One whole, unshattered piece

Dr. Gregory L. Smith, the new associate editor at the FARMS Review (a publication in the process of changing names to Mormon Studies Review) has given me something interesting to write about here just before the “Circling the Wagons” conference in Salt Lake City in November. We’ve been in a bit of a lull, in case you hadn’t noticed, and his paper has surfaced on the internet in several places now, and it seems a good time to talk about it.

There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all people. …For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, form a single body,….But now God has arranged the parts, every one of them, in the body according to his plan.

So there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or the head to the feet, “I don’t need you.” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are in fact indispensable, and the parts of the body that we think are less honorable are treated with special honor, and we make our less attractive parts more attractive. However, our attractive parts don’t need this.

But God has put the body together and has given special honor to the parts that lack it, so that there might be no disharmony in the body, but that its parts should have the same concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is praised, every part rejoices with it. – 1 Cor 12:6, 12, 18, 20-26

Smith published a 24-page article in the FARMS Review (FARMS Review: Volume 23, Issue 1, Pages 61–85) entitled, “Shattered Glass: The Traditions of Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Encounter Boyd K. Packer” wherein he applauds Mormons for Marriage for reaching out in support of our GLBT friends and neighbors, while at the same time taking the opportunity to critique a handful of the site’s posts regarding Pres. Packer’s April 2010 conference remarks, now titled, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel.”

First, Smith notes that this site’s “opposition to the mistreatment of homosexuals” is laudable. In general he finds “…recent years have seen at least some of the casual cruelty and unthinking disdain inflicted upon this subset of God’s children become less acceptable. Even yet there is clearly work to do—for example, in opposing verbal and physical violence—that no one of goodwill would oppose.” (p.62)

Despite agreeing that it’s time we treat each other better, he still finds plenty to criticize and takes the opportunity to say to all of us,

“With no more authority than accrues to ‘fellowcitizens with the saints’ (Ephesians 2:19; D&C 20:53–54), I urge all who have erred to repent privately and publicly (Mosiah 27:35; D&C 42:90–92), trusting that God will be as merciful to them in their errors as he is to me in mine. If they choose not to, or insist they have done nothing wrong, the proximate and eternal consequences will be tragic, but not unexpected.” (p.84)

Most scholarly reviews don’t include calls to repentance like this. And, by his own admission, this well-footnoted paper may not be fully academic. “A purely academic review would likely end here,” Smith writes. Then he continues, “Elder Holland has remarked, however, that Pres. Packer’s response to instruction or exhortation is often to ask, ‘Therefore, what?’ I suspect, then, that Pres. Packer would tell me that as an aspiring disciple of the Master, I have a duty to conclude with my own answer to his question, though unlike him I can speak only for myself.” (p.84)

Taking up a sword on behalf of Pres. Packer, Smith’s primary complaint is that our site is hypocritical in saying we don’t allow criticisms to be published, but that apparently Pres. Packer is fair game for any and all critics, as evidenced primarily by the two blog posts referenced below.

[Mormons for Marriage]’s founders ought to either apologize and clean up their conduct online and in the media or be honest enough to concede that their behavior is not consistent with their purported aim to publicly oppose the church’s political activities while refraining from criticism of the church and its leaders. It is not clear to me that such a goal is feasible; it is, however, abundantly clear that [Mormons for Marriage] has failed to achieve it. If they intend to continue as at present, they ought at least to have the decency to admit that they are criticizing the church and its leaders. The issue is simply one of integrity. (p.84)

In the maelstrom of rhetoric that gave birth to Mormons for Marriage, it was nearly impossible to hold a civil conversation about homosexuality and marriage on the internet. Readers may recall frequent flame wars on other sites and arguments with one side likening marriage equality supports to Sons of Perdition and the other side castigating all believers as non-thinking bigots. This kind of “debate” is not what Mormons for Marriage needed. We needed a place where people could ask questions without fear of retribution, where people could share experiences coping with in-church politicking, where people could find support regardless of how they identify themselves and where people could share their personal, sometimes intimate, stories in an effort to build bridges of understanding.

As time has passed and as arguments have been heard and re-heard millions of times, the tension has lessened. There’s a fine line between having a hard conversation and having a hate-fest (or a love-fest). That is a line drawn and re-drawn every day by discussion moderators and editors alike. It is hard to have a conversation saying you disagree with someone’s ideas without explaining what those disagreements are. It is hard to express pain without sounding hurt or sometimes even lashing out. If every negative comment is seen as personal criticism (or, more harshly, an attack akin to stoning (p.84-85)), there would not be much to say on the topic of opposing discrimination. At Mormons for Marriage, we don’t see negative comments as personal criticism.

As a well-read researcher and medical professional, Smith is surely aware of the nature of scholarly criticism. Rigorous peer review is the standard for publication in any quality scholarly journal. All scholarly criticism requires critics to pick and choose portions of another’s work to point out flaws and strengths, but also demands accurate representation of another’s arguments and positions.

Scholars know that true scholarly criticism does not include personal attack and that expression of an opinion is not necessarily criticism, much less a frontal assault. Scholarly criticism examines arguments, methodologies, facts, logical flaws and conclusions. Often scholarly criticism includes strong differences of opinion, and scholars know that when they submit their work for publication, they open it up for debate, examination and criticism. Granted, comments on blogs are not regularly scholarly, and many lack carefully thought-out or cogent arguments for or against specific topics, but blogs are not scholarly journals; commenters are not degree-holding researchers.

The ephemeral and immediate nature of blog comments is regularly at odds with the need for scholarly documentation and thorough analysis, and finding a balance is challenging. Certainly there is room for strong opinion and tough examination in blog comments, however. One might ask whether it is reasonable to hold blog comments to the same rigorous standards as peer reviews.

What is criticism

What qualifies as criticism in Smith’s view? He writes,

“[Mormons for Marriage] ‘tolerates’ such statements as Compton’s insistence that ‘the Church definitely has a long, LONG way to go.’ Laura [Compton], 13 November 2010 (9:58 am), comment on “Latest LDS Instructions on GLBT Issues.” ) This strikes me as criticism. It certainly isn’t praise,…” (p.71)

While it may not be praise, is it criticism or observation? In context is part of a response to another, less-positive comment (which, like this one, is partially included in Smith’s paper as well) from CowboyII who wrote that “The LDS Church will never give homosexuals an equal status.” In addition to the frustrated dismay shown here, to which I responded there’s a long, LONG way to go, his comment also included pleasant surprise that homosexuals could hold church callings and receive temple ordinances.

Smith lines up parts of a number of comments to show his readers examples of poor treatment of Pres. Packer by Mormons for Marriage, calling this the “President Packer Treatment” (p.77). He appears to ascribe the opinions of commenters to Mormons for Marriage, perhaps because comments at the blog are moderated. More on that later.

Where is the “President Packer Treatment” coming from?

The two main posts Smith draws his conclusions from are:

Why Would God Allow His Children to be Born Homosexual? As of today, there are 120 comments on the post – a relatively busy post for this site. It was written in reaction to the general angst expressed among LDS Conference watchers who listened to Pres. Packer’s talk and interpreted it to mean Pres. Packer was saying their homosexuality was not in-born.


Edits to Boyd K Packer’s talk, another relatively popular article with 102 comments as of today. This post includes a comparison of the original and printed versions of his talk, and my first comment in that talk discusses some of the issues people focused on in their reactions to it.

Smith’s examples of how Pres. Packer was allowed to be criticized come primarily from the comments on these posts, not the actual posts themselves, and Smith took care to choose portions of comments (as noted above) that would best support his thesis that Mormons for Marriage does, indeed, allow criticism of church leaders and is a site in need of a course correction. Since Smith neglected to say when he accessed each of the posts, it is a bit difficult to know whether he saw all of the comments which now exist on the site, but the sites he did note access dates for were in the February-May, 2011 timeframe.

One more example from the comments critique, showing his careful editing: Smith presents this quote from Benjamin (Oct 3, 2010 10:53 p.m.), edited to remove the positive portions of Benjamin’s comments, some of which are included below. Smith’s version:“I am not really interested in reading another shame-based talk by Elder Packer. . . . It is unfortunate that when Elder Packer is given this topic to talk about his words are so rife with negativity and shame.” (p.73)

In context, in the first part of his comment, Benjamin identifies himself as a gay man who was profoundly and negatively affected by Pres. Packer’s “To The One”. Later on, Benjamin’s comment continues where Smith picks begins it (emphasis indicates portions used by Smith):

I am not really interested in reading another shame-based talk by Elder Packer. I am sure I’ll probably force myself to look at it and see if there is some change in his worldview but I am doubtful that there will be as I have seen his modus operandi over the years and that has left me feeling nothing short of depressed. I’m sure God has called him to this calling for some special purpose. Many of his other talks about charity and other discussions have given me hope and have inspired me. It is unfortunate that when Elder Packer is given this topic to talk about his words are so rife with negativity and shame. It simply proves that he does not understand who we are. I do know God knows who we are and rejoices in the fact that His creations are diverse and beautiful. I believe one reason why we are created different is to humble those who think they know it all when in all reality they do not and never will as long as they continue thinking they do know all of God’s will on this subject. I believe our Father will continue sending His children who are “different” into LDS households until finally family truly becomes more important than the Church as an institution when the choice is put up to embrace your gay and lesbian children or reject them (and those they love) for the Church’s sake. Keeping that in mind what is the Church if not the members? The Church as an institution is made up of many families and gay and lesbian people are part of that tapestry. One day that tapestry will be celebrated as part of that beautiful quilt and not shamed as a mistake in the weave.”

And finally, one directly from me, with no indication by Smith that the comment actually begins half a sentence before where he picks it up, inserting his own capitalization. Smith’s version: “Many listeners got the distinct impression,” Compton tells us, “that Elder Packer was suggesting homosexuality is a choice. While that may be what he believes or understands, it is not in line with current church teachings which indicate General Authorities do not know what causes homosexuality.” (p.71)

The complete sentence: “Even though Elder Packer did not use the words “homosexual” or “gay” or “same-gender attraction”, because of the placement of the question, the references to the Proclamation and marriage equality referenda, the stories of gender confusion (which is regularly conflated with homosexuality within LDS circles), and the use of words like “unnatural” many listeners got the distinct impression that Elder Packer was suggesting homosexuality is a choice. While that may be what he believes or understands, it is not in line with current church teachings which indicate General Authorities do not know what causes homosexuality.”

The point was that Packer’s position, expressed in his standard slightly ambiguous euphemisms, did not seem to be in line with more current church teachings. This is a reasonable point to make, and it is quite possible that there are differences of opinion on this matter, even among the highest quorums of the Church, just as there are differences of opinion in our larger society.

The conversations, in context, are available for all to read and judge whether the overall tone is one of finger-pointing and castigation or whether it is one of an attempt to process difficult information, “calm fears,” and make sense of something that was hard to hear and understand. There might even be some comments supporting Pres. Packer in those pages.

Comment attribution

Like letters to the editor or other public forum publications, the fact that comments appear on a website does not mean the site endorses the opinions shared, even though comments make it through moderation filters on any particular day. And, like listening to one end of a telephone conversation, it is often hard to tell what’s really happening when you only have access to a few snippets of information, as is the case when comments are removed from context and strung together in a static journal article and, in some cases at least, significantly misconstrued in order to prove a point.

Journal editors do not usually solicit letters to the editor representing a particular viewpoint, they work with what is sent in and publish what they have physical room for. Online publications don’t generally have space constraints, but they suffer from the same readership comment problems journals have: When conservatives dominate readership, conservative voices dominate the comments. When people who are hurting or distressed dominate readership, comments primarily reflect their hurt and distress.

The posts at Mormons for Marriage which dealt with Pres. Packer’s remarks were posts that necessarily attracted readers seeking solace or an opportunity to vent. As the redline post was the only place one could easily see the changes between Pres. Packer’s spoken text and the published version, traffic was unusually broad-based, but still leaning toward people interested in why an apostle would change a talk. Commenters supporting Pres. Packer were certainly a minority, but their thoughts are part of the record.

Building the historical record

Another of Smith’s critiques of these two posts is that they fail to address Pres. Packer’s previous statements about homosexuality. Had either post been lengthy footnoted and cross-referenced research pieces, an analysis of Pres. Packer’s previous statements would make sense. However, that was not the purpose of these pieces. Like many posts at Mormons for Marriage, the intention of the first piece, just eight short paragraphs long, was to be supportive of those who were immediately hurting as a result of hearing those words spoken over conference weekend.

The second piece was merely to document and address only the changes made in this particular talk. Since people were talking about the changes made, it was important to record them.

The nature of the ephemeral bits and bytes of the internet allows for both immediate emotional reactions and thoughtful analysis. Smith holds this first post to the standard of scholarly research and analysis and then proceeds to point out all the ways it is mere emotional reaction, easily knocking it down from a pedestal it should never have been placed on to begin with. It appears to be emotional reaction because it is emotional reaction. Had the post been a lengthy footnoted and cross-linked analysis of Pres. Packer’s historical stance on homosexuality, it might deserve such scholarly criticism.

Priesthood ordination vs. same-sex marriage

Smith points out several legitimate differences between the church’s stance on priesthood ordination and its stance on homosexuality (and same-sex marriage, in particular) in an effort to show how the issue of giving priesthood to all worthy men is significantly different from the issue of seeking marriage equality (pp. 75-77). As many often draw parallels between changes they’d like to see in the Church and this enormous shift and revelation that came in June, 1978, it makes sense for Smith to compare and contrast the two.

He neglects to note perhaps the biggest difference, however: Black people were not killing themselves because they could not hold the priesthood or enter temples. How many young gay people have killed themselves because of their interpretations of the church’s stance on homosexuality? How many live in fear that parents, spouses or friends will find out and disown them? One is too many. How many more suicide notes do we need to read that say things like, “I prayed and prayed. I tried and tried, but I didn’t change. I can’t try any longer.” How many more late-night calls to bishops and crisis hotlines will be made because somebody has been fighting [either a temptation or a tendency, depending on which talk you read] for 20 or 40 or 60 years and just can’t do it any longer?

Thankfully, LDS rhetoric surrounding homosexuality has softened quite a bit since the early 1970s and there are clear and specific efforts by church leaders to promote charity toward all. That shift from “Hope for Transgressors”to “God Loveth His Children” is an institutional big step. No longer do we hear about “crimes against nature, deviate behavior, perversion, or abominations. We hear about same-gender attraction, a much more benign description. Part of the reason that shift is happening is because people, especially GLBT people and their families, are stepping up to share their stories and experiences.

Many of those conversations began happening because the Church involved itself in supporting Proposition 8 (and other traditional marriage initiatives and constitutional amendments).

A final postscript

Smith suggests it is time for us at Mormons for Marriage to sit down, shut down and silence ourselves or leave. He writes,

“If my patients do not like what they hear, they might choose to remain silent or leave my practice. Likewise, those who differ with the united voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve might disagree silently or leave the church.” (p.83)

Thankfully, Smith is not the host at this banquet and while he can express his opinion about who should stay and who should go, it’s not his job to decide who is on Christ’s guest list. We can cut off body parts and walk around maimed in an effort to save our souls (p.83) or we can accept that each part of the body has a function and a purpose – even the body parts that seem at first to be useless or offensive. We can pull up the tares now, when they’re small, and burn them in a corner of the field, or we can let them grow along with the wheat and let the Master Gardner do the sifting. Maybe the reason God created gay people (and anyone else we regard as Other) is so that we can all learn how to find new ways to relate to and with one another.

Smith further suggests that to continue to allow a forum where people may come to express themselves and learn about the Church’s positions on homosexuality is to expose ourselves to hell fire in the future (p.83).

And yet, open discussion has great value:

If it keeps even one child from committing suicide,

If it means just one mother doesn’t have to worry that her son will question God’s love for him,

If it means just one father can understand his lesbian daughter’s spirituality and accept her children,

If it means just one bishop opens his door to a depressed HIV+ member and acts as Christ’s stand-in to embrace him fully and completely,

If it means just one Primary teacher changes a lesson because one of the children attending that day has two dads,

If it means just one gay activist thinks twice before labeling all Mormons as bigots,

Even if it makes Smith and others like him question my integrity, my support of priesthood leaders and my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, yes, these conversations have value. There are some things that just need to be said, and there are some forums that just need to exist and we all need to do it together.

41 Comments on “One whole, unshattered piece

  1. thank you for this elegant, well-reasoned reply. Continuing civil discourse and holding each other accountable may be difficult and even painful, but it improves the whole community.

  2. Thank you so much, Laura, for this post. As a person who has recently been fighting a day-to-day struggle on whether to remain active in the church (with a faithful LDS wife and three small children), it does hurt me to know that someone like Smith literally does not want me to participate in church with him. But it is such a beautiful feeling to know that there are people out there who understand me, and why this issue is important to me. It is healing to my soul. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  3. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to an agreement (inside the Church or out) when none of us can agree on what it means to be “gay.” The nature vs. nurture vs. something in between debate is at the root of most of the mudslinging I’ve seen going on.

    Laura (and, by extension, Mormons for Marriage) believe that “God created gay people” — a primary statement that nature defines being “gay,” not anything else on the spectrum. The Church obviously and pointedly does not believe that.

    To say that the Church has a “long, LONG way to go” is an statement of where the Church must move to in the eyes of Laura. One should not expect that others share that view, nor should one be surprised when others view such statements as calls for the Church to change. If the Church is led by men who can make the change, then bravo–call for those changes. If the Church is truly led by God, then one must question the probity of making such calls. Grassroots movements have not historically had much of an effect on what the Church does, however.

    Until such point as the debate about the fundamentals is settled, I have no doubt that acrimony will continue unabated. Who is at fault for that acrimony will, of course, be determined by which “camp” one finds oneself a member of.

  4. Laura,
    The entire article was good.

    I really enjoyed the postscript. That was great.

    I have to be honest that I’m unfamiliar with the issues swirling around, but I do know this: If there is a place for love and exchange and fellowship and we’re not talking about THAT instead of Elder Packer’s talk, I’m saddened. I’m just catching up, reading about the many moving and difficult stories from this community and it breaks my heart.

    Whenever you butt up against ideological arrogance and theological narcissism, I’m on your side.

    God Bless,
    Jonah Swan

  5. I’ve been a very devout Mormon all my life and I can say without equivocation that I’ve learned more from Hart Crane, Walt Whitman, and Wilfred Owen than I’ve ever learned from Elder Boyd K. Packer. Not that Boyd K Packer is a bad person, but let’s be honest and ascribe value where value belongs. Sometimes organizations create value inversions, replacing what is valuable with a reverence and respect for what is not.

  6. An open letter to Gregory L. Smith, a critic whom I am proud to count as
    one of my readers.

    I was interested in seeing that Gregory L. Smith remarked on Laura’s
    article… and even mentioned my post specifically. Its so good to know
    that the people we want to reach have read our message. (Even if for the
    purpose of criticism.) Didn’t you find it strange that he was critical
    of the format (should the site allow criticism of the church and its
    leaders?) and completely ignored the message? It is this kind of ‘shoot
    the messenger’ that distracts from the debate and its content.

    Gregory L. Smith, I would like you to ponder on the following thought:

    Isn’t it interesting that peer reviewed scientific scholarship has
    conclusively found a genetic aspect to the probability of a person’s
    sexuality. (More bluntly put; they have found the ‘gay gene’.)
    It is also interesting to note that there is no known biological
    determinant for homophobia, religiously based intolerance or organized

    The conclusion is that homosexuality is a given. It is genetically,
    biologically determined and naturally occurring.
    Religion, on the other hand, and Mormonism (as a religion largely
    dependent on conversions) in particular are learned phenomenon, picked
    up socially, and determined for the most part culturally.

    Using the vernacular, Mormonism is the real ‘lifestyle choice.’ …and
    the numbers show that more and more people are choosing to rethink that

    Gregory L. Smith, any paper that pretends to confront issues addressed
    by Mormons for Marriage and misses this very central message really
    shouldn’t continue to pretend scholarship. You, Gregory L. Smith come
    across as a propagandist …and one presumably one on the church’s
    payroll. I suggest you directly address the issues surrounding the
    church’s treatment of its homosexual brothers and sisters instead of
    criticizing the supposed failings of this forum’s format. Your
    credibility may just be recoverable.

    You may also be interested in the following article on religion and

  7. Thank you, Bitherwack, for illustrating my point concerning acrimony so eloquently.

    If you could please provide a citation for an uncontested and universally agreed upon discovery of a “gay gene,” which you reference, I’m sure that it will quickly put any further debate on the matter to rest.

  8. As far as I am concerned, we don’t have to come to an agreement on whether homosexuality is genetic or environmental or a pure choice. It is certainly not exclusively or universally any of these.

    Despite what some have suggested, as far as I am concerned, the “long, LONG way to go” has almost nothing to do with the official Church stance on the origins/causes of homosexuality and nearly everything to do with how we treat one another, particularly our GLBTQ brothers and sisters and their friends and families.

    We are here, we have testimonies, we are not leaving, we will continue to speak, we will try to be respectful (especially when we’re told to take a hike).

    With that in mind, what needs to happen to make a place for us to serve beside you? When I hear someone tell me I need to be quiet and leave, I hear discomfort on the part of the listener who doesn’t want to hear my words. What needs to happen to bridge the gap?

    I would encourage each and every one of us to ask ourselves, “What am I doing that welcomes my neighbor? and What am I doing that pushes my neighbor out the door?”

    When we as a community come to a place where we no longer feel the need to silence and banish one another, we will have come a long, LONG way.

  9. Allen and Bitherwack – please play nicely and don’t sidetrack us into a debate about the origins of homosexuality.

  10. I wonder what the FARMS website would be like if THEY allowed comments on their articles. What if comments were allowed on articles at and

    I appreciate what you guys are doing here. Though I am no longer a believer, I find it heartening that so many are working for change from within.

  11. Laura,

    Thank you for your efforts to keep the debate on track. I agree. In the end, Zion (and isn’t that what we all are aiming for?) can be found in how we treat each other. I hope you won’t mind if I address Allen’s request, and post the following. I will understand if you would prefer not to have the discussion sidetracked.

    -B. (By the way, if you haven’t heard the following podcast, I suspect you would also be interested.)

    Hi Allen,

    I agree, I should not have just put out that ‘gay gene’ comment without a little backing up. (I guess its still too emotionally charged a topic.) I can imagine how someone new to the subject would find it strange that I could have taken such information for granted. Readers of this site come to this topic in all degrees of understanding. I shouldn’t have assumed too much of the reader.

    I did a little searching of my files for the topic of the genetic basis for homosexuality. There have been within the last 10 years countless reports of such findings, and there are of course ongoing studies as well. Of the many I have at my disposal, (some are extremely dry, long, and overly technical… as one would expect from peer reviewed scientific journals.) Occasionally a scientist will do his best to communicate to the larger audience, and one of the most articulate may very well be BYU’s own Professor Bradshaw. (A link to a podcast of his lecture can be accessed below.)

    If you find you require more information on this topic, please let me know. I would be glad to supply more.

  12. Dear Charles, please note that you, along with everyone else, have been asked to moderate yourself. As you may have noticed, this post is more about building bridges and finding solutions than it is about calling people apostates and psychopaths and specifically inviting flame wars.

    I’ve clipped from your self-proclaimed “screed” the following three points which you identify as specifically problems with Mormons for Marriage.

    They are here for all to see. We are not going to debate these points in this thread – they’ve been dealt with many times in other places, and they represent a sidetrack of this discussion..

    If you have something on point to share (you might want to re-read the OP), or if you have something to contribute to a discussion about building bridges between people who agree with you and people who don’t agree with you, feel free to come back.

    …here are the problems with Mormons for Marriage:

    1. They stand for a revolutionary system that could destroy the concept of marriage as it has stood for thousands of years — a system that has been successful. They want to replace it with an experimental system that may be quite harmful — ultimately leaving us no reason to deny brothers marrying brothers and fathers marrying daughters. And it could get worse.

    2. “Gay Marriage” is a system that causes society to subvert its best interests all for the sake of helping make people who are dysfunctional and subject to personality disorder feel better about themselves. Secretly this is also about trying to help society accept gays more openly. But society should not put a knife in itself to help a very small minority to be libertine in their dysfunction.

    3. “Mormons for Marriage” supports all of this, naively. They do not consider any of the above statements to be valid. But still, the living oracles of God proclaim that Marriage is only between a man and a woman. They reject this is in open criticism — “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed”. They are, regardless of their self opinions – apostates.

  13. “At Mormons for Marriage, we don’t see negative comments as personal criticism.”

    So what do you see as personal criticism then? My definition of criticism would be ” the act or an instance of making an unfavourable or severe judgment, comment, etc.” One can state her support (or non-support) of gay marriage without referencing the Mormon church or its teachings at all.

    Plus your policy has changed between the opening blogpost which said that “no criticism of the church or its leaders will be tolerated” to the its omission in your “About” section. Has this site amended its policy? I submit that it has. And quibbling about the difference between “negative comments” and “criticism” makes you appear disingenuous.

    You might as well come out and say that criticism of the Mormon church and its leaders is tolerated, if not outright encouraged. It’s the whole point of the website whatever its stated objectives might be.

  14. I disagree with DPC. The point of this website — if I understand it correctly — is to give people who are hurting a chance to console each other in a spirit of Christlike love, and to work towards making it so that people like them don’t have to hurt anymore.

    If I believed that the LDS church were Jesus Christ’s church on earth, then I would reject the idea that Jesus Christ would desire to hurt the afflicted, cast them out of the synagogue, and silence their screams of pain. I would not accept anyone as a follower of Jesus Christ who felt that anything came before Christlike love and compassion, and if anyone told me that Jesus wanted me to hurt someone I would know they were lying.

    The dichotomy is not between believing and un-believing Latter-Day Saints. It is, as I recently read, between those who’ve been hurt and those who are privileged to pretend that those who are hurting get what they deserve. Because only if they believed that could they be so cruel and un-Christlike.

  15. Thank you, Laura, for keeping this site going. So many thoughts about this article and the comments, but not finding the words to express them. I’m very grateful for the open dialogue that can be had here and that people are free to express their opinions.

  16. First of all, this man wants us to sit down and be quiet? Really? Silence is not neutrality. It helps the *oppressor.* I am not going to be quiet just to satisfy some random guy who quotes us out of context in order to satisfy his apologetics essay.

  17. Laura wrote: When I hear someone tell me I need to be quiet and leave, I hear discomfort on the part of the listener who doesn’t want to hear my words.

    *Exactly.* What you’re seeing is someone who had the mirror of his own prejudice held up in his face and he didn’t like what he saw. So, rather than examine his own beliefs and attitudes, he lashes out at those of us who think/believe/know differently. Sad indeed.

  18. Laura, thanks for sharing Charles’ “salient points” with us. I guess Charles does not know that marriage is now, and always has been, an elastic institution, changing across time and culture. I have posted many times (with links) about the history of marriage in Western civilization, the medieval Adelphopoiia rite which united two men in matrimony, anthropological kinship studies about “visiting marriages” and more. I cordially invite Charles to look up any of those things that he so desires, whether via the links posted here multiple times or via his favorite search engine, to see that he’s barking up the wrong tree when he says that marriage has always been the same for thousands of years. Heck, a little more than 40 years ago it was unlawful for people of different ethnicities to marry — so marriage has changed in my lifetime. It’s far from a stagnant institution across time and space.

  19. I’m reading through Mr. Smith’s essay, and once again we have an example of someone who seems to believe that being gay is only “real” if one is sexually active with someone of the same physical gender. I rather expect it would never occur to him to say that someone who self-identifies as straight is only really straight if they are sexually active with someone of the opposite physical gender. He does gas on at great length to make it look like that’s what Mr. Packer says … despite the fact that it’s obviously not so.

    I do find it entertaining/amusing/unfortunate that Mr. Smith seems to think he is writing such a scholarly document and yet cannot be bothered to note that not everyone here is a member of the church of LDS. Many are former members, some are children of members who have walked away and yes, some are members. But by gummy, Mr. Smith says we are all members (including me, whom he quotes several times in his article) despite the *numerous* times I have said otherwise. All I can do now is laugh.

  20. Well, having finished Mr. Smith’s “essay,” I see no reason to back down from anything I’ve said. He wants us to sit down and be quiet because we make *him* uncomfortable — and to that I say, “Too bad.”

    The noted anthropologist Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” There are many people, both inside and outside of the Church of LDS, who recognize the direct harm caused to LGBT people, their family, friends and allies by the stand the church has taken. The church proclaims that it is politically neutral, but worked both financially and materially to *take away rights from law-abiding citizens.* This is unconscionable on so many levels that I am astonished more people don’t see it.

    What would happen if some group managed to vote away the right of the Church of LDS to exist in a particular state? Would that be taken quietly? Would Mr. Smith counsel his fellow parishioners to be quiet and sit down? I suspect not. Yet, this is precisely the slippery slope he supports by his apologetics. He doesn’t seem to care that young people are killing themselves because of the bigotry (there, I said it) we’ve discussed so many times. And yes, if you think that someone is less deserving of rights because they are different from you, you’re a bigot. There’s no way around it.

    I think I deserve a cookie for reading that whole thing. Seriously.

  21. And as a PS — Smith says that there are no LDS resources listed on this site. Mr. Smith, if you are reading, please take a gander at the right-hand column on this page. There is a section labeled “Help and Support – LDS.” Thanks.

  22. Laura,

    Not to dwell on the elephant in the room, but I think your response doesn’t really address Dr. Smith’s central points. First, the scriptures very clearly teach that homosexual behavior is against the will of God. Second, this scriptural record — both ancient and modern — includes quotes (allegedly) directly from the Savior. Third, though this is emphasized less it is an underlying assumption, heterosexual marriage in the eternities is clearly embedded in Mormon theology and can’t really be excised like Adam-God or blood atonement.

    So let me ask some questions, in all sincerity, and we can get this elephant out in the open:

    1) Do you believe in Christ as the Savior of the world, yes or no?
    2) If yes, do you believe in Christ’s teachings, yes or no?
    3) If yes, is homosexual behavior against Christ’s teachings, yes or no?
    4) If no, how can you ALSO say yes to #1 and #2 above, given seemingly unending scriptural references and quotes from Latter-Day prophets reinforcing the contrary position? If yes, how does running this website not cause significant cognitive dissonance within you as you worship on Sundays?

    I think most Mormons are on board with civil unions, and I will stand next to you and fight injustices, bigotry, and lack of civility. I will weep with you about the suicides. We can push all 25,000 Bishops in the church to come out and condemn bigotry — weeping even — and even if they don’t mention the central argument made by Dr. Smith (though still believing it), I won’t mind. I’ll stand with you on all that, and probably more. I applaud the efforts of M4M when it comes to those areas.

    But, honestly, let’s just admit the obvious: The reason why you are not addressing Dr. Smith’s central point is because there is no real rebuttal that can be made without diminishing the Savior and His teachings about homosexual behavior. I’ve been watching this website for over a year — great website, BTW — but I have yet to see anything that would sway the 90% of active members of the church who actually value the scriptures and Mormon doctrine. Arguments to the contrary (i.e., cultural influence on scripture, translation issues, weak allusions to non-comparable developments in Mormon history, etc..) are too problematic to seriously acknowledge.

    It seems the Dr. gave you the bad news and you didn’t even acknowledge it in your rebuttal. If your most thorough defense is to try to quote posts in a broader context, then I would seriously suggest we have a frank conversation instead. Let me make a suggestion. (**NOTE** – I don’t want to digress to ‘either / or’ rhetoric, but it seems necessary if we are to have real discussion on this issue). Please either accept Christ and His teachings or condemn them. Please choose your master, one way or the other. Christ loves everyone and encourages us to love, but he does have standards for behavior — at least the Mormon Christ, anyway. I, for one, would have respect for either position if it is based on sincerity and thoughtful argument. I just can’t understand the full positioning of M4M.

    As for me, “I believe in Christ.” If you can convince me that Christ really does want same-sex Marriage, I’ll personally go ‘door to door’ with you, but we’ll need to leave the Mormon Church for reasons of integrity, abandon “doctrine”, and excise or redact large chucks of scripture. If it’s ok with you, most members of the church would just assume stick with the Mormon Christ instead. I wish it were otherwise, but I didn’t make the rules. Accordingly, I’ll take responsibility for my own behavior, and encourage others to do the same.



    P.S. – I’m the “B” in LGBTQ, and I’m not an apologist. I’m just being honest with myself and you.

  23. Paul, you think nobody has wrestled with this dichotomy? A gay Mormon has only a few options.
    1) submit to peer pressure and cultural norms and live in denial.
    2) wipe the slate clean and re-evaluate every dogma that has been taught in Sunday School. Which, in most cases, leads to apostasy.
    3) commit suicide; like the two young men in Sandy/Draper did recently.

    I feel Laura has been made into a sort of an 21st Century Galileo. To be criticized for seeking truth and enlightenment seems so medieval.

  24. Dear Paul: For your edification, here is everything Jesus Christ says about homosexuality in Scripture: ” ”

    In other words, nothing. Please learn to distinguish between Pauline doctrine and what Jesus actually taught.


  25. Paul wrote: Arguments to the contrary (i.e., cultural influence on scripture, translation issues, weak allusions to non-comparable developments in Mormon history, etc..) are too problematic to seriously acknowledge.

    Why are they “too problematic,” Paul? Because those particular realities make you uncomfortable?

  26. I have to admit that I got a lot more cognitive dissonance from being asked to protect families by preventing them from being formed than I do from the work of this website.

    Really, we spent tens of millions of dollars on paper and electrons and pollster salaries in order to take away the rights of consenting adults to what? to come together and provide for each other and their children – to protect their families.

    All the while saying we, those of us on the religious moral high ground, were preserving and protecting families?

    And that that religious involvement was evidence of the way we loved and followed Jesus Christ and his teachings to “love one another as I have loved you”?

    What about “obeying, honoring and sustaining the law” or “allow[ing] all men [and women] the … privilege … [to] worship how, where or what they may”?

    If we were really concerned about preserving and protecting traditional marriage, we would spend our millions of dollars in other places: pre-marital counseling, communications and parenting skills, education, abuse-prevention and money-management to overcome and prevent poverty. Those things are destroying traditional marriage every single day. They also destroy same-sex marriages. Two same-sex people in line at the courthouse in Massachusetts don’t destroy my family any more than two opposite-sex people in California getting married at a courthouse in California destroys the vows of a Mormon temple sealing three blocks away.

    So why does “protecting the family” mean simply “protect families that look like mine”? THAT’s what causes cognitive dissonance.

    In the book of Genesis, there is a point where God calls all things “good” until God sees that a human being alone is “not good” But even though it is “not good” God doesn’t go in and fix things until the human being (at this point, neither male nor female, if you read Hebrew or Greek) recognizes that it is “not good” when there is no companion and that being alone is bad. Not until the human has discovered a problem and searched for an answer does God intervene and provide a solution (splitting the human into male and female).

    I suspect we are in the throes of discovering a problem and that God appreciates it when we struggle to find ways to help one another change things from “not good” to “good”. It seems clear that for some people, living alone for a lifetime is “not good” – so what can we as a society do to improve their situations?

    I know there are same-sex couples for whom the heavenly answer to their desire to marry is “Good” just as there are opposite-sex couples who receive that same heavenly answer.

    When God gave commandments about not murdering or lying, God didn’t say, “Don’t kill or lie unless I’ve told you to chop off somebody’s head or tell a fib to protect your wife from foreigners” The commandment was, Don’t kill. Don’t lie. If God could not merely condone but request deviations from those God-given commandments in the past, is it possible that the same thing could be happening today?

    Or is it possible that God could give two conflicting commandments – don’t eat this fruit, but multiply and replenish – and allow humans to figure things out on their own? Could God take a sabbatical while humans did their best to figure things out?

    Possibly, but we won’t know that until we can step back and see things from a different vantage point. Until that time, we all have to live with our own decisions. Some of us will decide that erring on the side of mercy, compassion and love is the better choice. Others of us will decide that erring on the side of following the council of another human being is a better choice because that other person has a better perspective than our own. Both decisions are the result of a human being doing the best he or she can with the circumstances of his or her life, and both decisions need to be acknowledged as valid for that person.

    In the end, what matters is whether YOU can live with your decision to act or not act in a particular way. When your actions align with your beliefs, there is no dissonance.

  27. I’m wondering if the people criticising Dr Smith’s essay have actually read it.

    I have.

    Just a few points:

    1) He says nothing — absolutely nothing at all — about “reparative therapy.” That response looks remarkably like a knee-jerk reaction.

    2) He takes no position on the origins of homosexuality. Rather, he demonstrates that Elder Packer, the bête noir of the immoralists, has consistently allowed for the possibility that homosexual feelings may be with a person for a lifetime, contrary to the shrill accusations of his detractors.

    3) Nobody is paid to write for the FARMS Review. But even if Smith was, all that would mean is that he has a *different* selfish reason for holding his view than Bitherwack does. As it happens, he has none.

    4) I see no call from him for Laura, or anyone here, to “sit down and be quiet,” as Fiona fumed. Rather, he suggests that the site’s asserted rule that “no criticism of the church or its leadership will be tolerated”  is not consistently enforced. In fact, I wonder whether that rule is merely a “marketing slogan” intended to lull believing Latter-day Saints into a false sense of security.


  28. Dear Pahoran: I read the essay, in detail. Smith is indeed telling people to sit down and be quiet, when he says that they should keep their objections to themselves.

    One who is not fuming but is instead intellectually honest. Unlike some I could name.

  29. Dear Fiona,

    You seem to be slyly implying that I am not being “intellectually honest” when I point out that Smith’s essay nowhere calls for anyone to “sit down and be quiet.” Let us explore that question.

    Laura critiques Smith for taking quotes out of context. The problem is that the relevance of context may not always be obvious. For instance, she quotes Smith thus:

    “If my patients do not like what they hear, they might choose to remain silent or leave my practice. Likewise, those who differ with the united voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve might disagree silently or leave the church.” (p.83)”

    However, read in context, we find that he is talking about something quite different. He writes:

    “As a physician, it is often *my task* to give patients unpleasant news. I have told smoking parents that their habit is responsible for their child’s worsening asthma; I have told alcoholics that they must abstain completely or die; I have told stroke victims that they are unsafe to drive; I have told the morbidly obese that their calories are killing them. And, sad to say, *despite all the care of which I was capable, and despite all my reserves of charity and compassion, some of these patients have not been grateful for my message.* I have told them things they did not wish to hear. They have been hurt, angry, and insistent that I did not know what I was talking about, or they have taken refuge in the claim that they had “always been this way,” and so I should leave well enough alone. I had never faced their particular burden, so what did I know? It was not fair that they had a condition that restricted them while others were free.

    *It would often be much more comfortable for everyone if I were to say nothing, or mouth platitudes, or focus on all the many things that are not killing people.* But doctors—like spiritual apostolic physicians, I suspect—have duties they cannot shirk.”

    Now we come to the portion Laura quoted:

    “If my patients do not like what they hear, they might choose to remain silent or leave my practice. Likewise, those who differ with the united voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve might disagree silently or leave the church. *But as long as patients are in my office, I am bound to tell them the truth (no matter how much they argue or resent it or blame me) despite the more pleasant and seductive voices that assure them that all will be well.98* Mountebanks and quacks in every field always have an easier time of it, for they are not constrained by the cold iron facts of a fallen world.”

    IOW, Smith is unequivocally *not* telling anyone who disagrees with him to “sit down and be quiet.” To the contrary, he is explaining why *he* does not just “sit down and be quiet.”

    Context, as Laura tells us, matters. Inter alia, it is sometimes a useful remedy against reading with a determination to find something to be offended about.

    You’re welcome.


  30. Pahoran, there’s one problem here. Smith isn’t telling the truth, as he claims. He (elsewhere) touts so-called reparative therapy, which has been discredited by all reputable psychiatric associates. When he says Thus, if one is going to look at the context, one must look at the entire picture, not just the piece that suits one’s right-wing apologetics for the purposes of trolling.

    Bless your heart, Pahoran.

    PS: If you cannot tell that the only difference between saying “Likewise, those who differ with the united voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve might disagree silently or leave the church” and “sit down and shut up” is the politesse with which it is couched, I can’t help you.

  31. Evidently my previous response was lost, or something.


    Wherein does Smith not tell the truth? He is discussing Elder Packer’s talk, not his own extra-curricular activities.

    “Trolling” describes a range of activities that are intended to provoke a reaction; trolls do not discuss things. I am here to discuss things, as I think you know.

    As I pointed out in post 36: the context of Smith’s remarks makes it unequivocally clear that he is talking about the necessity he sees to speak out on these issues, and not that he is telling anyone else to “sit down and shut up.”

    Saved before posting.


  32. @Fiona64

    –>Dear Paul: For your edification, here is everything Jesus Christ says about homosexuality in Scripture: ” ”

    In other words, nothing. Please learn to distinguish between Pauline doctrine and what Jesus actually taught.


    Fiona, one problem with the argument from silence is that it is always inconclusive. The larger problem is that it can cut both ways.

    Jesus lived in a time and a place when homosexuals were routinely stoned to death. For your edification, here is everything Jesus Christ says about the stoning of homosexuals in Scripture: ” ”

    In other words, nothing.

    Therefore, following *your* logic, what conclusion should we draw from that?

    We consider that Jesus confined his ministry to Palestine, and almost exclusively to Israelites (Jews and Samaritans) who followed the law of Moses. Paul ministered to the Gentiles, especially in the Greek cultural area. The Greeks were notoriously permissive in sexual matters, including — or especially — of homosexual behaviour. Thus, Paul was addressing a problem that would not have arisen in Jesus’ Levantine ministry.

    Now before anyone leaps to the conclusion that I’m advocating the stoning of homosexuals: I’m not. I think that we can infer what Jesus would have us do by His treatment of the woman taken in adultery, when He prevented her from being killed.

    And with the selfsame parting message, too.


  33. @Fiona64:

    “And as a PS — Smith says that there are no LDS resources listed on this site. Mr. Smith, if you are reading, please take a gander at the right-hand column on this page. There is a section labeled “Help and Support – LDS.” Thanks.”

    So there is. And what is there?

    Carol Lynn Pearson
    Gay Mormon Stories
    Grandma’s Final Preparations
    It’s Almost Over
    LDS Family Fellowship
    LDS Resources for Latter-day Saints Dealing With Homosexual Attraction
    Proposition Healing
    We are Wildflowers– for women who are, or have been married to homosexual men

    Not one of those is an LDS resource. Not one of them is published by, or affiliated with, the Church of Jesus Christ. Several of them are pressure groups (note Affirmation was at the top of the list — well, it is alphabetical after all) whose mission in life is to try to force the Church to change its doctrines. Only one of them supports the Church’s moral and doctrinal position, and I wonder whether that one exception somehow got in there by accident.

    Saved before posting.


  34. Pahoran: You highlighted a link labeled “DS Resources for Latter-day Saints Dealing With Homosexual Attraction”

    Did you click on it?

    No, I thought not. If you had, you would have seen the following site: A quote from the front page reads as follows:

    This site is designed to help individuals and families dealing either personally or with family members and friends who are attracted to those of the same gender. Using the most recent and most authoritative Church documents, our group has placed here on the home page the following official documents published by the Church, and several other statements by Church leaders published elsewhere. In addition, on other parts of the site we have placed articles, pamphlets, booklets and other materials authored by the organizers of this website. (Where possible, we have provided links to these materials to make it convenient for you to consult them)

    I suggest, “Pahoran,” that you pop open your Bible and re-read Exodus 20:16. You’re in violation, sirrah, of that particular commandment.

    Take the log out of your eye, “Pahoran.” At this point, all you’re doing is proving to many people that your church can indeed be something of a jerk factory.

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