In an interview with Harvard Divinity School about Pres. Monson’s passing, David Holland (scholar and Jeffrey Holland’s son) made an interesting observation about LDS theology regarding gender and marriage:
LDS theology is particularly intertwined with gender binaries and procreative sexuality—these things lie at the heart of Mormon understandings of divinity—making the church’s navigation of the last decade’s rapid cultural and legal shifts especially challenging and painful.
The social issues that have plagued Monson’s presidency and will continue to be issues in the coming years relate to rights of LGBT people and the role of women. Just as we have heard that “the future is female,” all of human sexuality is less simplistic than we’ve believed.
I include myself in this characterization of thinking too simplistically, but to a lesser degree than generations before me. I came of age in the 80s when we were beginning, slowly, to accept that gay people were born that way and that they shouldn’t marry straight people and couldn’t change their orientation. There was a even gay bar in the nearby city of Lancaster. “Gay” was still mostly a slur, and there were just two acknowledged alternatives: gay or straight. We gossiped about the girls in our school that we knew were lesbians (the basketball team, natch), and the gay social studies teacher who shopped at the grocery store with his partner, and the gym teachers (probably all gay we thought). There were people who were intersex or transsexual, but the odds of knowing one were remote, at least in rural Pennsylvania.
On my mission, I taught a transsexual person very briefly (in 1990), but it was a non-starter for baptism which was too bad because he was a very humble person who wanted to be accepted for who he was. It broke my heart a little. I also baptized a gay young man who didn’t come out to us until after his baptism, and he did not stay active in the church because he got back together with his boyfriend (he got baptized after their breakup). The branch president was supportive of him, but there was simply not a place for a practicing homosexual in our theology. All homosexuality was seen as unnatural sin, and those feelings were temptations from Satan, not innate characteristics. They were a bug, not a feature.
I was talking to my son years ago about a friend of his who is bisexual and therefore doesn’t believe in the church. My first thought was “Why would being bisexual preclude belief in the church?”–and it doesn’t always. My thinking was that it was easy enough for a bisexual person to simply choose to marry heterosexually, even though he or she might be attracted to both sexes. With a few more years to think about it, I more fully understand why it’s very difficult to believe in a theology that considers your personal experience to be invalid. It can feel like a choice between oneself and one’s church.
Binary gender vs. non-binary
There’s a scripture Mormons love to quote about “opposition in all things,” and our theology is full of these binaries: good and evil, black and white, cursed and blessed, believer and non-believer, Jew and gentile, and male and female. But most of these “opposites” aren’t really binaries; they are on a scale or spectrum. Elder Oaks talks about “good, better, best” in describing the gray areas of “good.” Things are not just black and white. There are in between spaces. So it is with gender.
Non-binary gender is any gender identity that is not strictly male or female. There are several non-binary genders, including agender, bigendered, gender fluid, and more. …Nonbinary is an umbrella term that encompasses all identities that are not exclusively male and female.
Where my generation recognized bisexuality, sort of (most probably just thought it was laziness or horniness–not wanting to be restricted to just one gender for sex partners), now we’ve had a pansexual Super Hero (Deadpool) and there are many recognized variations on a scale.
The dictionary states the definition of bisexual as: “sexually attracted to both men and women”. Meanwhile, the definition of pansexual is: “not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regard to gender or activity.” … Pansexuality implies that there are more than two genders.
In a world with acknowledged non-binary genders, the result is non-binary orientations as well. Pansexuals are attracted to personalities or characteristics across gender identities, not restricted to one sex, nor even to men and women. They may be attracted to intersex people or asexual people or others who share those characteristics.
This is where people in my generation (I’ll be 50 this month) start to get confused. We didn’t acknowledge these genders or orientations growing up. In fact, I personally remember going from “gay” to “lesbian and gay” to “LGBT” to “LGBTQ” to “LGBTQIA” to “LGBTQIA*” and sort of comfortably settling back into “LGBT.” For older generations who still aren’t sure these identities are innate or “real,” who use terms like “same sex attracted,” it’s even harder to comprehend what the rising generation takes for granted about the complexity of human sexuality.
When Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza are mistaken for a bickering gay couple by a young reporter, the line “not that there’s anything wrong with that!” became a catchphrase for how the country felt about homosexuality at that time (the mid-90s). If you were straight, you might object to being mistaken for someone who was gay, but not too strongly–you didn’t want to be seen as a bigot; you wanted others to know you were OK with people being gay but that it wasn’t who you were. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was created as an acceptable middle ground solution to allow homosexuals to serve in the military without consequences (historically, homosexual activity among servicemen used to be considered a crime that would get you court-marshaled and sent to Leavenworth).
Contrast that with today’s youth. In the early morning seminary carpool a year ago, the girls I was driving would talk about classmates who were transsexual or gay openly and non-judgmentally. “Oh, that’s David. Last year he was Alicia.” This isn’t a big deal to them. My generation would have been much more judgmental about it, distancing ourselves from the social taint of being different. I talked with another woman in the ward, a mother of one of these girls. She said it had become an issue in their home because they didn’t allow opposite sex sleepovers as a rule, but they didn’t know how that applied when the friend was transgender. She rolled her eyes at her missteps as she used outdated terms from two decades ago that are now considered bigoted. Finally, she gave up trying to explain it.
I was talking with my MTC companion a few months ago, and she said she wondered how much of the shifts in gender identity and orientation (the number of kids self-identifying in non-binary ways) were because these things are now socially acceptable whereas they weren’t when we were growing up. She said she wasn’t sure if these are all equally legitimate identities and orientations because she’s having a hard time keeping up. People were afraid to acknowledge non-binary identities or orientation in the 80s and even 90s in a way that is no longer an issue; the fears aren’t completely gone, but as society becomes more open and educated, we are naming things that previously weren’t named.
Naming is powerful, as Elder Bednar knows.  When he said “There are no homosexual members of this church,” he was saying that labels add permanence. Our binary, procreative theology doesn’t want those labels to stick because that undermines our on-record view of eternity. We expect the eternities to be full of male-female heterosexual pairings (and male-female-female-female), procreating to populate new worlds, and while that vision is not fully fleshed out, it’s at least firmly rooted in our theological speculation.
The next frontier: Fluidity
All of this discussion to this point is just about the concept of orientation (or attraction) and identity being on a spectrum rather than a binary. There is also a burgeoning debate over whether sexuality alters over one’s lifetime.
Sexual fluidity is one or more changes in sexuality or sexual identity (sometimes known as sexual orientation identity). There is significant debate over whether sexuality is stable throughout life or is fluid and malleable.
I can’t tackle everything in one article, but this is just to say that once we think we’ve got a workable solution, that doesn’t mean we really have it. The graphic (to the right) showing the Genderbread Person is one explanation of these spectra, but it also doesn’t represent fluidity over time.
The Struggle Is Real
In the church, we talk about people struggling with same sex attraction or struggling with their gender identity (which we claim is eternal in the proclamation) or struggling with gender roles (also as outlined in the proclamation). But why is it a struggle? When we insist on a binary for something that’s really on a spectrum, we are always going to feel pulled from one pole to the other. Individuals who don’t fit the roles envisioned for them–whether that’s gender roles, gender identity or sexual orientation–will either struggle to see themselves in a binary or will throw out the binary model if it doesn’t fit them.
But it’s not just individuals who struggle. The church is also struggling. Another quote from David Holland’s interview talks about the church’s struggle:
[Monson] presided over a period in which the church tacked back and forth between new overtures of openness (e.g., strong support of Utah’s non-discrimination legislation and the launch of a conciliatory church website now titled “Mormon and Gay”) and policies seen as retrograde by many critics (e.g., support for California’s Proposition 8 and the institution of an ecclesiastical bylaw ostensibly prohibiting the baptism of children of same-sex couples before the age of 18). Charged with contradiction by observers inside and outside the church, the tensions among these moves reflect an era in which the church very actively sought ways to retain its commitments to both human compassion and the cosmological significance of complementary female-male unions. Thomas Monson, equal parts personal generosity and cultural conservatism, embodied the contrapuntal notes of Mormonism during his presidency.
. . . Perhaps more than any LDS president before him, President Monson’s administration will be remembered for its signal and often simultaneous moves in both reformist and traditionalist directions.
Just as individuals struggle with a binary, we’ve gone from organized political opposition to gay marriage in Prop 8 in California to fighting for anti-LGBT-discrimination in housing in Salt Lake City. We’ve gone from a church-sponsored website called mormonsandgays (implying church members are a separate group from those homosexuals) to a restyled one called mormonandgay (referring to church members who are gay). We continue to struggle to find our way between “personal generosity and cultural conservatism.”
This is exacerbated by the generation gap and the fact that we are led by a gerontocracy. As I mentioned, people my age who are in-between are sometimes having a hard time keeping up with the social acceptance domino effect. This is even more pronounced for older generations, many of whom haven’t been in the workforce or raised teens for decades (places where we are more exposed to changing social norms). It’s one reason that Trump supporters disdain “political correctness.” Having failed to keep up on social change, they yearn for a day when they weren’t considered bigots for saying things that were perfectly acceptable in earlier decades or even considered progressive for their era. For example, the term “mentally retarded” used to be the “politically correct” term, replacing much worse earlier terms. The word “retarded” means “slow,” but the term has fallen out of favor because it has been associated with negative stereotypes about the disabled (differently-abled? challenged?) and playground slurs and bullying. Similar things have happened with terms for races, disabilities, the sexes, and so forth.
Which brings us to women and gender roles.
Our theological focus on binary roles also means that we have a complementarian rather than egalitarian view of marriage.  From Wikipedia:
Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere.
By contrast, most up and coming generations aspire to an egalitarian marriage. From an article in the NYT:
A vast majority of adults under 30 in this country say that this is a good thing, according to a Pew Research Center survey: They aspire to what’s known in the social sciences as an egalitarian marriage, meaning that both spouses work and take care of the house and that the relationship is built on equal power and shared responsibility.
Prescription vs. Description: the role of the proclamation
I’ve said elsewhere that the proclamation’s explanation of gender roles is either descriptive (an accurate depiction of how things are) or prescriptive (a recipe for how things should be). If it’s a description, and it’s accurate, who cares? People behave that way naturally, without instruction, or else all would agree that it’s an ideal (prescription). If it’s a prescription that doesn’t fit, though, that people don’t agree is ideal, it’s going to cause people to question its validity, and if you stake your credibility on something like that by claiming it’s God’s unadulterated view of things or that it’s unchanging and eternal, you’re going to lose the confidence and trust of the people for whom it’s not accurate.
One thing you can’t argue with is someone’s lived experience. That’s an argument you’ll always lose in the long run, when individuals learn to trust what they know about themselves more than they trust what others tell them about themselves.
- Do you agree with David Holland that binaries are baked into our theology, or do you think these can be modified to a spectrum” approach to understanding gender roles, gender identity and sexual orientation if that emerges as more accurate?
- How do you explain the lived experience of those who say they don’t fit?
- How do we as a church with members spanning every decade from 10 to 90 stay relevant when there are major shifts in what is socially acceptable?
- Are these shifts getting more frequent and bigger?
- Do you think the church does a good job balancing personal generosity and cultural conservatism? Do we err on one side or the other? Defend your answer.
 It’s one reason we say “a testimony is found in the bearing thereof.” When you name something or label it, it becomes more real and more permanent. It’s also why we have Fast & Testimony meeting monthly and discourage people from expressing doubts openly. Psychologically, we make them more real in speaking them.
 A Gospel Doctrine teacher asked our class two years ago whether we had a complementarian or egalitarian view of marriage, and the class members were very hesitant to answer. Clearly it could be either. After some discussion, the teacher claimed it is egalitarian, which is a vastly superior model in my experience, but that doesn’t change the fact that most of our General Conference rhetoric lines up under complementarian, particularly since the culture wars have infiltrated our doctrine. I blame the association with Evangelicals who are clear-cut complementarians.
At its core our gospel is Christ. Salvation means taking on his image. That image is equally available to men and women. Because there is no female Christ, gender is not part of the image. Christ may have certain generalia, but they’re no more part of his image that his height, skin color or blood type. His image must be defined as something available to all people.
We can get past gender if we want. We just haven’t wanted to.
Very good coverage of the topic.
I think you kind of called it out but it seems to me that the shifts are coming much quicker than 100 years ago. The older Q15 folks were born before the civil rights movement, before the sexual revolution, before some of the later waves an feminism – and they also mostly grew up in Utah. It is a dramatic change that I am sure they nostalgically look back to the 50’s when they grew up as SO much simpler and a desire to move back to that as much as possible.
Thank you for tackling this topic. As a parent of a non binary child I especially appreciate that you highlight that gender binaries are seemingly “baked into” our theology, and yet real non binary people exist. I think at some point our binary approach *must* be developed into a spectrum approach because that is the reality. LGBTQIA people are real children of God who have the same divine potential as everyone else.
Quick correction–David Holland is Elder Holland’s son, not his brother.
It’s important to note that salvation is not binary, it is a spectrum, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2).
The restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith teaches how to come unto Christ to receive the highest glory of salvation possible. In other words, Mormon doctrine doesn’t attempt to help you into lower kingdoms of glory. People will figure that out on their own.
Great post. My answers to your questions in no particular order:
Yes, binaries are baked in, but that’s not only the Mormon, but also the Christian milieu. We can thank St. Augustine in large part for that. And because of that, no, I don’t think there can be modification because binary thinking is generally incorrect and unhelpful, but awfully seductive for those folks who see things in black and white. In fact, it’s not just seductive to those folks, it’s truth and life itself, not to mention “doctrine”. That’s really hard to change and, of course, black and white-thinking folks tend to label any kind of subtlety or nuance as evidence of Satan’s influence rather than, you know, the truth of how things actually are.
As far as balancing personal generosity and cultural conservatism, I suppose the church is trying and I acknowledge specific efforts, but stuff like the POX just pulls us right back to where we were, IMO. And really, that’s a big part of the problem. Cultural conservatism is not a Christian value. It’s a mid-twentieth century American one. And I know we all read scriptures (and therefore Christ) differently, but it’s hard for me to see how someone could read the synoptic gospels and not come away with a picture of Christ as a rabble-rousing, anti-establishment rebel preaching a radical and inclusive kind of love. And because a fair amount of members (and a fair amount of leaders, I think), have the conservative = Christian mindset, it often feels like shoveling s**t against the tide when it comes to making progress on the area your post mentions in particular.
And to your other question: Sadly, I don’t think we stay relevant and I think the millenials that are leaving the church in droves demonstrate that. I don’t know if the shifts are getting bigger, per se, but they feel bigger in part because of just how opposed the church is to some of this thinking. We’re losing ground daily, I think, and that’s not due to Satan’s influence, it’s due to our stubbornness to accept what are rapidly becoming new but established truths.
When someone receives a DNA test that indicates a gender other than male or female, please post it.
markagblog, I’d suggest researching the difference between sex and gender.
This week My daughter came home with biology homework’s from 7th grade in Rexburg. They’re learning genetics and one of the questions was about how many genders there are and how can you tell. One student asked how transgender fit in and the teacher said “were not going to discuss that in this class.” My daughter said she wanted to ask about intersex because she knows that doesn’t fit in the binary. Obviously the answer the teacher wants is: 2, XX & XY chromosomes.
But it led to a discussion w my daughter that back in the day that’s all science showed, XX or XY. But today research is looking into the exceptions: some people’s bodies have both XX & XY chromosomes. Some have XYY. Some have normal chromosomes but have reproductive organs that done match. One research case was a 70 year old man that never knew he was born with a uterus in his abdomen until his first major surgery at an old age. Some people have a mixture of hormones, males w female hormones & vice versa. We talked how there are many biological ways sex can express more than just chromosomes, and we haven’t figured out what to do with the gray area in the middle yet, but one day her textbook would acknowledge it —although in Rexburg they probably won’t buy that textbook.
The church will really be stuck in their binary theology once a whole generation grows up w a textbook wo gender binaries. I think my SIL was a little disturbed when I told her my spirit/brain doesn’t “feel” male or female…it just….is.
I have no problem acknowledging many/most people fit into the binaries by nature. But the question will always be what to do about those who don’t. I think the church will end up losing a lot of youth as they figure this out.
Brother Sky, The definitional distinction as to persons between “sex” [biological] and “gender” [current Oxford living dictionary: “Either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones”] seems to be a relatively recent development, despite the use of “gender” in connection with those languages that assign a “gender” to nouns and/or pronouns. Cf. Webster’s 1828 dictionary and a number of those between then and now. While it would be good for markablog to be aware of the distinction in some usages, using the two words as synonyms with respect to persons as markablog did remains common. It is particularly likely to lead to misunderstanding if the apparently relatively recent distinction is read into historical or current statements of those using the words as synonyms. It seems clear from context that the writers of the LDS Proclamation on the Family used “gender” as a synonym for “sex.” For some, that is one of the problems with the wording of that Proclamation.
Vaguely responding to hawkgrrrls questions — as LDS theology is currently widely understood, I agree with Holland that binaries are “baked in”. Moving that theology toward a spectrum would seem to require either (a) acknowledging that we know a great deal less about the hereafter in the celestial kingdom and the birth/organization/production of “spirit children” than most of the LDS prophets seem to think they knew, or (b) eliminating the notion that all humans are both eligible and capable of fitting or fitting into that binary “celestial” mode, and learn to treat them with respect for whatever “kingdom of glory” they are headed for. If taking the latter approach it could be really helpful to eliminate the talk of “higher” kingdoms and “higher” degrees and speak instead of differing “many mansions.” It would seem such talk would also amount to a change in Mormon theology. What do ya’ll think? Note: Currently I’d probably go with knowing a heckuvalot less about the hereafter than most LDS prophets have seemed to think they know.
markagblog: There are many recorded cases of XXY. Here’s a link: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/klinefelter-syndrome
One advantage of Mormon theology is the concept of spirit, who were were before this life and will be again after, and how little we know about it. As much as we try to assert that whatever we believe ourselves to be now is how we always will be, we really don’t know. We’re not even the same person from one year to the next in this life. Would you have felt the same about some things 10 or 20 years ago? Now imagine waking up from this dream and trying to align it with who you believed you were before this life. What had you done which was “so not like you”. What aspects of your body and mind were just temporary chemical reactions? We can’t even agree on what our spirits all looked like, most often just assuming that it’ll look like we do in mortality, forgetting that we probably thought our mortal selves would just look the same as we did in the pre-existence.
So we try to take what mooring we can. The Church has it’s theology, what it knows of our lives before, and can only extrapolate on that. We know that bodies come in large variety, but what is the line between what we accept as “normal”? Is our gender or attraction to others only a temporary state for this life? Would it break us to find out we were wrong in our assumptions?
My children and I are on what is now considered the Autism spectrum. ADHD through moderate functioning autism. There are many parts of who we are that are hut by this, but also many parts that benefit from it. Will the loss of bodies remove the good and the bad? Will all y’all have to get used to having perfected bodies that work in a way that we’ve learned to use in a good way?
Blah. I didn’t mean for this to become so long, but this subject is one I wrestle with constantly, as I’m sure many others do as well. I think no matter what anyone believes we should continually work to make others around us comfortable and welcome. Part of my just longs for the day when we can absoutely know anything for sure.
From my perspective, just a few years ago (the 1950’s and 60’s) society supported the concept of family where a father and mother raised a large family. Mother was a home maker and Father provided the income. The sexual Zeitgeist of that era was binary. The small percentage (roughly 2 to 3% of mankind according to studies) of those who were true LGBT stayed hidden for the most part. The only memory I have of any discussion about gayness came when Liberace performed on TV. He went to great lengths to hide his homosexuality according to Wikipedia. However, he died of complications from AIDS.
The question this brings up is society better off when gayness is hidden, as is has been for Millennia or as it is now? The answer to that question isn’t known for sure, time will tell. I think the prevailing opinion among followers of Christ is that since Obergefell the family is in greater jeopardy. However, family was in jeopardy prior to Obergefell. It can be argued that with Obergefell the prospects of family ceasing to prevail has been accelerated. I agree with those who say that Obergefell would never have been brought to the SCOTUSA if the concept of family wasn’t already in steep decline in the American psyche.
I don’t think the churches reaction to the decline in morality as much to do with gerontocracy. It has everything to do with scripture. Scripture does not allow Mormonism to do much different than they are now doing. Grappling with the contradiction of human compassion and the doctrine of Christ. In other words, being in the world but not of the world.
There is another dimension to all of this, scripture teaches that “the Gentiles will sin against my gospel”. If that means our future will be like the Nephites, then followers of Christ are going to deal with many trials. Consider a few verses of scripture that reveals a possible future.
4 And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment–seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men;
5 Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills—
6 Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul. Helaman 7:4 – 6)
Jared: “Scripture does not allow Mormonism to do much different than they are now doing.” Untrue. Revelation always trumps scripture in Mormonism. We have many beliefs not tied to scripture, including binary genders. There are others identified in scripture.
Angela-I agree revelation does trump scripture. I was referring to scripture as it is now.
JR, You make a fair point and I wasn’t trying to be snarky, just making a sincere suggestion. I teach units on gender and sexuality in some of my classes, so I suppose I’m in my own bubble when it comes to how common (or not) it is for folks to make those distinctions. And you’re right that that’s one of the problems for me in the Proclamation. And I’m with you on the knowing a lot less about the afterlife. Really, I don’t think we or our leaders know much at all, but I actually think that, while they don’t admit that per se, most of what they say boils down to pretty simple stuff like “you’ll be with your family,” “you’ll retain what you learned on earth,” etc. i.e. not much more than what other folks seem to believe about the afterlife. I wonder if we’re the ones who fill the void re details in the afterlife either through our own musings or early church teachings which aren’t canonized.
Thomas Burgoyne, late 19th Century occultist and astrologist, author of The Light of Egypt, taught:
1. Gender is an eternal aspect of our identity. Male “energy” can never manifest in female physical form and vice versa.
2. The unification of male and female produces the “spiral,” the symbol of “eternal progression.” Male and female, united, will rule in the universe and their word will be law.
3. Spirit is matter.
Mormonism is a re-hashing, with a few added twists, of 19th Century occultic ideologies, mingled with a little Arminianism, which Joseph picked up through his connections with the Methodists, and a little Universalism, which Joseph picked up from his father and paternal grandfather.
The strong anti-Calvinism that runs through the Book of Mormon is an adolescent male’s reaction against his mommy, who was Presbyterian. Yes…the Book of Mormon is one man’s attempt to resolve his Oedipal Complex.
If Oedipal, shouldn’t he have been reacting against his daddy? Also, the irony of your use of Freudian psychology to debase Mormonism is not lost on me.
Also, on this “lived experience” term: It is true that experience itself is incorrigible, but metaphysical or ethical conclusions one draws form those experiences are completely corrigible, unless they are self-evident. Few things are self-evident from experience. I do not deny that some have nontraditional experiences with gender, but I DO deny that those experiences necessarily imply conclusions about the goodness or metaphysical status of the identities that people believe they have.
Ever since I realized slime molds have over forty sexes I’ve has thoughts about it all and the biological impact gender has.
The Ancient Greek myth that gender (and sex) was a reflection of our being incomplete allows for gender to be eternal yet not baked into a binary.
Oedipal in that he was trying to break the hold that his mother had on his pysche, emotions, etc….The Oedipal Complex is too-close attachment to the mother, and a hatred for the father. To resolve the complex, you need to identity with your father and break the attachment your mother has on you (or you have for her.) So he was adopting the universalism of his father and rejecting the Calvinism of his mother. He was identifying with his father, and reacting against his mother. That is how you resolve the Oedipal conflict.
Reacting against the father IS the Oedipal conflict.
And I don’t know why there is any irony in me using Freudianism to debase Mormonism. Mormonism creates Oedipal conflicts. It relegates women to see themselves as nothing more than mothers, primarily mothers of sons who will hold Priesthood and serve missions. Mormonism, by virtue of the way it pushes women out, forces women to indulge in too strong of an attachment to their children, especially their sons. (Which is already a big enough problem in our culture as it is).
Mother-son enmeshment is a serious problem in Mormonism, which is why Mormon men are fleeing into the arms of pornography to seek fulfillment of their emotional needs. Mother-enmeshed man can’t make emotional room for their wives, because all their emotional capital is spent on their mothers. They subconsciously see their wives as a threat to their real true bond to their mothers. But this doesn’t satisfy. And it leaves them empty. To fill the void, they seek emotional fulfillment with fantasy women who will never really make any demands on their bond with their mothers.
Jared – ” He went to great lengths to hide his homosexuality according to Wikipedia. However, he died of complications from AIDS.” Quick point – one is not the indicator of the other. I prefer to not speculate on anyone’s sexuality, and ultimately the only arbiter of it is the person themselves.
Aside from that – it wouldn’t be hard to come up with scriptures that support multiple gender arrangements , including Jesus saying that those who have removed their gender characteristics should still be allowed come unto Him.
As for the “disintegration of the family”, I think it’s more the disintegration of the patriarchal stake used to force well off white families into a specific mold. Gay people and varied family types existed well before those halcyon days when everyone you wanted to know fit into that same mold and aberrations were hidden for shame (or killed, whichever made you feel better).
The scriptures you cited can just as well be used with your opinions being on the bad side. I think we’re coming out of a time wen the “gadianton robbers” had a stranglehold on what was “acceptable” sexuality, family, and even humanity/race. Using scripture to declare someone as evil is shaky at best.
Well, this thread sure got wierd.
This is a great post, and there’s so many directions to go with the discussion, but a few things really stuck out to me.
First, my reaction to “One thing you can’t argue with is someone’s lived experience” was the same as Gadflown’s. Everybody’s “lived experience” is their perception and conclusions drawn from things that objectively happened, and their perception and conclusions often have far more impact on their lives than the things that objectively happened.
And talking about “false binaries”, I’m thinking that the “descriptive” vs “prescriptive” binary the post establishes regarding the PoF’s declarations about gender is suspect. I’m not convinced it’s nearly as either-or as presented.
Much about the post gives the feel “this is how it really is, and the church’s positions just don’t fit reality”. Combine that with people’s lived experience being inarguable, the idea the sexuality is fluid over time (for some), and you really just end up with an amorphous “whatever works for you” sort of mentality that can’t proscribe anything, including the 7-year-itch.
The church has historically been much more about heating and beating the metal into the mold, which the progressives find cruel and heartless. Their response has been to celebrate and glorify whatever you are at the time, but that doesn’t necessarily lead one to become more than one is. The whole idea behind religion is to find the path that leads to the greatest, longest-lasting happiness over time, often at great sacrifice at the present. Clearly, if there’s no genuine path to happiness for LGBT people in the church, something has to change, but without real revelation, every alternate voice is suspect.
Martin. Admittedly much of what I have seen in LDS circles is using the analogy of the seven year itch to describe everything—either consciously or unconsciously.
It was interesting to see you bring that up.
Stephen, since gender is eternal, which gender will the slime mold be in the eternities?
Since I don’t know the definition of male and female, can’t say if they’re binary.
Slime molds are way cool. At times I envision the celestial kingdom as a grex, and wonder what’s on the dinner table. As for what”s being baked…?
And bdelloid rotifers are all female and evolved into over 400 species. Since they’ve been around for 80 million years, seems pretty eternal to me.
But i think my favorite is Symbion pandora, which makes me wonder if God molts.
Actually I don’t think binaries are baked into our theology, I think it is half baked.
When I look at D&C 132 it seems to me the flowerpot model is in effect. Man busy planting his seed into as many flower pots as possible so they can bear the souls of men.
Maybe our theology shouldn’t be based on Dark Age guessing. Maybe we could update a bit.
So by binary procreative theology do we mean Anisogamy and parental investment theory?
So when it comes to theology is there a eternal evolutionary arms race and are there celestialized parasites?
Genuine question, not trolling. If one accepts these different spectrums is there any line at all that can be drawn in regards to extra marital sex that doesn’t interfere with someone’s sexual identify?
At some level I wonder is this is a major hangup for higher ups.
Toad: “If one accepts these different spectra is there any line at all that can be drawn in regards to extra marital sex that doesn’t interfere with someone’s sexual identify?” I’m not really sure the relevance of sexual orientation or identity to marital fidelity. You can be faithful to your chosen partner regardless of orientation or identity or gender roles or whatever. What connection do you see?
I imagine that the major hang up for higher ups is that they are barely able to acknowledge that homosexuals are born that way (not a choice) and that not all women are passive non-leaders who find intense joy in both childbirth and doing laundry. When you’ve lived your life with a specific perspective for nearly a century, it can be hard to accept that it’s not necessarily an accurate view of the world.
Hawkgrrl thank you for your thoughtful response.
This comes to mind from the OP and might imply that multiple partners are naturally part of a bisexual identity and must be accommodated in an ideal world:
“My first thought was “Why would being bisexual preclude belief in the church?”–and it doesn’t always. My thinking was that it was easy enough for a bisexual person to simply choose to marry heterosexually, even though he or she might be attracted to both sexes. With a few more years to think about it, I more fully understand why it’s very difficult to believe in a theology that considers your personal experience to be invalid. It can feel like a choice between oneself and one’s church.”
Also my question might use the incorrect phrase “extra marital”. I meant go also include pre-marriage. Putting on orthodox LDS glasses – how could one understand he or she is pansexual (for example) without some experimentation? Being middle age male hetero cisgender it’s hard for me to grasp some of these concepts. Do questioning teenagers just know they are non binary? I’m guessing it takes time. Maybe we say teenagers can experiment but not once you are married (however we define marriage).
Also if I am gender fluid and discover I am now gay but I’m in a hetero marriage what would be my church endorsed choices in an ideal world? Do I divorce and cancel my sealing, do i live a lie, or do we do away with marriage altogether? Maybe we embrace polyamory?
I don’t think I’m confusing promiscuity with non binary sexual identities. What I don’t yet understand how an upgraded law of chastity would work.
I agree with you. This isn’t likely the major issue for church leaders but there is probably fear of an anything goes mentality, hence my question can we even draw a line that is broadly applicable?
I don’t think there’s a necessity to change fidelity (except for polyamory which I haven’t seen on these identity and orientation spectra), but obviously the church has already outlawed pre- and extra-marital sexual relations. Many who support gay marriage simply would like to see the same fidelity requirements applied to gay relationships that are currently applied to hetero relationships. I suppose that would solve your Law of Chastity riddle.
But to your other question: “how could one understand he or she is pansexual (for example) without some experimentation? Do questioning teenagers just know they are non binary?” The simplest answer I can give you is that you probably knew or suspected you were heterosexual long before your first kiss. You didn’t have to line up one of everything, kiss them all, and see which ones you liked. Likewise with kids whose gender identities are non-cis and whose sexual orientation is non-hetero, at least from what I have heard anecdotally from kids and parents of kids who identify in these ways.
Now it’s true that historically (and even now) there are social costs to owning one’s own identity (if it’s not cis) and one’s sexual orientation (if it’s not hetero), but the social costs outside of Mormonism (or conservative religions in general) are much, much lower than they were before. Kids generally feel pretty safe disclosing to peers. Maybe not in small town USA or rural rust belt, but in my little area of Scottsdale, they definitely do, and probably likewise in most US cities. Hollywood also models these things more in the stories that are being told. Rom-coms include LGBTQIA* relationships more and more. You can’t swing a dead cat in a CW series without hitting a gay couple flirting or hooking up.. Where Hollywood goes in storytelling, the social norms follow.
This is for any casual readers who might be inclined to give any modicum of credibility to John– Thomas H. Burgoyne was born a full decade after the death of Joseph Smith.
“Many who support gay marriage simply would like to see the same fidelity requirements applied to gay relationships that are currently applied to hetero relationships. I suppose that would solve your Law of Chastity riddle…. You didn’t have to line up one of everything, kiss them all, and see which ones you liked.”
All other issues aside, this is completely logically consistent.
Unless you are talking about those on the opposite pole on the hetero-normative scale, which I don’t see how that would be any different than expecting chastity before a gay marriage.
I’m still very confused about what the progressive ideal accommodation for bisexuality should be in the church. If you’ve said that banning experimentation before marriage is still compatible, it seems like the the only argument you could be making is for polygamy/polyamory. (Surprised Howard hasn’t showed up).
I think the Church is much better equipped to deal with intersex than transgender issues, although often conflated, they are rather distinct, and the former far rarer than the latter.
jpv, I am surprised by your statement that you think the church is much better equipped to deal with intersex than transgender issues. Why would you say that? My understanding is that the church has absolutely no doctrine whatsoever that deals with intersex issues and no general policy. Also, the more is learned about the biology of transgender identity the more it looks like an intersex condition.
Medically, Intersex is quite distinct from being transgendered. Your comment is a prime example of the conflation referred to.
Intersex generally refers to combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female,
Most live as their birth-assigned sex, and the minority that don’t have a clear biological reason for “sex/gender” change. There are no known cases of church discipline relating to Intersex individuals with regards to gender.
JPV, I’m not at all confused about the distinction between intersex conditions and transgender conditions. I am very familiar with both. Research into the causes of transgender identity strongly point to epigenetic/neuroendocrine factors early in development (i.e. prenatally). This is what I mean when I say that the more is learned about the origins of transgender conditions, the more they look like intersex conditions.
You are mistaken when you say that there are no cases of church discipline in cases of intersex conditions. I agree there are many intersex individuals who have been able to stay in the church without being disciplined, and I think a majority are not disciplined. The same is not true for transgender individuals.