did after work. So I told her about sending flowers to our mutual friend and asked her advice how I could get her to like me. I noticed that Carol got real quiet. I looked over to see her drawing a picture of a little broken heart on her Dodger program. She then quietly excused herself, left the game and drove home.
I thought about that all that evening and the next morning. I decided that it was inappropriate to have shared with her my efforts to win her best friend’s heart. So I stopped by Carol’s house after softball practice to apologize for hurting her feelings. She brushed off my apology but I dug deeper and asked her about how she felt about important things like family and marriage.
Revelation to Heart and Mind
It was then that the most amazing thing happened to me. The Spirit of the Lord came over me in a way I have rarely felt. While Carol was talking, the Lord communicated to my heart and my mind a vision of us living together many years down the road. It was pure intelligence flowing into my being. It was an answer to prayer more powerful than anything I had ever expected.
I can count on one hand these kinds of powerful revelatory experiences up to that point in my life. In addition to what I saw in my mind’s eye, I heard a voice, just as distinctly and clearly as if someone had spoken, say to me that Carol and I could be very happy together. It was not an audible voice but it registered in the same manner as if I heard it and that was astonishing to me.
Feelings and Revelation
But along with what I saw and heard, I began to feel a most powerful feeling. The scripture says that the Lord will tell us in our mind and in our heart when something is correct. He also tells us that we must study it out first. I had done my homework. I had done my part. I had asked for revelation and had studied it out. I knew what I wanted and was living worthily of that answer.
We have been promised by apostles and prophets that the Lord will not leave us alone to make the most important decisions of our life. Who we decide to marry has eternal consequences. Acting on behalf of the Lord, these prophets have promised us that we can receive revelation to know for a certainty that the path we are pursuing is the right one and will lead to happiness.
Revelation is Personal
This is no idle promise. It is real. I am a living witness of the reality of such assurances. A prophet had promised me that if I went on a mission, got an education and then sought earnestly for a companion with whom I could be happy, that the Lord would provide one. That answer came in a powerful way to me on that day. It was unmistakable revelation to me from the Lord.
Note carefully that when the revelation came to me, it was not intended for Carol. The voice did not say, “Carol needs to marry you” or even that Carol would marry me. It simply said that we could be very happy together. It was an answer to my prayer and was intended for me. It was what I needed to cause me to take action with confidence and to then ask Carol to marry me.
The Marriage Proposal
I wasted no time. I told her what I was feeling. She could see that something was affecting me. I also told her that I felt impressed to ask her to marry me. She was shocked. I said, “I’d like to be sure so I’m going to fast and pray about it today and tomorrow. Will you do the same?” She said yes and invited me to come for Sunday dinner after church. We then parted for the day.
After fasting and praying, I still felt the same way, so I formally proposed to Carol over roast beef dinner at her mom’s house. She said yes. Carol’s journal says that I didn’t even sit with her in church that morning. We were both stake missionaries and had an investigator at church and so I sat with him instead. I had not yet gotten used to the idea of thinking for two instead of one.
We can Receive Revelation
This sacred revelatory experience ranks high on my list of incidents that have influenced me in a powerful and enduring way in my life. I had been taught by church leaders growing up that I could receive revelation. I believed it. I expected it. So I was not surprised when it came. But I was not expecting it to be so intense and dramatic. Perhaps that was because it was so important.
Along with what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my thoughts, the Lord impressed upon me a feeling in my heart so comforting and unmistakable that I simply could not doubt that what I had received came from God. It felt as familiar then as it has felt every time I have experienced it since that time. I am confident that I knew and understood this feeling from before this life.
The Burning of the Bosom
I don’t always trust my feelings but I have learned to trust this one. I know from many years of experience that some feelings are temporary and fleeting. The feeling I get when the Spirit is trying to communicate to me is one that has an underlying sense of eternity. It’s hard to explain to one who hasn’t experienced it. I have come to learn it can be interpreted many different ways.
For me, the burning of the bosom that accompanies personal revelation has become very real. It is a strong, powerful and very comforting feeling. I can feel it when I am listening to particularly inspiring and motivational speakers in General Conference or any church meeting. I have felt it in prayer. I have felt it in giving priesthood blessings. I always feel it when I speak in church.
Revelation and emotional response
But the personal revelation I receive is not in the comforting feeling by itself. That is just the spirit of the Lord bearing witness to me that what I am learning or participating in is important. The feeling also comes in warning me away from danger or in preparing me for bad news. It is an amazing thing to have the gift of the Holy Ghost but it can take a lifetime to understand it.
Receiving revelation is not the same as experiencing the burning of the bosom. However, some, including me, almost always feel this comforting sensation when receiving revelation. It is up to each of us to learn how to distinguish between the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost that often or usually accompanies the receipt of revelation and an emotional response to something.
For a great discussion of this see Gerald N Lund. “Our Own Emotions as a Form of Counterfeit Revelation.” Hearing the Voice of the Lord. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2007: 243.
While sitting in the hospital room with my wife on Sunday morning as she was recovering from surgery, I asked her a deep and personal question. She wanted me to help her with her latest blog entry as she dictated it so I recorded it on my laptop computer. When she finished it, I asked her how she knew that the Lord loved her.
She didn’t answer me right away but thought about it until this morning after we returned from a follow-up doctor’s visit. She then shared some things that were unmistakable evidence to her of God’s love for her. It was a sacred and emotional moment that helped me to know I am not alone in seeing God’s hand in our lives.
Looking beyond the battle
Carol is going through a difficult time right now and it took a lot for her to share those touching personal evidences. Dealing with her cancer is taking a lot of her energy and sometimes causes her to see only the immediate battle instead of the big picture. I asked her to take a minute to look beyond the battle and she did.
While we were waiting for the doctors to discharge her yesterday, I shared with her some of the things that are evidence to me that God knows and loves me. As I held her hand and recounted evidences from my youth of answered prayers, I felt that we don’t pause often enough to realize how the Lord shows each of us his love.
Praying over our flocks
There are so many times in my daily work that I am confronted with situations that tax my technical capabilities. It can be tough being the only computer dude in a small to medium sized business. You are expected to be the expert on a myriad number of software and hardware products. That’s just what an IT Manager does.
Little do my co-workers realize that there is no way that one person can know the answer to every question about all those hundreds of technology products that we use in our business. I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed for help from my Heavenly Father to be able to respond to yet another difficult tech question.
A not-so-typical problem
Let me give you an example from a recent experience that proved to me that the Lord knew what I was going through. For several weeks a certain employee had been calling and complaining that emails were not getting through to her from a very important client. We looked at everything trying to figure out the problem.
Finally, this employee laid down the law and said that this problem had to be fixed now! I re-inspected all the filters through which our email passes and could find nothing wrong. As I was reporting back via email, I decided to document the steps I had taken by including screen-prints of each filter and the corresponding settings.
A quiet whispered impression
Just before I was about to hit the send button, which in essence was admitting defeat, something impressed me to take one more look at the screen-prints I had included. As I reviewed each line very closely, I noticed something so simple that I laughed out loud and then started to shout in joyous exultation. I had found it!
My wife looked over at me and wondered why her normally so serious husband was shouting, “I’ve got you!” and doing a little happy dance. I reminded her of the problem I had been dealing with for so long and told her that I had finally found the solution. It was an exciting moment and one in which I felt profound relief.
The Lord stretches us
The problem was that the client had misspelled the employee’s name in her email address. What compounded it was that she only did it occasionally and usually on the really urgent emails. It was only when I had a screen-print in front of me with several copies of the incoming emails that I saw the simple yet terminal problem.
After I pointed the problem out to the employee with perhaps too much enjoyment, and everyone was happy again, I reflected back on how simple the problem really was. Why hadn’t I seen it before? I believe it was because the Lord wanted me to get to the point where I was about to admit defeat before he stepped in to help me.
Tender mercies of the Lord
I had done everything I knew how to do to resolve the problem. I was convinced that it was what we call in the industry a false positive, or a piece of email being blocked in the spam filter because it met the criteria of the complex spam rules. But it wasn’t a filter problem. It just didn’t know where to deliver the email.
The Lord knows how much I hate to admit defeat. I am a problem-solver by nature and thrive on resolving deep and complex technical issues. That’s what makes my job enjoyable. It is evidence to me that God loves me because he reached out and rescued me from having to admit defeat by prompting me to take that one last look.
The small and simple things
Now you may say that this was all just a big coincidence and that God had nothing to do with helping me to resolve the problem. You may even say that I must not be very smart to have not seen right away that an email address had been misspelled. But I can tell you that several of us had already looked at those screens for weeks.
This is not the only time the Lord has helped me in my work. I could probably fill a dozen essays with example after example of how the Lord inspired me or blessed me to be able to do something that was beyond my natural ability. I have studied and have worked in tech support my entire career but I have rarely done it alone.
Beyond my natural abilities
Success in my career is important to me. It helps me to fulfill the commandment of the Lord to provide for my family. Because the Lord gave me this responsibility and commandment, I feel that I have the right to call upon him to bless me in my work so that I can be successful. It’s like we are in a sacred partnership together.
I have not always seen the hand of the Lord in my work. Sometimes I have made rather foolish mistakes and wonder why they happened to me. I look back and realize that I had been trying to do it on my own or not giving the Lord credit for helping me. I always perform beyond my natural abilities when I ask God for help.
The Lord chastens us
The same thing applies to my spiritual life. I have seen the hand of the Lord in my spiritual growth and development numerous times – too many to enumerate. But I have not always acknowledged his kindness in helping me. That’s when I struggle and wonder why I feel like I’m going through my life’s experiences all by myself.
It is only when I stop and think that I realize how truly blessed I am and how much the Lord must really love me. The scripture says that the Lord chastens those who he loves. If our chastening experiences are any indication then we must be some of the Lord’s chosen. Now if I only knew for what purpose we are being chosen.
Preparing for eternity
I suppose I already know the answer. Just as it is easy to overlook the hand of the lord in my work, thinking that something so mundane as computer tech support can’t be of any interest to the Lord, it is just as easy to overlook the tender mercies of the Lord in our lives as we pass through this episode of cancer in Carol’s body.
I love Carol and I will love her forever. I chose her to be my companion not only for this life but forever. I am convinced that we will pass through this cancer scare successfully. I believe that the doctors caught it early enough that it will not be a problem once it is removed in the surgery next week. That in itself is a miracle.
Summary and conclusion
It is easy to think that God doesn’t love us or isn’t interested in our mundane lives. But if we stop and take the time to think about it, God is very involved in what we do each day. We just have to look for ways that mean something special to us. In my example, it was a subtle impression to inspect a screen-print just a little closer.
In Carol’s case, it is being able to fall asleep after a prayer in spite of tremendous pain, or wondering why you’re not stepping on the gas when the light turns green and then watching someone run a red light in front of you. What about you? How does the Lord demonstrate to you that he loves you and is involved in your life?
The outrage of the gay community over Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration illustrates that this issue of same-sex marriage is not going away. Apparently the radical gays hate conservative Christians like Rick Warren almost as much as they hate the Mormons who helped pass Proposition 8 in California last month.
The advocates of the GLBT lifestyle are becoming more vocal and the media has embraced their cause wholeheartedly. Their demands for full acceptance in our society grow more strident each day. Traditional Christian values of morality and marriage have become the current battleground in the fight between good and evil.
Many of those pushing the gay agenda have said that all they have to do is wait until those of my generation die out. They have made it clear in their online communications that they hate us because we are the only ones who stand in the way of letting them reach their goal. They want their sin declared acceptable.
Using the web to communicate
I find it very interesting that the gay community, which, according to the Family Research Institute is less than three percent of the population, is so angry with the Mormons, another group of individuals who are also less than three percent of the population of the U.S. Who will exert the greater influence in this ongoing battle?
It doesn’t take much digging to find those who support and encourage the efforts of the gays to achieve full recognition and acceptance. One of the most visible is Pam’s house blend. On there, you can find the writings of Chino Blanco, a former Mormon who has done an amazing job of documenting the recent Prop 8 battle.
I confess that I learned more about what was going on in the trenches of the campaign by reading Chino’s regular postings than I did from the official Prop 8 sources. It may not be a fair comparison, but I’ve got to give the man credit. He’s a diligent researcher and I wonder how he finds the time to write all that he does.
The Digital Network Army
But I’ll bet you don’t know much about those quietly working to sway public opinion in opposition to people like Chino Blanco. We are the Digital Network Army, a group of bloggers and others who actively write and comment in various online forums where we hope to clearly communicate our views to the public.
We met online last night at Rad Dad’s blog. I was amazed at the number of bloggers who showed up to say hello and discuss some of the difficulties of our online efforts to provide a clear voice in support of traditional marriage and family. We are also united in that most of us are recipients of comments from Chino Blanco.
Not all members of the DNA are Mormons. That’s a great thing. We are so pleased to work together with those who believe as we do that the traditional family is in need of our united efforts to uphold. This is an especially difficult task here in California where all three branches of the government are against us.
The word of living prophets
One of the arguments used by those who are in favor of homosexuality and gay marriage is that the Bible forbids a lot of things that we do not follow today. The great advantage that we have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the word of modern prophets and apostles in addition to the Bible.
When the First Presidency sent the letter to all the bishops to be read in California congregations on June 29th, they did not have to explain why joining the campaign to pass proposition 8 was important and necessary. We have been taught clearly over the years that marriage was ordained of God to be between man and woman.
We have also been clearly taught that same-sex attraction is a temptation while homosexual behavior is a sin. That’s why one can be gay and be an active and faithful member of the LDS Church. For example, read the blog of Samantha, who blogs about her same sex attraction or that of Clint Martin, a gay Mormon blogger.
Making a choice
Just like in the world you will find all kinds of attitudes towards gay people, you will find the same thing in the church. There are those who are intolerant and bigoted in the extreme. Yes, bigot is the right word. Then there are those who know that some struggle with this attraction and are compassionate towards them.
Finally, there are those who are either gay themselves or who have gay family members. For them, this issue has become explosive in the past six months. They have been forced to decide on which side they are on – that of the world or that of the church. What used to be gray has become black and white. That can be hard.
Because of the church’s stand on the issue, some have chosen to leave the church. We are saddened that they do not feel accepted and loved here, but we honor their choice. Seeing the attacks by the more radical elements of the gay community, some of us had become more determined to stand up for traditional marriage.
Meet the DNA
Although I already have a number of them on my blog roll, I have tried to compile a more complete list of all those who participated in our meeting last night. Many of them asked to have their blogs highlighted and added to lists of other members. I have included links to many of the DNA member blogs at the end of this essay.
However, I just have to mention a couple that have done an outstanding job and should be visited by all. First is the Kingfisher column. Even with less than a month of activity, the blog has become the definitive source for information about the defense of traditional marriage and family. I thoroughly recommend it.
Another very active DNA blog is the Beetle Blogger. I’ve written about her before. There are less than three months of archives, yet there is a world of helpful information there to educate those who are serious about this issue. Like me, she has received some serious opposition in the comments from avowed enemies.
Summary and conclusion
I know from experience that there is no way that I can write about this topic without offending someone. It has happened on every previous essay on the subject. In some cases, the dialog was helpful in bringing me to a better understanding of things. In other cases, the comments were meant to hurt.
The title of this piece is meant to refer to the radical element of the gay movement. They are not going to go away because they are fighting for something that they want – full recognition and acceptance of a lifestyle that we believe God has repeatedly condemned and forbidden. In like manner, we of the DNA are not going away.
While I hope that the ongoing dialog on this subject both on this blog and on the blogs of other members of the DNA will be civil, I do not hesitate to affirm that we will continue to proclaim the words of modern prophets in this matter. We will not and we cannot change. A living God has confirmed this to leaders of His church.
A limited selection of the DNA bloggers:
01. Kingfisher column
02. Beetle Blogger
03. Latter-day Commentary
04. Rad Dad
05. Pomegranate Apple
06. Akina’s for Prop 8
07. California Crusader
08. Pearl Diver
09. Secular Heretic
10. Article VI blog
11. Journalista Chronicle
12. Preserving Marriage
13. A Guy for Marriage
14. Make My Vote Count
15. Stand for Marriage
16. Keyser Causes
17. Busy With Conviction
18. Thinking the Wright Way
19. Wendy’s weblog
21. Left Coast Conservative
22. Joy’s blog
23. Good Sense Politics
24. Dead Seriously
A surreal feeling came over me as I watched the live helicopter shots. Facing east, the beautiful angel Moroni was lit by golden spotlights in the night sky. Beyond that the US and California flags fluttered lightly in the warm California breeze, also lit, always flying. How many times I have walked past that flagpole to and from the front door of the Los Angeles temple. Tonight, it was closed.
In the background of the shot was a crowd of angry people, climbing on the fence of the outer perimeter of the temple, waving flags and shouting slogans in front of the news cameras. Why were they so upset and what were they doing in front of the Temple? There were hundreds of them and they had just marched from West Hollywood, trying up traffic for many miles around.
Two days ago, the people of the state of California voted, for the second time in eight years, to affirm that marriage shall only be between a man and a woman. The contest was long and hard fought on both sides. It was also the most expensive political campaign ever fought outside of someone running for office. Immediately, the opposition filed three lawsuits protesting the win.
Taking it to the streets
One of the angry protestors was now in front of the camera, being interviewed, or rather, spewing out angry words. “We’re here in front of the Mormon temple because the Mormons have taken away our right to marry. They bought this election and took away our civil rights. We’re not going to stand for it. The people will rise up in revolt. Justice will prevail. Stop the hate!”
She continued, “Their leader, Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to all the Mormon congregations in California, directing them to send in their money and to do everything in their power to take away our right to marry. He can’t do that. This is a free country. This is an inalienable right. We’re going to march on every temple until the Mormons understand that they can’t do this.”
One protester carried a sign reading, “You have two wives. I want one husband.” As they had marched earlier down Santa Monica Boulevard, they chanted, “Mormons hate. Gays are great. No on 8. Stop the hate.” The rainbow banner, symbol of Gay pride, waved wildly. Some of the marchers jumped on top of cars, some were arrested. Some passer-bys threw eggs at the crowd.
Blog comments from unhappy gays
These people are not happy. They have been leaving comments on several of my blog essays dealing with the issue claiming that the General Authorities are liars when they claim that they do not oppose civil unions. They say the church paid millions for deceptive ads in support of proposition 8. They promise that we are just starting to see bad press that will only get worse.
“Get ready,” wrote one visitor. “We’re going after your MONEY. Starting with the University named after a polygamist.” He continued, “Seriously, we’ll be contacting every company recruiting there to ensure that they aren’t recruiting at BYU specifically to exclude Gay people.” Other visitors left the same comments, almost word for word. Did they plan a concerted attack?
Another wrote, “California is full of Gay ex-Mormons with universally hideous stories of their upbringing. Electroshock torture is one. Prop 8, a Mormon Amendment designed to abuse Gays, is simply a continuation of hatred of Gays by Mormons. Don’t whine as you get about 2 percent of the hatred you’ve spewed back at us. When Gays enjoy full civil rights, then we can talk.”
The civil dialog is gone
I have written at least a dozen essays on the subject of same-sex marriage over the last few months. It is my little contribution to the ongoing dialog about this difficult and emotional subject. Other than writing in my blog, I didn’t do much to promote proposition 8. Oh sure, I walked the precincts once and sent some money into the Yes on 8 campaign, but that’s about it.
It was my hope that by presenting essays that I believed were well thought out and by engaging others in intelligent and civil dialog, I could perhaps persuade a few people to understand our point of view. No matter how many times I wrote that we do not hate and that we are not out to take away civil rights, those who left comments refuted my claims and called me naïve or worse.
I suspect that my essays did little good other than to infuriate those who are opposed to the firm position of the church on this issue. No matter how many times I tried to make the point that we are blessed when we follow the prophet, I was told that I was blindly obedient to old men who are bigoted and racist. Since when did gays become a race? Oh, they were referring to blacks.
Equality is now redefined
One of my fellow bloggers, Dan from Arizona, where proposition 102 also won, reminded me of this quote from President Packer, “Some work through political, social, and legal channels to redefine morality and marriage into something unrestrained, unnatural, and forbidden. But they never can change the design which has governed human life and happiness from the beginning.”
“We do not set the standards, but we are commanded to teach them and maintain them. The standard remains abstinence before marriage and total fidelity in marriage. However out of step we may seem, however much the standards are belittled, however much others yield, we will not yield, we cannot yield.” He then talks about three abused words, tolerance, diversity and choice.
Well, there’s a new word that Elder Packer needs to add to his list: equality. To me, marriage is not a right, it is a privilege, defined and granted by God but recognized by society. It is a reward and a distinction to qualify for and be married. In our society, we recognize and reward marriage as being only between a man and a woman. But that’s not equality, we are now being told.
Summary and conclusion
As I watched the protesters being interviewed, I was struck by how angry they looked and how contorted their faces became as they shouted. They were through being nice, they said. You are now going to see the people rise up in revolt, they claimed. The time for talking and dialog is over and they are going to take what they want. The talk all seemed so full of hate and anger.
Many of my fellow bloggers have noted that the anger and hate seems to be coming from those who lost their battle. I am not the only one being visited by these people who leave comments claiming that we are now their enemies because we hurt them by taking away their rights. I am sorry that they feel this way but I wish they would not single out the Mormons in this matter.
We are not the only ones who fought to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. We are not the ones who began the initiative and we are not the only ones who contributed money to the campaign. The people have voted. The majority expressed their opinion and made their views known. If we accept the rule of law, marriage in California is only between a man and a woman.
Photo credit: ABC7 Los Angeles
1. KSL story and video
2. AP News – thousands protest
3. LA Times – includes video
4. KABC – LA – Video of protests
5. Get Religion – the evolving story
6. Photo essay at TJ Sullivan
7. Video links at Connor’s blog
8. Meridian – In the face of hatred
From the September 2008 First Presidency message, we read what President Eyring has to say about unity: “The Spirit puts the testimony of truth in our hearts, which unifies those who share that testimony. The Spirit of God never generates contention (see 3 Nephi 11:29). This Spirit never generates the feelings of distinction between people which lead to strife.”
I was deeply impressed when I first read that last sentence. I was also struck by the contrast in definitions of the word distinction. I usually view distinction in a positive manner, as in one who receives honors for outstanding work done in an academic or professional environment. In this case, it appears that distinction is an undesirable thing in that it causes inequality and contention.
But wait! Could it be that it is not distinction itself which is the bad thing, but some undesirable feelings that can be associated with the word? Yes, I believe that is what is meant in this case. In other words, distinction can be both good and bad, depending upon the feelings it produces. I would like to point out some ways in which we are a distinct people, hopefully all for the good.
We are a peculiar people
The Latter-day Saints are a peculiar people. The Lord said so himself. “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” Of course one could argue that this declaration from the Old Testament was referring to the house of Israel and I won’t disagree.
In First Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Peculiar here means chosen of the Lord. So obviously the Lord uses distinction when referring to those who he has called to follow Him and minister to others.
And yet, we read in Acts 10:34-35 that the Lord is no respecter of persons. “…in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” So from this I surmise that we can all be chosen. Anyone can be a part of the peculiar Kingdom of God. It seems that it is a mutual choice. He calls us and we choose him. That’s what makes the distinction here.
We are not a weird people
So what happens when we are called out of the world and choose to follow the Lord? The distinction between us and the rest of the world becomes obvious and clear, or at least it should be if we are trying to follow the Savior as we should. And therein lies the problem. We become a peculiar and distinctive people. Yes, we are called strange, weird, unusual and different.
President Hinckley made an effort in his media interviews and conference addresses to point out that we are not a weird people. His 1995 interview with Mike Wallace was a culmination of a life-long effort for him to change the way the world views us. I very much appreciate what President Hinckley has done. I do not feel weird or different in a bad way because I am LDS.
And yet, I do feel peculiar. Why? Although they used to be the norm, my views on morality, marriage and family are becoming more and more distinctive from the rest of the world. In particular, my advocacy for defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman has come under fire from those who claim that such views are bigoted, hateful and divisive.
Distinctive views on marriage
So what do I do with this statement from President Eyring that teaches the importance of harmony by avoiding contention and strife caused by feelings of distinction? I feel strongly about this issue and feel the need to stand up and make my views known. I am not alone. Most, although not all LDS churchgoers feel as I do about marriage even if they do not speak out.
The proposed amendment to the constitution of the state of California, where I was born and have lived all my life, will, in the view of those opposed to it, deny them their civil rights. My distinctive views have become a cause for strife. As I write about this issue in an effort to persuade others to understand my point of view, contention becomes a part of the dialog.
So again, how do I reconcile what is happening as I write about the definition of marriage and what President Eyring has said, that the spirit of the Lord never generates feelings of distinction between people which leads to strife? Is it my distinctive stance on marriage that is the cause of the strife? Those opposed would have me abandon my position as being wrong and intolerant.
We should seek distinction
I believe that we should seek distinction or honor from the Lord. By that I mean that we should strive to live our lives in accordance with the will of the Lord and thus receive his approbation. Does the Lord bless and favor those who seek to obey his commandments? Of course he does. But he is no respecter of persons, meaning that anyone can seek and obtain those same blessings.
Although we do not strive for appointment or advancement in the Lord’s church, we do seek to excel in doing our duty in helping to accomplish the Lord’s purposes here on the earth. I feel that it is an admirable character trait to be zealous in advocating and promoting something that the Lord has made clear through his prophets is both important and deserving of our best efforts.
As we seek to do the will of the Lord, and in particular to follow the counsel of the prophet in this issue of defending marriage, we are obviously drawing a distinction between us and those who do not believe as we do. There are many besides the LDS people who feel just as strongly about this issue, but it seems that it is the Mormons who are taking it to the door of the people.
Distinction without contention
We are not out to contend with others about this issue. We simply want to know if they are aware and how they would vote if the election were held today. Later in the campaign we will probably go door to door again in an effort to persuade. And finally, we will most likely be asked to visit our neighbors once again in the final days before the election to get out the vote.
Will some be angered by our efforts? Of course they will. Will some want to argue with us and tell us that we are wrong and should not be doing this? It has already happened all across the state. We do not contend in that we do not argue in a manner that causes feelings of distinction. By that I mean we focus on the importance of the definition of marriage and not civil rights.
We are not out to take away the civil rights of anyone. If you have studied the issue you know that same-sex domestic partners in California are guaranteed by law all the same rights as a married couple (Family Code 297.5). Yes, we are making a distinction that marriage is only between a man and a woman and are making an effort to get that added to the state constitution.
Summary and conclusion
You may be tired of reading about this issue by now. I am fairly certain that we will be reading a lot more about it in the weeks to come. I only write about it because when I began this blog, I felt a desire to comment on issues that are signs of the times and a part of the Latter-day events. Yes, the definition of marriage as a social event is one of the signs of the times of the last days.
I have concluded that there is no conflict between what President Eyring is trying to teach us about unity and harmony in his First Presidency message. I agree that we should avoid feelings of distinction from economic or educational accomplishments, class envy, pride or superiority that would stand in the way of unity and harmony, especially among members of the church.
We can be distinctive as a people by seeking to adhere to the standards the Lord has set for us. One of those standards is in the definition of marriage. The Lord established and defined for us what marriage is when he brought Adam and Eve together. Therefore, let no man divide asunder or change this definition. Marriage is sacred because it has been defined by the Lord for us.