LDS General Conference was last weekend and I listened to it by internet radio (my location being too remote to hear any regular broadcast). A friend mentioned later “did you hear about President Packer’s talk?” I didn’t know exactly what she was referring to – I had heard most of the speakers but no particular5 thing jumped out at me.
Activism Against Free Speech
Today I saw a news story about the LGBT protests against his talk. They are demanding that he “apologize” or “re-state” what he said in conference. One quote from that article sums up the general opposition:
"Our message is very simple. It’s hate speech equal LGBT suicides," said Eric Ethington, Pride in Utah blogger and organizer of the event. "You can not tell kids for their entire lives there is something wrong with them."
I will ignore the obvious point about such activism being against “free speech” and “freedom of religion”, and the hypocrisy of a “diversity group” demanding a person change their opinion and go with the crowd, but it seems the LGBT community is now blaming prophetic counsel on the latest buzzword “gay suicides”.
Suicide Needs to be Addressed Without Pointing Fingers
I wrote a long article on “gay suicides” the other day but decided not to post it. I didn’t want to disrespect those who are suffering from the loss of a loved one, and couldn’t find a clear way not to group all suicides together. I wanted to point out that the handful of cases the LGBT community is waving around as their banner in this new strategy are generally one of two kinds: “Gay –> Bullying –> Suicide” or “Mentally Ill –> Gay –> Suicide”. The latter is certainly not a popular or socially “correct” way to label something, but good examples of the mental illness-LGBT tie are the transsexual pipe-bomber in Payette Idaho and the transsexual fire-breather on the Tacoma bridge (not that “transsexual” necessarily means “crazy”, but those stories are a lot easier to call up from memory than “gay religious man molests young boy” or than trying to drag out some big explanation of homosexual serial killers Henry Lee Lucas or Ed Gein or something.)
The point I was trying to make in the article is that suicide is more taboo than any of the other factors (including homosexuality), so it is the least addressed and the most tip-toed around, and subsequently too little effort is being spent on actually identifying or educating against suicide itself. Suicide is, after all, a choice regardless the circumstances. When we spend all our time pointing fingers (“he did it because he was gay and couldn’t handle this homophobic world!” “she did it because she was bullied!”), we effectively promote the suicidal behavior itself as an acceptable solution, and it becomes romanticized and made “ok” in the minds of those who will later face the difficulties of life and choices.
God Gives Us Choice and Equips Us with the Ability to Succeed
Packer’s talk addresses the important factor in these equations: that our loving and eternal God has given us the ability to choose our paths in life – right or wrong – and that there is always a way back to the right path. Packer reminded us that it is
“… a doctrinal certainty that our agency is more powerful than the adversary’s will. Agency is precious. We can foolishly, blindly give it away, but it cannot be forcibly taken from us.
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.”
These words are directly in line with one of my favorite scriptures, 1 Corinthians 10:13:
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way for you to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Along with it, another favorite of mine, 1 Nephi 3:7 from the Book of Mormon, conveys a similar comfort:
“… I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may be able to accomplish the thing which he commanded them.”
In the first scripture it shows that there is no difficulty that a person can ever go through that is beyond that of any difficulty ever suffered by man. It says that God only allows us to be faced with those trials that we are capable of enduring. It says that there is always a way to rise above those trials and succeed. In the second scripture it says that when we do the things the Lord commands us to do he will provide a way for us to accomplish those things.
God Gave Commandments to Help Us
We are commanded not to murder, not to worship false gods, not to steal, to lie, to commit adultery, and many other things. Some commandments are listed in the ten commandments God gave to Moses for Israel. Many others are found throughout the scriptures, and are perhaps ‘sub-commandments” of more specific wording, having already been covered by the others. We’re not to have sexual relations outside of marriage. Men are not to “lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman” (Leviticus 20:13). We have sex as husband and wife, in part, because it is within this arrangement that we procreate.
We who believe in God believe that He is a perfect God and a just God. He makes no mistakes. We are not accidentally born into the wrong body. We are not born with the impossibility of following God’s laws. We might be born with a physical disability, but we are never born with a spiritual disability. This is the message of Packer’s talk: that it is a vicious and destructive lie of the adversary to believe that you have feelings you cannot control, whether they be addictions to substances, pornography or gambling or whether they be other sins of activities that have long been outlined and warned against in holy scripture.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints doesn’t “have it out for gays”. As has been said a million times before, “love the sinner, hate the sin”. These sins are not limited to homosexuals. Any kind of sexual relations outside a marriage between a husband and wife is unlawful as far as God is concerned. Transgressions are often spelled out in scripture, but sometimes they are not. There are a multitude of other things that are just as serious as having homosexual relations. We are commanded not to participate in any of those things.
Those who are angry at Packer for “his choice of words” are angry because those things which he was inspired to say lift many from bondage. His message was one of hope, of a pathway to escaping something some have wrongly felt they are bound to because of “nature”. His words were not only directed at those who are part of the LGBT community – his words are valid and true for persons suffering from any kind of behavior for which they have wrongly been convinced is inescapable.
God is Consistent, Man is Not
There is a growing divide in the world, even among churches, which contributes to many of these debates. Some churches will not budge, and others bend over backwards to gain new followers. Before we start hurling insults at the immovable religions, we have to ask ourselves “who are we trying to please, man or God?”
There are two scriptures in the Bible that are of importance to this argument:
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Heb. 13:8)
“I am the Lord, I change not.” (Mal. 3:6)
Mormons firmly believe in an unchanging and eternal God, and in additional scripture we have the following statements reaffirming Gods perfect and eternal nature:
"For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him." (1 Nephi 10: 18)
"And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free." (2 Nephi 2: 4)
"For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith." (2 Nephi 27: 23)
"And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever." (2 Nephi 29: 9)
"But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God." (Alma 31: 17)
"For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?" (Mormon 9: 9)
"And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men." (Moroni 10: 19)
"Thereby showing that He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Amen." (D&C 20: 12)
"Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever." (D&C 35: 1)
Offended by Hope or by Conscience?
Packer and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Lord himself don’t say these things to “pick a fight” or to “trample down” or hurt those who are taking offense. The offense taken is one of conscience. The discomfort as a sign that the ideology is not of God and that it leads to a dead end. This discomfort happens any time we pridefully put our own will above that of God’s. Like those bumps on the side of a freeway, it is the initial warning to let us know we’re veering off the strait and narrow path, and that we are in danger.
"Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;" (1 Timothy 4:2)
"And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance." (Jarom 1:12)
Another View of Packer’s Talk
Those who oppose these things have an agenda. Those who have no agenda heard the joy, hope and freedom from bondage in Packer’s talk. A good example is a note written on Facebook Tuesday, October 5th by Janine McCauley, titled “Another View of President Packer’s Talk”. McCauley had joined the LDS church when she was 19, and a few years later became involved in a same-sex relationship. Several years later she felt something missing, and chose to return to the LDS church. She abandoned the lifestyle in order to abide by the teachings of the church. She says the following:
“With that being said I’d like to share what I heard from Boyd K. Packer’s talk on Sunday. These are not quotes but my experience of what he said. If anyone wants to hear quotes they should listen to the talk themselves.
"I heard that we are all given free agency to do what we choose to do in this life. That we will never be given a trial we are not able to handle.
He said that the LDS Church believes marriage to be ordained of God and that it is to be between a man and woman.
I heard him say that acting on same-sex attraction is not in alignment with the teachings of the Church and that if one does act on these attractions or one does have an addiction to some type of drugs or pornography that those actions and or addictions can be handled and if desired that person can over-come them and live the teachings of the Church and find the happiness that those teachings promise.
His comment referring to someone not being born gay, to me says we have a choice. I firmly believe that to be true, I feel I lived it. I also made the choice as to what I acted on.
He stated our Heavenly Father would not do this to someone, what I feel that statement means is that our Heavenly Father would not send us to this life and have a “condition” be placed upon us that we could not change and then tell us we are wrong for it.
There was nothing in the talk that said anyone is hated, that anyone should be looked down on or cast out. It was a talk that reminded us that no matter what struggles we have in life there is hope, there is a way to overcome them and there is a way to be our whole selves. If someone doesn’t feel their lifestyle is wrong, no one is saying they HAVE to change. That is the beauty of have the freedom to choose.
What if the message got to that one teen who has been struggling with wanting to change because they completely believed the message of the Church but feeling he or she can’t because “they were born this way” what if the message was to them and it was a message of hope to them that they can change just as our agency allows us to choose to live one lifestyle that same agency can be used to choose to live another?”
The Adversary Wants You to Cave In
I don’t hate people who identify with the LGBT community. Many of my friends have chosen the lifestyle. I personally believe that some are predisposed to an attitude that makes such activity more appealing, but I believe in the true and everlasting God, and I know he is just and would not place us on the earth with no hope of passing our test of mortality. I believe that the notion that one is “born that way” (regardless of what “that” might be) is a device of the adversary to drag more down to destruction. He wants us to feel helpless and cave in, while God wants us to have hope, to be of good cheer, and to know that we can win against the tide of evil and wickedness if we choose to.
Boyd K Packer “Cleansing the Inner Vessel.” http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1298-23,00.html
Jared Preisz, Fox13 News “Thousands of Gay Activists Protest at Mormon Church Headquarters.” http://www.fox13now.com/news/local/kstu-ut-gay-protest-set-on-mormon-leaders-remarks,0,2412632.story
Janine McCauley “Another View of President Packer’s Talk.” http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=157010880987998#!/note.php?note_id=437973979211&id=651614501