I posted this on my personal site earlier, and it has generated some interesting discussion. What do you think?
I had a bad reaction to Dustin Phelps’ latest blog post at the Happiness Seekers blog, “Actually the Mormon Position on Gay Marriage is Stronger Than You Think.” I shared it on my facebook wall with the flippant comment.
I woke up hopeful and motivated to have a great day and then read this horse*** article. He’s got one thing right. Marriage is more than sex and romance. It’s also about sacrifice, commitment, devotion, loyalty. But it’s also about sex and romantic love. And there’s no reason a gay person (as well as a straight person who might otherwise enter–and likely fail–marriage with a gay person) couldn’t and shouldn’t have all of the above in a marriage. I believe in revelation. Our prophet and leaders are inspired. They seek revelation and receive it. I also believe a huge component of that is a “trickle up” component. The LDS Body of Christ has a huge responsibility to set a culture and an environment where a prophet can receive the needed revelation from God. Racists in the church in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s pushed that revelation out the 1978 revelation longer than needed be, hurting thousands of black members in that meantime. Dustin Phelps need serious pushback from good LDS members to let the backwards thinking members of the church know this is not acceptable. btw, I’m still going to have a great day!
Dustin shared the blog post in a private facebook group where we both participate, and the following conversation took place. I didn’t expect much. But I actually enjoyed the interaction, and we both learned a little from each other, I think. Dustin gave permission to share our conversation, so here it is.
tl:dr Dustin posted anti-gay marriage blog post, I reacted, we had a conversation, Dustin restates his argument which has to do with the assumption (false assumption imho) that gay marriage arguments are primarily based in an individualistic mindset and not a Christ centered mindset, I ask him what I think is the most relevant question “then what should gays do? marry heterosexually or stay single/celibate?”, we go back and forth on that and he finally states he has no solid position on that, I answer that I think if he has no solid position on that and if the Church has no solid position on that, then the position must not be “stronger than you think”, Dustin then asks me about the individualism mindset issue he’s concerned about, I give my logic for gay marriage, and Dustin acquiesces. Please read the last two or three comments at least.
Other group member: What are your top objections, Randall Bowen (my fb pseudonym)? He asked for feedback. Calling it horseshiz isn’t helpful…
RB: Sometimes something is so bad, illogical, so self righteous, and so harmful to others, that calling it horse***is the best route. This is one of those times. Here’s another comment I made.
A little more serious treatment of the article: the article makes a great case that
a) marriage is important (great. it can be important for gays, too)
b) marriage is about things like commitment and sacrifice not just romantic love (great. it can be that way for gays, too)
c) in the past, marriages were arranged and people seemed to do just fine (ok, but we kind of evolved into a better way of choosing a marriage partner. the OP doesn’t make this point explicitly, but here he seems to be implying gays should straight marry. TERRIBLE idea. it never works. the brethren don’t even recommend this. get current, Dustin. your info is old.
d) support the brethren. because of a,b,c. well the brethren aren’t even using a,b,c anymore. read the mormonsandgay website. the brethren are moving on. you should too, Dustin. Right now, the logic of the brethren is “we’re against gay marriage because well all of the old logical reasons have turned out false, but we still don’t have a revelation, so the only logical reason is that it’s always been assumed to be wrong and so we are still assuming that until God reveals something otherwise”. I’m OK with that. I disagree. But I’m not going to openly campaign against the brethren or criticize them harshly for that. It’s a tough issue and will take more time and prayer and study to hash out. But Dustin is not helping by making bad logical arguments.
Nothing valuable here at all. Complete horse***.
DP: So, far most people who disagree just say that the article is trash, but seem unable to articulate why. Some resort to saying “you aren’t LGBT, so you can’t have an opinion”-which is a complete cop out and poor argument since LGBT members are on both sides of this issue. The extent to which this “wow, how stupid, but I can’t explain why” tells me that their position seems to be more emotional than logical. Also, quoting non-authoritative quotes from Elder Packer (who was wrong about a number of things) doesn’t really make the case for romantic love. Of course, I, like Elder Packer, think that romantic love can be an important and beautiful part of marriage, but I don’t think it is foundational. We can really dig into that debate if you’d like, but the logic supporting romantic love as the foundation to marriage is not good (especially from an eternal perspective).
DP: I don’t think Randall has pointed to any “bad logical arguments” in my article (still waiting on that), but I do think the best response I’ve heard from the other side is (and Bryce makes this point)…well…okay, you are right, Marriage is not really fundamentally about romantic love. It is about sacrifice, charity, and covenants…But couldn’t we just allow gay couples to strive for this too, just like straight couples? Those who disagree with me usually get caught up on disagreeing with my argument about what marriage is really about–but that is a losing battle whether they are willing to recognize it or not. “Love wins” is a poor argument from a scriptural perspective–it’s selfish and individualistic in ways that the Gospel never was. But the response I have outlined is a plausible foundation for a change in the LDS position.
RB: I’m glad that you recognize the main point of your article has no relevance, and that you recognize that gay marriage is also built on principles of sacrifice, devotion, loyalty, commitment and not just sex and romance. What I’m most curious about is what your stance on what gays should do? Should they marry heterosexually? Or should they just attempt to live like monks? You’re implying that they should marry heterosexually, I think, because of the idea that marriage has succeeded for thousands of years even though partners didn’t choose each other and may not have even been attracted sexually or felt romantic love for the other.
DP: I’m at work and will have to respond later tonight. You don’t understand the nature of my concession nor the implications of yours. I’ll say more later tonight.
RB: thanks, I look forward to your reply.
DP: So, in order to respond, I’ll need a decent amount of space. My apologies for that. But I do ask that you try to take seriously what I say before just bashing it. I’m tiring of people reading what I write, but not taking in a word of it. Feel free to ignore my response, but if you do respond do me the courtesy of trying to understand what I’m saying.
DP: As members of the Church, I think it is important that we extract ourselves from the philosophical/ social context in which we are drawing conclusions and making demands about what the truth is or isn’t. What I am hearing again and again from people is that the experience of the individual is King. We need to listen to their experiences, not just out of love and kindness, but as the principal means of discerning the truth of the matter, or so the claim goes. This is in part, I think, why it has been so easy for countless people to not even engage in an intellectual argument about my post–logic is invalid, religious authority is invalid, historical realities are invalid… because the experience of select LGBT individuals should decide the truth. This is the approach of secular individualism—No truth is higher than the truth of someone’s personal experience. But, as we will see, this is a very flawed approach to arriving at the truth.
DP: Let me just add, here, that this doesn’t just pertain to the issue of homosexuality, it pertains to every way humans try to order their lives. Just recently I saw someone posted/comment about how if an LDS couple is uninterested in raising a family, that’s totally cool–not just that it isn’t our place to judge–but that their desire makes that right for them. We see this mindset blossoming everywhere in today’s society. Everyone should just decide what’s right for them, and where an organization such as the Church gets in the way of that–all hell must break loose until we’re back to everyone doing as they please (and being told that what pleases them is what’s right for them, lest you be called insensitive and unempathetic).
DP: What this approach does is invalidate any type of teaching from above about how to order your life. Just do what your heart inclines you to do…because that is *your* truth. Sounds pretty good, right? The only problem is that your desires generally have little to do with the truth. It may be true that I have a biological need/ desire to eat, but my desire for Cheeseburgers and milk shakes is a product of my environment. I may have a fundamental desire/need for sleep, but my desire for a bed is a product of my environment. I may have a fundamental need for human attachment, but how I want that attachment to play out and what I expect it to look like is a product of my environment. In other words, there are some very foundational needs/ desires, but the way they take shape and the way we express and feel them is a product of our environment. So, do we let truth be for individuals what the surrounding environment impels them toward, or do we believe in an objective truth and Heavenly Director who teaches us to reshape our desires after the order of Heaven, instead of the order of Man?
DP: Here’s the real the conflict no one is talking about: Are we converts to Individualism first and the Gospel second? The gospel of Individualism says that I shouldn’t have to sacrifice any of my personal desires; I must always do what my heart wants; I must not let any person, authority, or institution constrain my desires; whatever I wish for my life, that is what is right for my life…But isn’t the Gospel path supposed to be littered with self-sacrifice? Didn’t Christ teach us to take up our own cross? Does the Gospel really justify a world view that centers on “each individual deciding their own truth”? The vitriolic attacks I have received over the past few days belong to secularism. It could end up being the case that God intends for gay couples to join husband-wife couples under the umbrella of marriage. But if so, it will not be for the reasons that 99% of people are listing.
DP: Here’s where we get to the reality of both of our concessions, Randall. You agreed that marriage is more about sacrifice, charity, and commitment than romantic love (not that romantic love isn’t beautiful, but that it isn’t foundational like the other things.) This concession is an anti-individualistic, and, in my opinion, a pro-Gospel concession. It’s a pretty big concession to make since the whole secular case for gay marriage rested on romantic love and it has also become the basis for people feeling so strongly in support of changing the Church’s position. I.E. People are outraged not that Gays don’t get a chance to partake in the hardships, struggles, and sacrifices of marriage. They are outraged that LGBT individuals don’t get to partake of the joys of marriage, that they don’t get to follow their hearts’ desires. Once you accept that romantic love is not foundational to marriage, that it is more about sacrifice, commitment, and covenants…you completely deflate all of the urgency and emotionalism regarding this issue. You are brought to a middle ground where you admit that the Church’s position could be true or there may be more light and knowledge to come but you can come to peace with either result. So, while, the Gospel of sacrifice and submission to God can entertain questions about whether more may be revealed in regard to marriage, it won’t feel so violently opposed to the Church’s current position.
DP: As for my concession (that a foundation of sacrifice/commitment/ covenants for marriage could allow for the possibility that it could be in the cards for gay couples to partake in the marriage process similar to husband-wife couples—albeit not because God urgently wishes that they be able to experience romantic love), it simply takes me to the same middle ground that I described for your concession. So, I freely admit that my position does not refute the possibility of the Church’s position changing, but I think it does refute the premises upon which all the unrest, agitation, and discontent are predicated upon. (I accordingly made a slight edit to the introduction to the article)
RB: thanks for you replies. I’ll give you the space you request, and will give a thoughtful reply in due time upon more consideration. I do want to pipe in that I think it’s very important include the answering of one important question in your reply. And that’s what is a gay person to do? Should a gay person marry heterosexually? Or should a gay person remain single and celibate? That’s a critical piece of the puzzle here.
DP: I think you expect and hope that I’ll say that all LGBT individuals should marry heterosexually. I would never do that. There are currently several paths available. It is not my place to tell those individuals what they should choose. Ironically, it is you who said that heterosexual marriage can never work for LGBT individuals. There are many LGBT members who would disagree with you. Bottom line, the details can be hashed out as time goes on. There’s a lot more gray area and details to be explored–even within the Church’s current policy–than most people realize.
RB: I just think it’s a very important question to answer. If the Church’s position is so rock solid as you describe, then there should flow a clear answer to that question. Even if it’s not a 100% certainty thing, there must be one path you think is preferred for the young faithful gay LDS to take.
RB: Dustin came here and acted in a stand up way, responding to criticism. So I applaud him for that. He asked not to be badgered, and I won’t badger him. I just think that one question is critical to answer. I think not being able to answer it is a sign the church’s position is indeed not “stronger than I think”. Wiggle room to me implies if you say the default position is to marry heterosexually, it’s OK in some cases not to if you don’t think it’s right for you. Or wiggle room implies if you say the default position is NOT to marry heterosexually but in some cases you think it’s right for you, go for it. But “wiggle room” doesn’t imply to me not providing an answer to the question.
DP: Randall, first, you can badger me all you want. I’m just asking that you read what I have said and respond thoughtfully. i.e. enough of the…wow you are just so stupid (or at least your arguments are).
RB: No answer? It appears the Church doesn’t have a default position currently. 20 years ago, I think definitely it had a strong position to encourage heterosexual marriage. Not so, anymore. At least, it appears. Is that because the Church is understanding its position is not as strong as it thought, and it’s determining the best approach going forward? Why else would the Church not appear to have a strong default recommendation for the gay LDS young person? Or do you think there is a strong default position on that that you recommend? Maybe the Church still believes gays should marry heterosexually but is worried about the PR kickback? Maybe it believes they shouldn’t marry, but don’t come out with that, because that seems to erode the assumed logic for being against gay marriage? Honest questions. I would think you would have an immediate answer if you are so confident in this position…
DP: Sorry, Randall, I’m not interested in moving somewhere else until you want to substantively engage my response. You held my feet to the fire, now I’m holding yours to it.
RB: I gave reasons why I thought the logic was bad. I’ll restate them again, if you’d like. But the critical piece is the answer to that question I keep asking. I’ll admit a large part of my reaction was due to the assumption that you are saying gays should marry heterosexually. If you’re not saying that, then please clear it up. If you are saying it, then please own it. You don’t seem the type to shy away from your beliefs just because they’re unpopular. Please take a position. If I’m wrong in my assumption, that will change how I feel about your article and logic.
DP: Randall, I don’t have a position yet…like I said, it’s a topic worth exploring. But you held my feet to the fire, now I’m holding yours to the fire. Do you feel that your position is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Gospel of Individualism? And I do apologize for my terse response earlier. It didn’t fit with the spirit with which I was trying to respond earlier. But I had a flash of frustration that you seemed to be trying to avoid responding to me after calling me out the way you did.
RB: Dustin, ah no, I actually thought you didn’t want to dialogue, and I was trying to be respectful of that. Anyway, I don’t know exactly what you mean by individualism vs gospel of Jesus Christ, but I think I can assume based on your previous replies and the blog article. I definitely DO NOT base my view on some kind of natural right for romantic love that all humans inherently deserve. I have an extreme high view of marriage compared to most progressives. I think divorce should be rare. If someone thinks they fell out of love, and they’re now in love with someone else, tough cookies. You made a commitment. Especially if kids are involved. So we’re 100% aligned there. Someone like Bryce Cook who has more experience with gay loved ones and experienced their heartaches first hand might have been moved by the Holy Ghost in a different way than I have and understand things differently, but I don’t take that view. I’m not sure a gay person has a natural right to love and romance, because that seems to be a fleeting thing. My view is more of a pragmatic one. All the old logic that was used against gay marriage has been dropped. We no longer think gays can change or expect them to try to live or act heterosexually. We see case after case anecdotally of failed marriages of gay people trying to go at it the conventional way. I guarantee you a Q15 granddaughter comes to them and says what should I do, my fiance is BYU pre-med, AP of his mission, perfect in every way, but he just told me he’s gay and he’s not sexually attracted to me, should I marry him. They say get the heck out of Dodge. We know it’s a recipe for disaster. We know celibacy is not the answer. Look at Catholic priests. So what should gays do? Why not marry? Does it hurt anyone? I understand the scriptural evidence against that position, but time after time, we’ve changed policy-doctrine that was rooted in scripture (curse of Ham, belief in evolution, women shouldn’t pray and teach, etc).when a prophet understands with greater revelation that previous scripture was influenced by cultural traditions that were incorrect.
DP: Randall, oh the sound of sweet reason. I totally understand where you are coming from and I have grappled with it myself. For now, at least tonight, I’m going to have to allow our discussion to marinate. Again, I appreciate the thoughtful response.