Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sustaining President Packer

I heard President Boyd K. Packer's talk the day he gave it. I've also read it--which is more that many apostates, apostates-to-be, and angry protesters can say. But rest assured, I'm not going to talk about the protests.

Instead, I'm going to point out the instructions President Packer specifically gave to my generation in the Ensign two months ago, about how we are to deal with these angry people who want to take our faith from us.

In Finding Ourselves in Lehi's Dream, President Packer warned us what we can expect in our future:


"Atheists and agnostics make nonbelief their religion and today organize in unprecedented ways to attack faith and belief. They are now organized, and they pursue political power. You will be hearing much about them and from them. Much of their attack is indirect in mocking the faithful, in mocking religion...
You who are young will see many things that will try your courage and test your faith. All of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Let me say that again: all of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Be careful that you do not fall into the category of mocking." [emphasis added]


If my peers think our present concern is homosexuality, they need to wake up and pay closer attention to what is happening.

There are faithful members of this Church who deal with desires of homosexuality. They remain faithful and earn every blessing mortality has to offer. They make covenants in our temples. They hold callings in our congregations. They refuse to let this part of their lives rob them of their blessings, and they refuse to believe that their desires entitle them to break our Heavenly Father's commandments. I applaud them for their strength, courage, and faith. I am not ashamed to call them my brothers and sisters. There is nothing I wouldn't do to help them bear their cross of staying faithful to Jesus Christ. I love them, and I am honored to know the people I have known who deal with homosexuality and still glorify Christ in all that they do. They are no less Christian than any other member in good standing, and anyone who questions their faith offends Christ as they do so.

We could not be Christians if we hated homosexuality with the same disregard with which many gay rights activists have hated us. If any of the Brethren gave into such hatred, they would be removed from their place in the leadership of the Church. Having said that, I post President Packer's Conference talk below. The text is available here.



President Packer's warnings in his Ensign talk, together with the warnings in his Conference talk, are not solely about homosexuality. They are directed at anyone and everyone who would abandon their faith in Christ and His Church, feeling they are justified to do so for some unchangeable, "natural" part of their character. Some members will use homosexuality as an excuse to leave the Church, and therefore these warnings do apply to them. But the statement was worded exactly--to apply to anyone who will attempt to lay aside their covenants, pick up the titles of "atheist" and "agnostic," and attempt to leave this Church as if it had never happened to them. President Packer's statements aren't just obvious statements of something which is already happening. They are prophecies of things still to come.

Let me say it again, to be perfectly clear. If our concern in the Church was about homosexuality, we wouldn't have homosexuals in good standing in our church. But we do. So obviously there are people on the other side who need to get their facts straight.

Apostates come in every size and persuasion, and President Packer's talk in the Ensign has told my generation where we should look for our instructions on how to make sure we are not among them. And, surprise of all surprises, he didn't direct us to more statements from the General Authorities--which is what you would expect if this was about brainwashing us.

No, President Packer expects us to do our own study, get our own revelation from the Holy Ghost, and figure this out for ourselves. That's why he directed us to the scriptures:

"As we think of you young Latter-day Saints and think of the Book of Mormon and think of the dream or vision that Lehi had, we see that there are prophecies in there that can be specifically applied to your life. Read it again, beginning with 1 Nephi 8, and read on to the counsel that is given. The Book of Mormon talks about life after death: what happens to the spirit (see Alma 40:11–12) and what happens in the spirit world (see 2 Nephi 2:29; 9:10–13). All of the things that you need to know are there. Read it, and make it a part of your life. Then the criticism or mocking of the world, mocking those in the Church, will be of no concern to you as it is of no concern to us (see 1 Nephi 8:33). We just move forward doing the things that we are called to do and know that the Lord is guiding us." [emphasis added]

Upon inspection of that chapter, we see that verse 33 is the money maker:

"And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not." [emphasis added]

One of the things people in this Church need to figure out is that our covenants don't have a fine print, or terms of termination. Once you're baptized, it's forever; endowed and sealed, doubly so. When you make a covenant with God, He owns you--not the other way around. Our responsibility is then to give ourselves to Him completely. In thought, in word, in action. No more holding back. No more nooks for silent conspiracies. No more renegade philosophies of men, corrupt gender perception, cruel and selfish gay rights agendas, vengeful dwelling on personal offences, or any other refusal to repent and align ourselves with the mind and will of God. The two things all of those "issues" have in common is their total disregard for God's will, and their growing enmity against the leaders and members of His Church.

There is a growing divide between the people who are in this Church for keeps, and those who are not. I'm not surprised by this. It's a sign of the times. Wheat and tares, ladies and gentlemen. We play an active role in how we are being sorted by who we become each and every day. Those who choose to abandon faith once it's given to them by the Spirit offend God. That self-destructive action has a consequence of darkness--one so intense and miserable that any person subject to it is willing to engage in proselyting of their own. They rob the weak of faith simply so misery will have some company. It's an act of treachery, and most who engage in it are in total denial about it because the weight of what they do would literally crush them from the inside out.

That is what the truth does. It condemns us, or it sets us free. And if we stand condemned, we must admit we've been wrong before it can set us free. And if there's anything I've noticed about straying members of the Church, there are three things they could say to God that would lift them where they stand, which would end so much of what they face, and what they're in for. Three things they could say, but they either won't, can't, or are afraid to say:

"I'm wrong. I'm sorry. I love you."

When I came into the Church, I had to learn this lesson too. It's what Repentance is made of. There was hatred in my heart for many people, and much of what had happened to me in my past. I was hurt and angry, but my journey had to begin with learning how wrong I was about everything--about God, other people, and myself. I had to learn how to apologize, and mean it. I had to learn to love, and trust that love would heal my sorrow, and take away my grief.

That's where change begins. Only then did the love of God touch me, and heal every wound of my soul. One day at a time. First the broken heart. Then the wounded body. That's how I became a living soul all over again. Fertile ground for a testimony that saved my life, and has made my life so beautiful, so wonderful, I am glad to be alive. I cannot wait to see my Savior again. I rejoice at the thought of coming into His presence. I am not perfect, but I am happy. I may not be spotless yet, but He taught me how to change. To feast on joy, and to share that gladness with others.

It all began with "I'm wrong. I'm sorry. I love you."

Those words are beautiful to me still... Repentance is so beautiful, I couldn't have made it up to save my own life. It just wasn't in me. But it is now, and I know God is an awesome God of healing. I testify of my Savior Jesus Christ--that He atoned for our sins. He bears us up when no one else can. He loves us when no one else knows how to anymore. I love Him. I worship Him. I love His Church, and I love the leaders He has chosen for it. I love my brothers and sisters, and I look forward to serving all kinds of people when I finally leave for my mission. Even if they hate me. Even if they think I'm crazy. Even if most of them slam the door in our faces. Even if there are those who try to make my mission the worst experience of my life. I don't care. In time, they will know that I loved them.

And in time, those who hate President Packer right now will eventually realize that he loved them too.

That is my testimony, and I bear it gladly in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

11 comments:

  1. I was led to your blog post by a friend who shared it on Facebook, and I would like to echo your testimony and thank you for your uplifting and inspiring message.

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  2. This is excellent! Very well written, but more importantly, prayerfully done.

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  3. And where in this model do you fit people who love and sustain Pres. Packer, and who are deeply concerned about what he said, wishing for him to clarify what he was saying and why he said it with a few key remarks in that talk? Does that make me apostate, or just to-be-apostate?

    I agree with much of what you're saying here, but I'm concerned about the blitheness with which you minimize the suffering and struggles of gay people within the Church. I am curious as to how many of these faithful people with SSA who are loved and accepted and respected within their wards? I know one, and I know how difficult his life is, despite more than 30 years of faithful marriage, fatherhood and grandfatherhood. You might find his perspective on this question useful. You might also find Carol Lynn Pearson's experience and thoughts on the matter useful. These are people who have seen, at very close quarters, the problems gay Mormons face, including those which have come from other Mormons and from those in leadership positions.

    I have no problem with proclaiming the Church's standard for acceptable sexual behavior, and encouraging people to live with it. I have no problem with them facing formal Church discipline when they violate those standards. I have a large problem when people who have lived those standards have lost their membership in the Church anyhow, just because of their orientation. And I have a large problem when people who do not have the stewardship to determine the worthiness of another take it upon themselves to do so.

    And I have a problem when the Church comes forward with a very loving sounding press statement that talks about loving and accepting gay members without acknowledging how very few Mormons are willing to show that love and acceptance, and how many feel justified in being cruel in many different ways to gay people, and the damage that the counsel of Church leaders, present and past, have brought in the well-intended effort to cure SSA. Faithful gay Mormons have prayed intensely, served missions, married in the Temple, fathered children, received frequent blessings, and even engaged in cruel experimental psychological treatments, all in an effort to "cure" their orientation. None of which has worked. Is it too much to expect that the Church that teaches me that I must confess my sins will admit these things?

    So, where do I fit in your model? Am I currently apostate? Am I on the path to apostacy? Or am I just delusional to expect the self-honesty of the Church that it expects from me?

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  4. blainn:

    President Packer is not personally responsible for the sins of others. If there are members in this Church who abuse God's children because of sexual orientation, it is a sin that will be answered upon their heads personally in the day of judgment.

    And my brother, I will ask you to familiarize yourself with the teachings of the brethren on the resurrection if you think there is no cure for same-gender attraction. It is a condition that will not be raised with anyone after the resurrection. That is a promise of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Is this not a cure? Is this not healing? For President Packer to offer this hope to our brothers and sisters is no lie, and is no sin. It is the answer to their prayers, the hope and testimony of Christ that is theirs so long as they will keep it always.

    At the same time, in the application of President Packer's message to those who struggle with same-gender attraction (for this is not the only application), we cannot assume that President Packer limited his remarks solely to those who overcome homosexuality in mortality. This may be the case for some, and should not be eliminated as a possibility as we teach--for who are we to say whom Christ will heal, and when? But the promise of that glorious resurrection, that this healing will come, is certain.

    Where do I fit you in, my brother? Beside me, as one who waits eagerly and with tears for that resurrection to come! With eager anticipation and compassion for our brothers and sisters to have their hopes and faithfulness answered upon their heads! Please, do not construe me as one who lacks compassion and empathy in regards to this very issue. I have mourned with those that mourn, and gone a mile twain with my share of brothers who struggle with this very thing. I say what I have said not from ignorance, but from experience.

    That experience, however, requires me to speak truly. If President Packer, or I, or anyone else ever teach anything else but that total healing, that complete restoration, we would be liars and would deny Christ in so doing.

    I will not deny Christ. I do not deny Christ in teaching about His resurrection. If anything, I rejoice to hear that the powers of which President Packer have spoken are beginning to come forth! It means the coming of our Lord is night, and that healing for my brothers and sisters is not far hence.

    But I echo, with warning, what I said in my post. President Packer's talk cannot be limited solely to those struggling with homosexuality. His is a prophetic message that applies in a much broader context. We must be careful how we interpret his message, and to keep our sympathies always with Christ. To do so is to maintain our own safety, which will allow us to teach together the compassion we have gained for God's children.

    If I have given you cause for offense, dear brother, I do apologize. None was intended. Let there be no more of it to either of us. As Christ said, "be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine."

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  5. I'm not offended, just a big vaguely disappointed, and not particularly with you. My frustration is boiling down to a mild cynicism about the inability for Mormons to expect their leaders to account for anything if there is any excuse or rationalization that can provide plausible deniability that they did anything wrong.

    What I've wanted from Pres. Hinckley isn't a personal accounting for the errors of others. I've wanted him to clarify what he was trying to say in his talk in the sentences that seem to say that no one is born gay and that they can change this with an exercise of faith. I'd like to see him account for the pain these sentences caused to those who have tried and tried and not achieved what he seems to be promising here, and which pain he knew or should have known would result for them. And I would like to see an acknowledgment of the pain they've been put through by the well-intended actions of people they listened to due to their position in the Church. That would be nice, but I'm not going to hold my breath -- the Church has issued apologies for things it's done just about never (I can't think of anything -- can you?).

    I don't understand where there is any question about the suffering gay Mormons have experienced at the hands of other Mormons. You say you've been associated with gay Mormons, so wherein is the basis for this "If there are members in this Church who abuse God's children because of sexual orientation..." thing?

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  6. (part 2 of 2)

    Hope in the resurrection is some comfort. When it translates to a life-sentence of celibacy, and repenting when there are slips (celibacy for long periods of time is exceptionally difficult to maintain), that's not a lot of comfort. It's real, but can you understand why someone facing it for themselves isn't going to be enthusiastic about that?

    And that's for those who are told of that hope. As opposed to those who are told that they are broken -- a mistake -- that has no claim on the Atonement. These and other doctrinally incorrect things have been told to gay people, and the things found in such prominent and authoritative works as Miracle of Forgiveness can pile on them to make a very strong, very negative impression in their minds. Your gay friends can tell you about this better than I. I'm rather surprised that, apparently, they haven't.

    I would like to see them welcomed in the Church as brothers and sisters, children of God, and fellow sinners in need of the Atonement. There is no need to equivocate on the standard of sexual behavior to do that. All that's required is following the, albeit quietly stated, direction of the brethren, and giving up the pretense that Mormons are perfect. It doesn't strike me that those things would be too hard, but I don't feel like holding my breath to see them happen.

    Look, we're pretty close here, and I don't want my frustration to make it sound like I think we're not. I'm just a notch or two further than you are, and I think those notches are justified. YMMV. I do appreciate your willingness to see me as not apostate -- I'm not sure how many members of my ward are willing to do that, right now.

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  7. blainn:

    Let me be sure I understand you, and please correct me if I'm wrong.

    What you would like to see is for leaders of the Church to be more welcoming and sympathetic in their language and discourse directed towards those who struggle with same-gender attraction. To be less quick to echo what has already been said, and to offer more in the way of comfort and guidance. To use the rights to revelation we have, as Christ's Church, to obtain more answers than we have on the subject, to help those who struggle. All of this in hopes that by directly teaching these things, the general membership will understand that this is what God expects of them in regards to His precious children.

    I have prayed, fasted, and begged through long nights and many years for exactly the same thing.

    I was young and a new convert when this issue became very personal to me. It was in the life of my closest and dearest friend, whom I was dating at the time. When he finally told me, it destroyed me inside. I realized I didn't know what to do to help him. I had no idea what answers God had in response to my friend's coming out. And my friend was someone who wouldn't make this up, wouldn't CHOOSE something like this. He said he hadn't chosen this--only finally admitted it to himself. I believed him. Maybe it was because I was a convert that I didn't see any problem with believing that, at least for him, this wasn't something that began with a choice.

    All the same, I couldn't think of any adults to whom I could go to get answers. That made me uncomfortable. Who could I go to if not to them? Who would teach me what to say and what to do, how to help, and what was true? Who would help me bear what, to me, looked so terribly unfair and devastating?

    So I went to the only one I knew could help me. I went in prayer to my Heavenly Father. (cont)

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  8. What followed was something that changed me more than it changed my friend. I saw that I could only be as involved in my friend's learning as he would allow me to be, but that Heavenly Father wanted me to learn what charity really is. It isn't giving handouts, and it isn't telling people what to do. It isn't giving them material stuff.

    It's love. Love that is always patient and kind. Love that is willing to wait, and to hope. Love that never gives itself over to mocking, anger, or resentment. In essence, I realized that Christ had already taught me how to respond to my friend. I needed to LOVE him with a love that was stronger than death, and stronger than what he faced. I needed to be loyal and true to him. I needed to support him and help him in any way I could to make this easier for him. I needed to realize that my place to him was to be his sister and his friend.

    When I was willing to see him like that, it became obvious to me that there HAD to be more to this than someone "being broken" or "choosing" to be lost. This was something that real members of the Church, my brothers and sisters, were struggling with. My duty and calling was to make it easier for them, to make it better.

    I have done this throughout my life, one person at a time. When I see a member of the Church making nasty comments and jokes that are disrespectful to homosexuals, I say something. I try to be gentle, but I am never silent anymore. I believe that we must learn to be kind, and no one is exempt from that.

    It is my hope that by living so, my prayers for more hope, more support, more answers for my brothers and sisters will finally come. I have to be the change I want to see in others. I have to be the kind word and the loving heart.

    I didn't learn that from reading Miracle of Forgiveness, or a blog, or anything produced by man. I had to go straight to God for this one.

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  9. Damn.

    Yeah, we're there, and you're ahead of me. Wow. I haven't been passed like that in a while.

    Probably our difference, then, is my voicing frustration over what I'd like to see the Church leadership do differently. And you're nicer than I am.

    Thanks. This is good stuff.

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  10. You're entitled to your opinion, but to call the gay rights agenda "selfish" shows a stunning lack of compassion and understanding.

    You can disagree with it, you can say that your beliefs are not in line with gay rights, but it is beyond insane to me that you would call asking for equal rights to be "selfish". My sister, my friends, my uncles, and so many other people in this nation simply want access to what amounts to over 1,000 federal rights, responsibilities, and privileges. That's not selfish. That's a strong desire born out of a deep insecurity thanks to not being treated equally under the law.

    You can believe what you wish, and I support your Church's right to not recognize homosexual marriages. Right now I can't get married in your temple either, even to a man, and I respect the sanctity of your temple and your religious rites. We have freedom of religion in this country for a reason, and I will fight to keep it in place.

    But your right to worship, believe, and marry as you please does not extend to your right to enshrine discrimination in law. A civil marriage is about state and federal laws, and accessing rights. That has NOTHING to do with your Church, your beliefs, or your specific faith principles when it comes to marriage.

    The fact that you so cavalierly call an entire movement of people praying and hoping for equality in a nation where they are treated as second class citizens "selfish" is truly beyond the pale.

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  11. Before you demand compassion and the wrongness of my opinion, I suggest you actually get to know me and know what my opinion is.

    I happen to believe that the governement providing benefits to married couples, regardless of whether the couple is homo- or heterosexual is inherently unconstitutional. I want to see those benefits abolished. It's the only to treat everyone equally under the rule of law. I wrote to my Congressmen and voiced that opinion, and the only response I received was a letter informing me that he maintained that states have the right to make their own marriage legislation.

    You want to harass someone for discrimination? Look at the representatives of your government. They're the ones enforcing inequality, not me.

    And condemning selfish gay rights agendas is not the same thing as calling all gays rights agendas selfish. I condemn the agendas which undermine the equality of religious and non-religious people under the law, as well as the health of the family in American society. I maintain the only position that my Christianity allows me to hold: one that expects equality, fairness, love, and compassion of everyone for everyone.

    Read a little more carefully next time before you make accusations. That's exactly the sort of behavior that makes finding solutions for this issue so hard.

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