Friday, October 15, 2010

Packer's speech causes uproar in Utah

Recently Mormon senior LDS Apostle Boyd Packer gave a speech from his chair at the October General Conference that explained the church’s stance on homosexuality. Inferring that homosexuals can decide to be celibate and not fulfill their fleshly desires, he said, “There is also an age-old excuse: ‘The devil made me do it.’ Not so! He can deceive you and mislead you, but he does not have the power to force you or anyone else to transgress or to keep you in transgression.

He added, “It is to be shared only and solely between man and woman, husband and wife, with that one who is our companion forever. On this the gospel is very plain. We are free to ignore the commandments, but when the revelations speak in such blunt terms, such as ‘thou shalt not,’ we had better pay attention.”

Packer also talked about pornography, but it was his words on homosexuality that threw many from Utah into a tither. Yes, there are thousands of homosexuals living in this state, more than many people would imagine, and they’re still miffed about the church’s involvement in California’s Proposition 8 that was defeated last year, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the LDS Church.

Many of these folks ringed downtown’s Temple Square during the following week, claiming that Packer’s words were delivered at a time when several teens from around the country who had been wrestling with their sexuality recently committed suicide. They were angry, saying Packer’s insensitive words were delivered at a delicate time. A petition with more than 100,000 signatures was even delivered to church offices—like, that’s going to change the LDS leaders’ minds!—to ask for an apology. Almost every day, the event somehow continues to make the front page of the newspaper I read, the Salt Lake Tribune, while letters from angry readers about this issue appear regularly in the editorial pages.

The church has pretty much said since its inception that homosexuality is a sin. Critics could certainly point to the time when the church once advocated polygamy—the leaders even practiced it until1904, even though the prophet said not to do it anymore after 1890. Yes, the church has not always taught the “plain” gospel that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But I can’t recall a time when this church ever promoted homosexuality.

Thus, I’m not sure why the activists got all frothy and offended while condemning everyone who disagrees with their position. Perhaps it’s a desperate attempt to change the church’s stance. Or maybe they just love blood in the water and a contrived feeding frenzy to attack a church that’s in its political way.

Here’s the point. Packer certainly wasn’t trying to stop anyone outside the church from practicing their homosexuality. He was saying that a person who wants to be a Mormon and remain in good standing just can’t do this.  Isn’t the church allowed to state the rules for its own members? The common argument I’m hearing during these past few weeks is that homosexuality is an inborn character trait, so those Latter-day Saints shouldn’t have to fight against their tendencies. But this is a weak argument. In fact, everyone is born with tendencies to do the wrong things because we’re sinners (Rom 3:23). Calling himself a “wretched man,” Paul wrestled with his sinful nature and concluded at the end of Romans 7, “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

I like to use the example of pedophilia to make this point. Suppose I agree with NAMBLA and felt I was born as a pedophile, believing my practice of sex with young boys to be moral as long as it took place between two loving people and nobody was hurt. I argue thusly: “If I’m born with this tendency, I should be able to practice it. Who are you to judge me or what an appropriate age is to have sex!” Imagine criminals using a similar defense in the court of law—“Judge, I can’t help my stealing, it’s just part of who I am, so I’m obviously innocent of the charges.” Can you see the problem?

And just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I hate you (i.e. “homophobia”). After all, Packer didn’t say he hates homosexuals. He never attacked any person. Rather, he said the behavior was wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t be so thin-skinned and agitated when people disagree with our ideology. Defend your position without getting personalities involved. It makes for a much better debate.  

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