Elder Packer and the Tilt of the Earth’s Axis


[Photo Credit]

His name was Tom McGraw and I couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor.  He was like a grandfather to me.  He was patient, even gracious, when I ran over his new barbecue grill with a riding lawnmower.  He was a machinist by trade, and he could do some amazing things with a piece of metal and the right tools.

I have a very clear recollection of an argument I had with him when I was twelve or thirteen.  I was sitting at his kitchen table after school, eating some cookies.  I was frustrated enough with my inability to convince him that his view was incorrect that I was having a hard time speaking—I was reduced to stuttering and scribbling on the back of a piece of mail that happened to be on the table in an effort to make him see visually what I couldn’t persuade him of verbally.

We were arguing about what caused the seasons.  His argument was that the earth’s orbit was elliptical and that the Earth was therefore farther away from the sun during part of its yearly trajectory.  When the Earth was farther away from the sun, it was winter, he insisted.

Why then, I asked (being the little smartass that I was), were the seasons reversed in the hemispheres?  If winter were caused by being further away from the sun (i.e. by passing through the portion of the Earth’s elliptical orbit farthest from the sun), then it should be winter EVERYWHERE at the same time.  I then did my best to explain that the seasons were caused by the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis relative to the plane of its orbit around the sun.  The explanation he offered didn’t fit the reality of the way we experienced seasons and I wasn’t going to let him get away with thinking that it did.

Reality vs. Religious Construction

I thought of that argument about the seasons this morning while listening to Boyd K. Packer’s talk (180th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, October, 2010).

I knew five minutes into this talk that it was going to set the bloggernacle abubble.  I put down the Sudoku puzzle I was fiddling with and paid attention.  I was fascinated by it.  I was transported back to that kitchen table.

Here are the thoughts that went through my head during his talk, more or less, in order.

First, I think to myself, what do you do when religion tells you that the world is a certain way, but then you look out your window and discover that reality, inconveniently, belies your religious constructions?  I have some experience with Boyd K. Packer.  I attended a BYU devotional in the early 90s where he spoke at length about how homosexuality was “unnatural.”  He asked at one point, rhetorically, why humans were the only species that exhibited these unnatural tendencies—and then he answered his own question by segueing into a discussion of free will and agency.  I was disturbed by Elder Packer’s ignorance on this issue twenty years ago—and I was disturbed by his ignorance on the same topic this morning.

There really isn’t any need to revisit this debate.  Homosexuality has been observed in elephants, bears, buffalo, caribou, dolphins, raccoons, dogs, bison, chickens, penguins, numerous fish, and too many reptiles, insects, and invertebrates to list.  Black swans and mallards appear to be particularly “unnatural” (it is estimated that 25% of pairings of black swans are male-male; only slightly less for mallards).  I had a friend that purchased a 50k breeding bull that had to be “put down” because of his economically questionable preference for steers.  And then there is Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York City’s Central Park Zoo that successfully hatched an egg they’d been given.  And so on.  In the case of humans, it’s been around for thousands of years (if not longer).  Homosexuality is a part of nature—a part of the world that God created (if you believe that God created it)—and by any definition of the word, it’s natural.

Okay, I think, Elder Packer is old.  He’s a product of a different time and place.  He’s busy.  He lives in a bubble.  Whatever.  Can’t I give him a pass on this one?  Is it really that big of deal?  Can’t he be wrong about the specifics here, but still be right in a larger sense?

But then I think that it is a big deal.  He may be as well-meaning and as kind as my neighbor, but he doesn’t have the benefit of anonymity (and the issue is more important, and more personal, for a lot of people than an argument about the tilt of the earth’s axis).  He operates from a position of authority and what he says carries weight.  He’s asking millions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to believe things about the real world—not the world of faith, hope, and charity where religious discussion is usually confined, but the real world where we all live and have to get along with each other–that are demonstrably false.

The Rainbow, in Black and White

“Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father,” asked Elder Packer, at one point.  Why would he create homosexuals, and then condemn them?  For Elder Packer, the solution to this conundrum is to conclude that God didn’t (and doesn’t) create them.  You see, there is no such thing as a homosexual, only people that “suffer” from same-sex attraction (as though it were equivalent to a head cold or an illness), or people that choose to participate in the homosexual “lifestyle,” etc.  As a noun—as something innate, natural, and as central to human identity and function as heterosexuality—the word “homosexuality” doesn’t exist in the Mormon vocabulary.  To admit that God creates gay people would represent a troubling theological inconvenience, to say the least.  There is no room for homosexuality in the orderly, tidy, and disciplined Mormon world where individuals are neatly placed in defined boxes and even rainbows are painted in black and white.

Elder Packer was careful to backstop his assertion that homosexuality (as a noun, not a head cold, a disability, or a choice) doesn’t exist by citing the Church’s 1995 declaration, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”—a proclamation that carries the weight of scripture, Elder Packer was careful to observe.  It states in this document that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”  And with that sentence, intersex individuals, individuals with ambiguous gender, and homosexuality all disappear from the realm of purposeful creation—they can only be recognized as tendencies, problems, or mistakes that God will correct somehow in the next life.

Those of us in the real world, however, can look out our windows and see that homosexuality is real.  We know that gender is ambiguous (or problematic) in approximately 1 in every 2000 births.  We ask the same question: “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”  Why would He create them and then condemn them?  I agree with Elder Packer that he wouldn’t—not a kind, loving God that is our literally our Father in heaven.  Unlike Elder Packer, however, I believe the fault lies with us—not with them.  The fault lies in our interpretation of God’s law and His will.

I can’t help trying to understand why Elder Packer is giving this talk.  I’m a professor of strategic management, so I spend a good part of most work days talking about the why large companies do the things they do.  I try to make two columns in my head—one for costs, one for benefits.

The costs.  I think of young boys struggling with their emergent sexuality.  I remember a man recounting his personal struggle to accept himself as gay and talking about the despair and horror of lying awake at night wondering who had made him—he couldn’t be God’s creation, he reasoned, because God wouldn’t have made him gay.  I think of Carol Lynn Pearson’s book—No More Goodbyes—and I think of the cost in terms of suicides, abandonment, loss and regret.  The cost in human suffering of such a blithe marginalization of some of the most vulnerable among us is immense.  We should add up the costs—and heft them carefully—before we decide pay such a high price for doctrinal purity.

This is the direct cost, but it is not the only cost.  Aside from the human suffering it supports, Elder Packer’s view represents an open invitation for homosexuals to leave the Church (and to not let the door hit them on the way out).  If we, as a community, value the fellowship and contributions of our gay brothers and sisters, then this sort of theological housekeeping doesn’t seem prudent.

Standing up and insisting that the sky is made of cotton candy—or in this case, the equivalent—that God doesn’t make gay people (he only makes people, some of which “choose” to engage in homosexual behavior”) also represents a needless trial of faith for the average member.  If an apostle, an individual who is entitled to direct inspiration and revelation from deity, can’t get the basic facts right—basic facts that should be gleaned from life experience, but can also be verified in a casual visit to the public library—then how can we trust them to get other, perhaps more important matters, right?  This takes me back to my earlier question:  What do you do when religion tells you that the world is a certain way, but then you look out your window and discover that reality, inconveniently, belies your religious constructions?  This choice reminds me of a scene in a movie called Liar Liar (1997, Jim Carrey).  In the scene Jim Carrey (who is temporarily unable to lie) tries to assert that a pen he is holding is red (even though it’s actually blue).  There is no easy way out.  Trying to find a solution—that is, trying to find a way to reconcile the way things should be according to Elder Packer with the way things are—saps faith and undermines commitment that could be put to more productive uses.

“We cannot change”

Less than three hours after Elder Packer’s talk, the Salt Lake Tribune ran the following headline on its website: “Apostle: Same-sex attraction can change.”  It’s bad enough when Church members are boxed into a corner and obligated by their faith to deny their own sense of reality, but in an age when communication is nearly instantaneous (and when the Church is still struggling with the fallout from its support of Prop 8 in California), headlines like this can quickly undermine the Church’s ability to achieve its organizational goals.

I also worry about the members that accept Elder Packer’s logic and reach the same conclusion—that being gay is a choice.  What happens when these same members discover otherwise?  There is often a real sense of betrayal when the world is discovered to be something other than that promised by a trusted religious leader.

“We cannot change; we will not change,” Elder Packer declared.  Didn’t we hear something similar from another apostle during the Church’s struggle with the issue of blacks and the priesthood?

At the end of the talk, the “benefits” column was empty (and it still is).

Brent D. Beal

About the author

Brent D. Beal is an associate professor of management in the College of Business and Technology at the University of Texas at Tyler. In his spare time, he enjoys debating religious and political issues, reading and writing short stories, playing Scrabble, and hanging out with his wife and their three kids.


  1. DavidH says:

    Given that elsewhere the Church (or Church leaders) stated that it takes no position on the cause of sexual orientation, I think Elder Packer’s opinion can be taken as his opinion, not the Church’s official position.

    • Bitherwack says:

      I agree David! Elder Packer’s opinion about the biological and genetic aspects of homosexuality won’t change reality any more than a vote can “repeal the law of gravity.” Oh, the irony!

  2. DebS says:

    @DavidH — Given that when I was a teacher in Relief Society I was told that “conference talks were scripture” and that is why they are taught from, I’d say that this is now the Church’s official position. Sucks.

    • Scott says:

      Why does it suck? It has been the opinion of Gods Church since time began. The Behavoir was condemned long before todays debate. I’m sure back in the biiblical days it was debated as well. Back then Gods army would come in and wipeout a nation because it was “rippened”

      We can love our brothern and sisters without loving the behavoir, and we should.

    • Jay says:

      I agree with scott. My best friends whom I have known for nearly my whole life is gay. His sexual orientation has never been an issue in our friendship and has not changed the way I feel about him. “We can love our brothers and sisters without loving the behaviour” is absolutely right.

      Secondly, we all know that the church does see this as unatural behaviour but never once have i ever been taught or encouraged to hate/dislike/or disassociate myself with someone just because they are gay.

      I do not entirely agree with all of the content of this artice; however, one thing i know for certain is that we as memebers of the church are taught to be disciples of Christ and love others. I do not see why someones sexuality should be an exception to this commandment.

    • manaen says:

      Here’s what’ on the Church’s website:.

      “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. ”


    • fiona64 says:

      Um, Scott?

      Sexual orientation was not understood in Biblical times as it is now. During the time and culture of the Old Testament, sex had two parties. For lack of a better way to put it, they were the Do-er (always a free man) and the Do-ee (who could be either a free woman or a slave of either gender). Sex was not something between equals; that was considered “toevah,” which means “ritually impure” (not, as your KJV says, “abomination,” which is a 16th C. Latinate word that I guarantee you no Hebrew ever used).

      To give you an idea, being around a woman on her period meant you were “toevah,” as did being around rabbits — neither of these things being sexual in nature.

      In order to return to temple after being “toevah,” you had to be ritually purified.

      That was it.

      Honestly, I am shocked at how little most self-proclaimed Christians know about their faith and its history.

  3. Heather says:

    His opinion, though offered at the semi-annual General Conference . . .??

    I feel pretty comfortable saying that most members treat General Conference talks as scripture. We are told to read them as such. We are told that current revelation is as important–if not moreso–than revelation from previous prophets.

    So while I would love to be able to dismiss it as just his opinion, I think it carries a lot more weight than that.

    • Scott says:

      It does and don’t let the World tell you otherwise.

    • Russ says:

      As an aspiring religion professor currently in graduate school I can sincerely disagree. Just because someone told you it should be viewed as scripture surely doesn’t mean it is. There was a time when Brigham Young gave a talk in conference, then after reflection, rescinded his comments. I like what Scott said though. We love the person, not the action. That is our call to action. To love people, not what people do. My wife’s brother is gay. I love him like I love my own brother. We hang out all the time. He knows I don’t approve and respects that. Don’t know why this dialogue has to filled with hate. Maybe Elder Packer’s comments will cause some problems. It probably should have been said with more love. But as an apostle, whether you believe he is or not, he has to speak out against things the LDS church views as sin. Whether you agree it is or isn’t, that’s up to you. But he wasn’t calling for people to leave the church, or discriminate against LGBT, or for families to disown their homosexual children. The LDS church has been adamant in saying it should be handled with love.

  4. Rico says:

    >>I think Elder Packer’s opinion can be taken as his opinion, not the Church’s official position.

    In that case, what is he doing giving his personal opinion at an official Church conference? Isn’t that where the religion’s faithful listen to hear official Church position and doctrine, not personal opinion?

    This is the last straw. I’ve updated my resignation letter and will be sending it off this afternoon. I can’t take any more hatred and bigotry from this corporation.

    This kind of preaching is irresponsible and dangerous. My challenge to President Monson is to quietly give President Packer emeritus status and send him off to Paul H. Dunn land, where he can’t embarrass the Church any more.

    • Truth Awaits says:

      Your departure is sad, yet I must ask: “Where is hatred/bigotry displayed?” Hatred was displayed when the homosexuals vandalized and picketed at LDS Temples.

      You reminded me of the many times Christ taught unpopular yet true teachings.

      John 6:60-61: “many…of his disciples said, ‘this is an hard saying, and who can hear it?” Jesus said, “doth this offend you?” 66: From this time, many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more.

    • Scott says:

      Thank you Truth Awaits. This wasn’t Elder Packers opinion. He is an Apostles and Prophet of God. He speaks what the Lord wants us to hear. He speaks it loudly because the World is trying to say Bad is Good and Good is Bad.

    • fiona64 says:

      Dear Truth Awaits:

      Please provide a citation for when “homosexuals destroyed and vandalized church temples.”

      I’ll wait.


      Why? Because no such thing occurred.

      OTOH, Packer made his hate speech right after a week filled with highly publicized suicides of young GLBT people. His timing was atrocious to say the least, and no doubt contributed to further deaths.

      Rico, congratulations on walking away from one of the most mean-spirited organizations I’ve ever had the displeasure to know. I have LDS friends and family members whom I cherish, but I want nothing to do with this hate group. Sort of like the poster who commented that he can love his gay friends without approving of their behavior, eh?

  5. BD Beal says:

    From Donald Webb Nielsen:

    Excellent article Brent. I was particularly surprised by Elder Packer’s trivialization of the matter w/his unnecessary story concerning the gender of a kitten discussion that allegedly took place in a grammar school class he said he was vis…iting. “I know how we can tell whether the kitten is a boy or a girl, we can vote on it.” (BTW, Was the collective chuckle from the audience more subdued than one would have expected when an apostle cracks a joke and the normally sycophantic audience usually goes overboard w/laughter? Or was that my imagination?) That story, obviously aimed at the reactions to Prop 8, (ballot measures, court decisions, etc), seemed like an expression of desparation and frustration, a sort of implied recognition that the anti-gay forces might be losing ground. (BTW – I thought the Church’s message vis a vis Prop 8 was — we’re not anti-homosexual, we don’t condone hatred or discrimination against homosexuals, we’re just trying to protect the family and the institution of marriage. Elder Packer’s comments sounded pretty derisive, downright anti-homosexual to me. I mean, if it is a choice, and an unrighteous one at that, as he insists, then why wouldn’t discrimination and hatred be o.k. against such “sinners” and “poor-choosers”?) I also found his talk to be in stark contrast to that of Elder Uchtdorf’s in the priesthood session Saturday night in which he talked about the dangers of pride and how it can lead us to feel like we are better than others, to look down our nose at others, and how it has lead to a highly divided society on matters of politics, religion, etc. Even if one thinks about homosexuality the way Elder Packer does it seems Elder Uchtdorf’s talk requires a much more humble, charitable approach to the issue instead of tellng jokes, trivializing the matter and drawing lines in the sand and making Masada-like declarations — “we will never back down.” Is this really the issue we wish to define us? (e.g., You’re Mormon? Oh, yeah, you guys don’t smoke, drink tea, alchohol or coffee, and, you’re anti-gay) Because it is rapidly becoming an issue by which others know and recognize us, whether we like it or not. It seemed to me the Church was making progress w/its open support of the SLC area work to institute laws against discrimination against gay men and women, which seemed like a real step forward. Elder Packer’s talk was two steps backwards.

    • 2bgayornot2b says:

      Are you serious??? All Packer did was declare what the church has consistently declared and added that it is a choice to be gay or not. Here is a novel thought. Just as there are some girls I despise there are some I adore. There are guys that I like to hang out with and those I don’t. Sex is a completely different matter. Sex is to be put in the bounds that God has set. The end. It is for procreation and growth. Self control is the overarching topic. Those who can’t control themselves commit sin. If I went around screwing every girl I liked I would reap what I sow. Same goes for gays. Sin is sin is sin. We all have sins. We are all imperfect. Living within sin and helping it along is wrong and if a gay person feels bad about his actions HE SHOULD just as anyone who does wrong will! That conscience that God gave all of his children is there to guide us. God has only one path back. It does not matter what you or I or anyone else has to say on the matter. One way back. I totally get the wanting to be loved and accepted feeling. The way one does this is by repenting and becoming one with God. Christ said, “peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you”. Let your hearts not be troubled. Go and sin no more.

  6. Mister Curie says:

    Why exactly is the President of the Quorum of the 12 giving his personal opinion during the General Conference of the church, when millions of members are looking for guidance on the official positions of the church. When did General Conference become the appropriate venue for pronouncing personal opinion?

    I think, given the actions of the church and this talk, it should be fairly obvious what the official position of the church is on homosexuality.

    • Scott says:

      When did he say it was personal opinion? It sounded like doctrine to me. Elders Packers words are in accordiance with the official position of Gods word. God condemned the behavoir long ago. Elder Packer is just re-affirming them for us because the World is losing it’s way. It is calling Bad, good and Good, bad. Don’t follow the World they have nothing to offer you. God and his choosen Apostles and Prophets offer us more.

    • Blake says:

      I think the big issue was not that Pres. Packer spoke about homosexuality being wrong or sinful; the big issue is that he said that homosexuality is unnatural and that a loving Heavenly Father wouldn’t make people gay!

    • ZehnWaters says:

      @ Blake,
      No, what he said is God wouldn’t give you a temptation that you had not choice but to act upon. And he hasn’t.

      As a side note, cancer occurs naturally, but is considered ‘unnatural’ in it’s own way. So, yes, something can occur in nature and be considered ‘unnatural’.

  7. BD Beal says:

    The Church seemed to be putting Prop 8 in the rearview (the mormon.com advertising campaign was going well, the Church was getting a more modern and progressive image out there and starting to get some decent press), but now. . .


    And this is just the start. Why would the Church want to step back into this? Is it because it went so well last time? As I commented in the article, I really don’t understand it. . . Talk about organizational incoherence. If you are plowing millions of dollars into an advertising campaign, it’s generally not a good idea to send your #2 guy out in public to make statements that completely undercut the ojectives of your advertising expenditures. . .

    • Jason says:

      Elder Packer’s talk and the workings of the church only make sense if Christ is at the head, directing. That’s what I know is true by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.

  8. DavidH says:

    Anyone is welcome to believe that a conference talk represents the official teaching of the Church. I do not.

    This wikipedia piece gives a pretty good summary of the evolution of thought on the matter of homosexuality in the LDS Church, and admits that some Church leaders believe it is a choice and curable, which others acknowledge that there may be a biological basis: CLICK HERE.

    I don’t think that President Packer’s talk authoritatively states the position of the Church any more than did Elder Benson’s characterization in general conference of the civil rights movement as being prodded by communists.

    • JB says:

      DavidH is this the quote you’re talking about: “The greatest system of slavery ever devised by the forces of evil—communism—has been imposed on over one billion of the earth’s inhabitants.”? Clearly he states here the evils of communism as being an evil form of slavery. Heavenly Father loves all His children and provides the Atonement as a way to deliver us from our weaknesses, whatever they may be. We need to acknowledge those individuals who have overcome homosexuality through the Atonement. President Packer gave a message of encouragement, that we can conquer anything through Christ. Read his talk and pray about it and ask for help to understand it. The Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith is a prophet. Christ’s church has been restored and will continue to fill the earth.

    • 2bgayornot2b says:

      Did you really just quote something from Wikipedia! That is irony in itself. Hmm I wonder who that piece of literature was written by???

  9. M says:

    I feel so sad reading B. Packer’s talk. What good does that kind of labeling do? I have a testimony that gay people are naturally filled with those tendencies and most will never find fulfillment except in relationships with same-gender people. I wish we could create a space for them in church or, if that is not possible, at least love and support their desires for long-term relationships and happiness.

    • Jason says:

      It is disingenuous to play the testimony card with your assertion.

    • Russ says:

      Not Really. Read Elder Oak article “Same Gender Attractions”. I think that’s the title at least. The LDS Church handles all sexual acts outside the bonds of marriage as sin but wants to help everyone feel the love of their heavenly father and their brothers and sisters in the church. Anyone who is promoting bigotry or denegrading people isn’t in line with church doctrine. But, by the church’s definition, sexual acts by a man or woman, should only be between a man and a woman in the bonds of marriage (as traditionally defined between a woman and a man, not how people are trying to re-define it in some places). In accordance with such beliefs, it’s their duty to speak out against the ACT. Not the psychology or treatment of those desires, whatever the cause (Elder Oaks does a very thorough addressing of this in his article “Same-Gender Attraction”).

    • Bitherwack says:

      Jason, you just wrote:

      “It is disingenuous to play the testimony card with your assertion.”

      Jason, you yourself just played the ‘testimony card’ when you said:

      “Elder Packer’s talk and the workings of the church only make sense if Christ is at the head, directing. That’s what I know is true by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.”

      OK, would you rather be disingenuous, or tetched?

  10. MoJim says:

    DavidH: If this is true, then my question to you is why doesn’t the church ever release an official statement clarifying that talks given by members of the 12 are only their opinions and are neither church doctrine nor the official opinion of the church? The leaders know that most members consider GC talks to be nearly (if not completely) equivalent to scripture. By allowing this widely-held belief about the authoritativeness of GC talks to continue, statements like Elder Packer’s in GC deserve to be taken as official, or quasi-officials pronouncements of the church’s official position. If the church doesn’t want members (or the public)to take it that way, it should explicitly explain at what level of authoritativeness we should take GC talks to be.

  11. Mel says:

    Nicely argued, Brent. I fail to see anything in the benefits column either.

    David, true there have been many a crazy comment in GC which was later touted as the authority’s opinion, but the key word there is later. Right now the general membership considers this to be inspired – the entire conference was about the mouthpieces of God and how necessary they are. When it comes down to it, there is actually very little doctrine set in stone, but the opinion of the day becomes the doctrine of the day.

    I think it’s a perfectly viable option to remain an active member and disregard these comments. I can only hope that’s the approach for the majority.

  12. Madame Curie says:

    I’m just about at the same place as Rico.

    The LDS church has enormous power, financial assets, and a membership who, when asked to write a check, will immediately pull out their checkbooks and ask “how much?” With all of this power and influence for good, it shatters me to know that THIS is what people will be discussing after GC – the heterosexist remarks of one old man in a very high position in the LDS Church. He’s the next in line to Prophet. There is little doubt that his words are being taken as scripture.

    I am of the opinion that this is the Church’s response to Elder Jensen’s kind words in a closed meeting in California.

    With all of the homeless, unemployed, malnourished, etc. people in need, Conference was spent solidifying the “us” vs. “the world” bunker mentality.

    More love, please. More compassion. Indeed, more holiness give me.

    • Scott says:

      More listens to Gods mouth pieces. He calls Prophets and Apostles to teach the right and guides back to him. We all need more compassion, but it doesn’t mean we have to accept the Worlds views. We should accept Gods views and listen to his appointed Leaders.

  13. belaja says:

    Well, it seems everybody is correlated except the GAs. Or maybe just Packer.

  14. Well said, BD Beal.

    I’m with those who believe that Packer was simply stating his personal opinions about homosexuality. That Kimball talk in GC when he tells Mormons that they should not hunt for sport is another example of this kind of thing, I think. (Unfortunately — I would have loved to see Mormons grab hold of that and stop their sport hunting.) However, to my knowledge, many, many upstanding Mormons still engage in that behavior with no moral qualms. They must have regarded Kimball’s words as pure opinion.

    Anyway, what a shame about the Packer talk. As if Prop 8 hasn’t done enough damage already.

    • BD Beal says:

      Thanks for your comments. I have to admit, even though it feels like I’m a little out of place, being male and all, that I enjoy dropping by your site (http://www.the-exponent.com/) every once in a while. Keep up the good work.

    • Scott says:

      First off, what does “sport hunting” have to do with any of this? Especially when it comes down to your definition of sport hunting. I hunt for meat to feed my family. Most if not all Utah hunters do. The so called sport hunters are poachers.

      Second, Prop 8 was only about defining the meaning of marriage. Indirectly it does effect homosexuality.

      Last Elder Packer was called by God to be an Apostle, Porphet and Seer. His talk is a warning to the World that it’s views in the homosexual debate are wrong. Elder Packer speaks the same words as Prophets of old. You follow the Prophets of old without question, why is so hard to follow a Prophet now. Has the World changed your views. Why do any of us listen to the World and its views? We should listen to God and his view. We do this by reading about his Prophets of old, and listening to his current Prophets. They are the only ones who can speak for God, not the World.

    • 2bgayornot2b says:

      I agree with Scott. It sounds to me as if Exponent Caroline has called out an apostle to a duel at which of them knows better the will and thoughts of God. My bet lies with Packer.

    • Bitherwack says:

      So true Caroline!
      Whenever we start legislating our standards– enforcing others to abide by them, we invariably pay the consequences. Missouri, Nauvoo were disasters. Prop 8 has shown that we haven’t yet learned our lesson.

      I suspect the missionary work will become much more difficult. What member would be proud to tell their friends they belong to a gay bashing, homophobic church?

    • fiona64 says:

      No, Scott. Prop 8 was not about “defining the meaning of marriage.”

      It was about *taking away rights* from law-abiding citizens.

      Which of your basic civil rights (of which marriage happens to be one), shall we put on the ballot to see how people feel about it? We’ll make sure to have a big, dishonest scare campaign and “call” people to work on it, to boot.

      See, I’m pretty sure that if it were *your* rights being trampled, you’d raise a big ol’ stink. On the other hand, you seem to be just fine with it when it’s people whom you find icky.

      BTW, I’m straight and married. My only dog in this fight is wondering whose rights your church will try to stamp out next. Equality under the law is just that.

  15. Zammsmom says:

    I consistently and immediately fall in love with brilliant writers.

    I’m in love with Brent today. :O)


    My whole soul has been heavy all day. My Facebook page is filled with links and comments and “likes” about this subject. I’m so frustrated and disillusioned. I was raised LDS, therefore I am a black and white thinker when it comes to religion… but nothing is black and white anymore for me.

    • BD Beal says:

      Thanks for your kind words–they are appreciated. I hope that today is a better day for you. There is a lot of good in the Church–and the Church does a lot of good–but it is easy for something like this to overshadow everything else. That’s the danger of trying to convince people (or bully them into accepting) that black is white (particularly when they can see for themselves that it’s black). I’m truly sorry that you are having a difficult time with all this.

    • Bitherwack says:

      I feel the same way Zammsmom. It has been a dark week. It really is hard to know what is left to do. I don’t want to leave the church, but I’m seeing things get difficult for my son. I didn’t have the strength to leave the church when it was especially crappy, but I can’t stand the thought of my son going through this. It only seems to be getting worse. Blogs like Brent’s are a balm. I hope it will be enough to get me through this tough patch…

  16. Nicely put, Brent. Excellent closing line. I couldn’t agree more.

  17. Blythe says:

    What a well-reasoned piece. Another almost inevitable comparison – Galileo and the Catholic church.

    I’m an ex-Mormon. I left five years ago and resigned formally after prop 8. My main reason for leaving was exactly this. I knew in my heart that the church was wrong, wrong, wrong about homosexuality, and I was absolutely convinced that they were doing real harm. I became convinced that the church’s stance on this issue was so wrong that it overshadowed everything else that might be positive. I think at some point every liberal thinker has to question who is heading this organization and where it’s going, and whether you can morally stomach being associated with it. If the church wants to keep its members, they are going to have to embrace current scientific knowledge. Because they are not just losing homosexual members over this – they are losing families of homosexuals, and they are losing heterosexual people of conscience who refuse to be a part of an anti-gay church.

    And once you realize the church and its leaders are dead wrong about one thing, it’s easier to start thinking of what else they might be wrong about.

    Oh, and Madame Curie: I think you hit the mail on the head (re: it’s a response to Jensen’s comments).

    • BD Beal says:

      Thanks for your comment. I liked your assessment of the damage this kind of rhetoric does–it’s a cascade of damage, really, and it has a way of rippling through the Church in unexpected ways.

    • BD Beal says:

      I agree that it is a difficult calculus (the weighing of positives and negatives). There are certainly days when it seems like the negative side of the scale is heavier. . . I agree with you completely about the dangers of climbing out onto the slippery slope. . . (I’m trying not to slide all the way down myself).

    • Scott says:

      Just because the world thinks something is right, normal, and scientific doesn’t mean it is. What matters is what God thinks. Throughout the history of the bible he has condemned same sex attraction saying it is wrong. Why can’t Prophets today say the same thing? Who is right and who is wrong. God says it is wrong, World says it is right. Which way do you think I’m going to go? Which way do you think you should go. Follow the world views or follow God and his leaders views.

  18. Derek says:

    Like Rico, and several others that I know, this too is the last straw for myself. I’m sending in my letter of resignation ASAP.

    • BD Beal says:

      We, as a group, spent literally millions of dollars (and broke the law, by the way–the Church ended up paying a fine) to take away what many considered to be a basic right. A little spray paint on the temple sign should be the least of our concerns.

  19. LDesque says:

    I’ve been a member for over 4 years now, and taking into account all of the GC talks I’ve heard over those years, I can safely say that I’ve never gotten the same feeling from Packer’s talks that I’ve gotten from those of the other apostles. I can’t imagine Monson, Eyring, or Uchtdorf giving the talk that we heard from Packer. I can’t imagine the Savior giving that talk.

    That said, I almost feel as though the church is letting Packer pull these punches, as he did with the ERA, and with his talk where he said that feminists, intellectuals, and homosexuals are the biggest threat out there, because it keeps all that extremism limited to one person. If things go the way I think they will within the next few years, the church will have to bend somewhat, and years down the line we can dismiss the things we heard from Packer the same way we dismiss racist comments by Brigham Young or most things said by Bruce R. McConkie. It’s easier to revise later on if it’s just this one apostle than if they all say it. Not that that’s a good thing, it’s just a way I could see this going.

    • Sylvia says:

      As someone pointed out in one of the articles in the Trib, this seems an anomaly in recent statements in other general conferences by other apostles who said same-sex attraction was not a choice and that having it by itself it not a sin–just acting on it. I remember Pres Hinckley’s impassioned plea for kindness and love surrounding this issue. That is what was so difficult about Pres Packer’s talk–there was no tempering comments about love and acceptance. It seemed the perfect talk to justify the homophobics around us. I was very saddened by it. I was also very bothered by the assertion that God wouldn’t make someone that way. As you point out, children are born with no genitalia or with both sets and parents have to choose the child’s sex and sometimes they choose wrong.
      I felt Elder Packer’s talk set us back 30 years in our understanding of this issue and our relationships with gay people. Argh.

    • Bitherwack says:

      LDesque, (love the name, by the way)

      I agree. The church has already done a bit to temper Elder Packer’s talk in the print edition. It is true, we can but hope for change. My fears are that the gradual bend you mention may become impossible if Elder Packer outlives Pres Monson. In the event of a Packer presidency, he will most certainly see to it that homophobia becomes institutionalized. (Even more than it already has with the Proclamation) In the event of a Packer presidency, it could take centuries (think Brigham Young and racism– still extant in the south, I hear.) for any progress. Imagine the repercussions that we’ll have with the missionary effort. “Oh, you belong to that homophobic hate-group?”

  20. S. Crofts says:

    I found this to be a useful perspective, different than what is written in your post -


    • BD Beal says:

      Thanks for posting the link. It is very well done. I respectfully disagree with it, however. I think it’s interesting that the author elects to refer to being gay or homosexuality as “struggling with same-sex attraction.” One of my points is that our theology backs us into a corner, and if you follow Elder Packer’s reasoning, then it forces us to conclude that gay people don’t exist–that people really aren’t gay (they are just struggling with same-sex attraction). I don’t accept this–and I think this kind of thinking does real damage. If you are heterosexual, think about your sexuality for a minute. Do you struggle with opposite-sex attraction? Did you, at any point, decide to be attracted to the opposite sex? I’m sure you could live a celibate life–people do it all the time for all sorts of reasons–but that’s not the point. It not just about sex. It’s about companionship, mutual support, and being intimate with another human being. If you are heterosexual, then you just can’t get those things from same-sex relationships–and for most people, their lives will be shallower without them. Likewise, if you’re homosexual, then you can’t get those things from heterosexual relationships (and I’m sure there are folks in the middle that could go either way, but let’s leave them out of the discussion for now). One of my points is that Elder Packer just doesn’t get it–it’s not about same-sex attraction, it’s about being gay–it’s about being homosexual–and being able to fulfil the basic needs for companionship, mutual support, and intimacy with someone of the same sex. It’s not about just having sex or not having sex (ask anyone who’s been married for more than 6 months).

  21. Chris Cottrell says:

    Opinion? nope.. Anything that is said at Conference is considered scripture. They write it up in the Ensign and encourage home teachers to teach from it. And every talk is written up before hand and reviewed prior to anything being said. This just didn’t get out without being reviewed and approved. Ignorant..

    My daughter has ADHD and while I don’t think she would commit suicide, there are studies saying that the risk is very high, especially with females. This is something she was born with just like someone who is gay. Her killing herself would not be something she would really choose to do or should be accountable for because she has a problem, but in the mormon world and most christians would be really bad. By the way, she is young and getting lots of counseling and getting help for it in the form of medicine, but being gay is not something that is a problem that is life threatening. She’ll be ok. As a parent, I have to do what I can to help her all that I can.

    • cpaxleyman says:

      If we are to accept everything that is said in General Conference as scripture, then we are in a world of contradictions. It then comes down to an argument about which of the leaders is right, which then negates that everything said in conference is scripture. The only thing that is scripture is that which is officially voted upon and entered into the scriptural canon. We should be clear about that, despite how often we are told that everything in the Ensign and in General Conference, or even that which is said by our own bishops is as if God is speaking. No sir. The repeated admonishments that when they speak out on any subject, it is to be considered the word of God is terribly confusing, since statements directly contradict in substance and message and even declaration, one speaker to another. When we heard from Elder Holland in a previous conference that we do not know everything about the nature and cause of homosexuality, and that we no long view programs that force changing from homosexuality to heterosexuality as effective nor advisable, then the archaic, giant leap backward by Boyd K. Packer is almost embarrassing. So, for me, and for many, you can see the problem. I think we are to listen to the talks, then study them out and pray about them ourselves and come to our truth with God’s help. There is no other way to do it without doing contortions to accommodate all the different “official” statements on the issue. I personally think the rest of the Brethren were as surprised and disturbed by Packer’s emphatic statements as most of us were. This will make some of you very upset, but there comes a time when it is wise to “Emeritize” some of our leaders. It has been done in the past when their capacity is sufficiently diminished. I suspect that there is much jostling and damage control being done right now with our Gen Authorities. I was heartsick about Bro. Packer’s hurtful words. And this, in the face of what we learned this week about yet another young gay man taking his own life, due to the cruelty (and maybe they would say, justifiable attitudes) of so-called friends. How I would have loved to hear words encouraging compassion and denouncing such inhumane attitudes and behaviors. Think of how powerful that could have been for our young people.

      I have to take some of the things said under advisement, and frankly, with a healthy grain of salt in order to survive in this confusing religion and faith. It doesn’t do me any good to give my conscience and my process over to a leader.

      No man, no matter who he is and how long he has served, is infallible. No one. Sometimes man’s opinions can be so stubborn as to block any further enlightenment. We know that the Lord cannot penetrate a stubborn, and in this case, probably diminished mind. I see the Lord cringe at this blind intractable attitude. Luckily, I don’t demand that my leaders be infallible nor perfect. That is why I can listen to Boyd K. Packer and chalk it up to something other than inspiration. I will not, I cannot worship any man. I only worship God and my Savior. They are the ultimate authority for me. I need no interpreter in this case. Brother Packer’s statements were sincere but very flawed. He is, after all, a human being, as I am. I love the leaders and appreciate their service, but when they start talking as if they themselves created the light instead of doing their best as human beings, called of God, yet imperfect in their callings, to carry the light to others, then they are off the mark, in my opinion. This is an idea that Morris West addressed, when he had similar concerns when it came to his Catholic faith and its leaders. We mostly get the truth from our leaders, but sometimes I think God wants us to not blindly follow every off-the-curb idea that comes out of their mouths. I think God trusts us to do that. Heavens, it is what we voted for in the pre-earth convention. Else what is this earth life for?

      Okay, I’m done. I wish you well in your spiritual journey and hope you will do the same for me and others.

    • TheSpiritInUs says:

      How come we all seem to ignore our most important revelations. We put the prophets and apostles on pedestals that no person belongs on. The exercising of unrighteous dominion is something that God has told us occurs in “almost all men.” It shouldn’t surprise us when that “almost all” includes leaders of the Church. In fact, the context of the scripture specifically refers to those called to positions of authority. Without saying anything about this specific man or this specific talk, let’s get things straight; leaders of the Church can and do exercise unrighteous dominion and that does not change where the priesthood keys to saving ordinances are. The Spirit of Christ is given to every man (not just the “mouthpieces” of the Lord) to know how to judge between good and evil. Use it.

  22. Tyson B. says:

    I really appreciate what you have written here Brent. It is a thoughtful commentary that makes really great points.

    I should preface the following comments with this: I am not a believer anymore. I am a religious/god skeptic. Readers can take that as they will, but I think it is important to be up front about where individuals like myself come from.

    This issue brings up even deeper problems within the religion itself, highlighted in the comment that this is just Elder Packer’s opinion. If the apostles and prophets are just giving us their opinion in lieu of communication/instruction from god in official gatherings like GC, what good are they? I can get opinion from anyone, anywhere. Why would the Lord even bother to anoint people with high callings and a direct line to him if they have nothing to add to the advancement/enlightenment of humanity that personal opinion? The church has had problems like this since it’s founding, with the lord inspiring the leaders to change the church after society has already made great advancements without the example of the church to guide them.

    I was raised to look at the church as a force enacting change in the world, but instead it shifts in response to the world correcting itself without the help of prophets and apostles. The role of the church enacting advancement in a world of billions of people is negligible at best. Elder Packer’s talk shows that the church can be a force for regression.

    That said, I completely agree that everything we hear from church officials is opinion. What matters is how the larger membership views the talk.

    • Tyson B. says:

      Adding to my comment above, instead of being an example of bringing advancement to humanity, the church has historically proven itself to be actively opposed to the advancement of humanity. This is problematic for the claim to divine revelation.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Tyson, I agree, but want to make one comment.
      The saddest thing about the church is how really progressive it was in its infancy. The united order was a great way to bring to a whole fledgling community the viability of a well established one. The deseret alphabet was a remarkable achievement in spelling reform. Women were encouraged to further their education. (Utah had the most women with doctorates- anywhere.) The Suffrage movement was embraced there. Utah cast the deciding vote to abolish prohibition. The perpetual emigration fund was forward thinking resource management. (Keeping that money where it does the most good.)
      You know, we had a really cool, progressive, creatively managed religion for a while. The world caught up with us, and so now we’ve adopted the attitudes that were popular in the 19th century.

  23. Stanley says:

    Interesting…I think a lot of this goes back to how we define scripture. Does all scripture fall from the lips of God and alight upon our ears unsullied by personal experience, differences in language, etc? That’s a fundamentalist interpretation that isn’t supported by the actions of all early church leaders. Even Brigham Young, who made some astounding statements and then declared that they had to be accepted, would also say that members were expected to find out in their own wrestlings with God whether they were true.

    From the New Testament, Peter and Paul disagreed with each other. Who was speaking scripture when in their debates? I could fill pages with examples from the Old and New Testaments when scriptures appear not to be a perfect representation of divine intent. There’s an interesting dynamic in Church today that is of concern. On one side, we have traditional Mormons who hold the prophets and apostles as infallible. On the other side, (and it’s really the other side of the same coin) we have people who see the real or apparent imperfections of these same leaders and therefore reject them wholeheartedly, and some even go so far as to reject all that is good in the Church. Ironically, I think both sets of people are much more alike in their own versions of fundamentalist than either will admit to.

    In truth, doctrinally, we hold none to be perfect. And though I won’t debate the various meanings of this verse, even Christ did not claim perfection in this life or even to be called good. Yet surely, many of his teachings are uplifting and serve the advancement of humanity. I, personally, believe those teachings are much more than that. My point is (and I readily admit that Elder Packer’s talk was uncomfortable for me to hear) that there is value in neither rejecting nor accepting his message wholesale. The rush to judgment on either side would make us more like lemmings than lambs. But that is symptomatic of our society these days. We rush from side of the boat to the other until we end keel up.

    • BD Beal says:

      Thanks for the comment. I enthusiastically agree with the assertion that we, as individuals, need to process, assess, and determine for ourselves if the spiritual guidance we receive is of value. In my opinion, there is too much emphasis on “following” rather than on developing our own spiritual sense. We all need to take ownership of own spiritual lives.

  24. Dude says:

    Until human beings can produce offspring through homosexual relations, homosexuality will be unnatural.

    Subject A: mankind
    Subject B: womankind

    Subjects A&B experiment with homosexuality. Human beings don’t procreate, and cease to exist.

    Unnatural and a social wrong? Yes. If applied to the world as a whole, honosexuality has a negative impact.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Homosexuality in the animal kingdom has a tendency to increase as populations reach maximum sustainability. I see no difference in humans. Rampant and unchecked procreation reaches a critical mass beyond which checks in population are triggered. Some of those checks are inbreeding resulting in genetic weakness, increased susceptibility to disease, infighting and increased homosexuality. All are ways nature has found to maintain ideal population levels.

    • fiona64 says:

      Oh, dear. I see I am also going to have to drag science into the room.


      There is a principle of evolution called reciprocal altruism. Not all evolutionary fitness is reproductive; some of it is based in the aforementioned principle. Boiled down to its simplest elements, reciprocal altruism means that you help out others in the community without being personally affected by the assistance that you provide. You do it because it’s the right, or “neighborly” thing to do. On another occasion, perhaps someone will do the same for you.

      There is most assuredly an evolutionary and natural basis for homosexuality. And that’s to say nothing of the 1500 documented non-human animal species that practice it. Our closest relative, the bonobo apes (we share 97 percent of our DNA with them) practice lesbianism as their primary form of sexual congress.

  25. Dude says:

    “We cannot change; we will not change,” Elder Packer declared.  Didn’t we hear something similar from another apostle during the Church’s struggle with the issue of blacks and the priesthood?”


    Nice way of recollecting an argument when you were at that age. Drawing back to pre-teen thoughts and memories is “very credible.”

    • Scott says:

      Blacks and the Priesthood aren’t the same argument. Many Prophets plead with the Lord to allow them to have the Priesthood years before it occurred. When the time was right the Lord allowed it. Whether you beleive it was political or not, it was on the Lords time not ours. When you fail to beleive the words of the Prophet then you fail to see the revelation and timing of the Lord.

      Looking back on ones memories from years before isn’t credible. In his story at the first he demonizes Elder Packer. His memory is already biased. God sends us Apostles and Prophets to guide and tells us when we are out of Gods graces. When we need to repent and return to his stariaght and narrow path. Elder Packer speaks for the Lord and what he says is what our Lord wants.

    • BD Beal says:

      Here’s the question I posed: “What do you do when religion tells you that the world is a certain way, but then you look out your window and discover that reality, inconveniently, belies your religious constructions?” One option, of course, is to close your eyes and just believe what you’re told. I’m certainly not going to try to take that option away from you.

    • Dude Really? says:

      If you listened to the talk, you would know the source, and it wasn’t some pre-teen recollection. In fact, you’ll be able to read that same quote in the next issue of the Ensign.

    • Scott says:

      When you look out the window you see the world and its views only. This is not opening your eyes, it is closing them. You are accepting the opinions of a world that seeks to destroy your soul. Opening our eyes to Gods choosen Apostles and Prophets helps us keep our options. It doesn’t take them away.

    • BD Beal says:

      Scott, suicide bombers employ exactly the same logic. At some point, you have to take ownership for your own beliefs and trust in your own capacity to make sense of the world. Ultimately you are responsible for your own spiritual life.

    • fiona64 says:

      Scott wrote: When the time was right, the Lord allowed it.

      Yeah. Conveniently enough, “the time was right” when the Church was about to be in big fat hot water with the IRS over the matter.

  26. Scott says:

    If homosexual behavior is natural and God created homosexual tendency, why would he condemn the behavior throughout the biblical history? Why would God say it is bad? He couldn’t be God because he would now be unfair. Your argument is that he created people to be homosexual, but them he condemns them and has them killed.

    I can’t believe God would create someone to be homosexual. Would he give them same sex attraction as something to overcome in this life. After all we come here to be tested. I also come to be tested. I should have compassion and love for everyone no matter what their problems or tests in life are. I can be loving to the person without loving the sin. I define sin as disobeying Gods commandments. It doesn’t have to be an eleventh commandment that reads thou shalt not be homosexual. When God commands his people to destroy other nations because of their perversions and whoredomes which include homosexual behavior, then I understand we aren’t supposed to do it.

    Leviticus 18: 22 aThou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination

    I beleive Elder Packer was clear and exacting. We would do wise to heed his counsel.

    Thank you for letting me comment.

    • BD Beal says:

      I’d be careful about citing the Old Testament. . . You might get yourself stoned for wearing two different kinds of cotton (or have to stone your eldest son at the city gates for being disobedient). My point is that God hasn’t (and doesn’t) doesn’t condemn it–we have.

    • Scott says:

      He condemned the behavoir and eliminated nations that were “rippened” because of their iniquity. We no longer eliminate nations and because of Christ we approach things differently. We believe we can help bring them back into harmony with Gods teachings. Our Prophets and Apostles teach us the right way just as the Prophets of old did. I say “ours” because they are the Prophets and Apostles for the whole world whether the world accepts them or not.

      My point is he speaks the truth and we are wise to follow his counsel.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Whether or not God has condemned homosexuality, have you ever notice how it is only the all too human people who are doing the tormenting? Why can’t you leave that up to God?

      He is the only one with the authority to judge, He is the only one with the authority to punish, He is the only one with the authority to reward.

      Why can’t you leave that up to God?

      Mormons don’t seem to be one tenth as interested in scandalous heterosexual behavior as they are about gay sex.
      Is it possible to see homophobia as a convenient camouflage to distract from ‘normal’ (hetero) oriented, but inappropriate behavior, or repressed homosexual feelings?

    • fiona64 says:

      Oh, Scott. Are you also this unfamiliar with your own Bible? Sodom and Gomorrah (those nations that you claim God destroyed because of homosexuality)? I think you’re a little confused.

      Do join me over at Ezekiel 16:49, will you?

      Truly, this was the sin of your sister Sodom: pride, a full measure of food, and the comforts of wealth in peace, were seen in her and her daughters, and she gave no help to the poor or to those in need.

    • fiona64 says:

      This one is for both our friend Scott here and Boyd K. Packer:

      I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. — Susan B. Anthony

  27. Peg says:

    Personal opinion or speaking as an apostle?that’s an easy one. He invoked the proclamation on the family as his authority.a document considered revelation from god.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Peg, where does revelation come into the process when the document was written by committee? I’ve never heard of revelation happening that way before. (Except in the Catholic church.)

  28. Bitherwack says:

    Have other people found it odd that after the church came down on the side of nature over nurture as the cause for homosexuality, this sort of assertion of the nurture argument still be aired?

    For a unified church operating on revelation from the same God, these sure are mixed messages.

  29. General Conference talks are not scripture. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned members are who continually repeat this idea, it isn’t true. Three things need to happen in order for something to become included in our canon as official doctrine and scripture:

    1. It must be approved by the First Presidency
    2. It must be voted on and approved by the Quorum of the 12 Apostles.
    3. And most importantly, it must be accepted in a sustain vote by the ENTIRE MEMBERSHIP of the church

    This has only happened six times in our entire history.

    -1830, Bible and Book of Mormon were officially accepted with the organization of the Church

    -1835, Doctrine and Covenants, first 103 sections were officially accepted

    -1880, Doctrine and Covenants additional 32 sections were accepted along with the Pearl of Great Price

    -1890, Polygamy was repealed (Official Declaration, p. 291)

    -1976, D&C sections 137 & 138 were officially accepted

    -1978, The priesthood was made available to all worthy males regardless of race (Official Declaration 2, p. 292)

    Everything else … and I mean everything, is someone’s opinion. President Packer’s conference talk was not “scripture.”

    • David says:

      Actually, in order for something to be doctrine of the church one thing must happen.

      The prophet must state it under the direction of the spirit. Adding scripture to the cannon is different. They bring it before the church, not to ratify, but for members of the church to sustain.

      In effect by bringing the new doctrine up in a general conference setting they are informing members of the church about the doctrine and asking them support that doctrine.

      Doctrine is not dependent upon the populous of the church. That’s how apostasy happens.

      “And thus the Gospel began to be bpreached, from the beginning, being declared by choly dangels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.” – Moses 5:58

      “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” – Amos 3:7

      “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” – D&C 1:38

    • David, I am more than happy to match you quote for quote any time :-)

      You (and others who make these claims) can follow your own form of apostasy by believing that everything spoken in General Conference is scripture and official doctrine, or you can listen to what our church, and our prophets and apostles, actually teach us. There are very important historical and spiritual reasons why they constantly teach us NOT to hang on every word they say. They know better, and they do not want to rob us of our free agency by blindly following them. They are human beings and make mistakes. Do I really need to go into the never-ending list of “doctrines” espoused in the past that have been corrected and rejected?

      Follow the prophets and apostles. Here is what they tell us:

      “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.” -Official Church Press Release, 04 May 2007, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine.”

      “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works.” -Elder Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, pp. 162-3, “The Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Address delivered to seminary and institute teachers, BYU, July 8, 1964.

      “The Church has confined the sources of doctrine by which it is willing to be bound before the world to the things that God has revealed, and which the Church has officially accepted, and those alone. These would include the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price; these have been repeatedly accepted and endorsed by the Church in general conference assembled, and are the only sources of absolute appeal for our doctrine.” -Official Doctrine. Brigham H. Roberts, sermon of 10 July 1921, delivered in Salt Lake Tabernacle, printed in Deseret News (23 July 1921) sec. 4:7

    • Bitherwack says:

      How do you consider the “Proclamation on the Family”? I noticed you didn’t mention it, and yet it has gone through the same process you outlined for all the others in the canonization process. Though written by committee, (I wonder where inspiration came into it) it was presented for approval by the general membership of the church (with the exception of a few of us who refused to raise our hands)

    • Bitherwack,

      As far as I know, it was not presented to the membership and voted upon, not like the others. It does have the signatures of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, so I guess it is pretty close…

      I don’t believe they have formally submitted it for inclusion in the canon. Am I wrong? I just did a quick interweb search, and can’t find a record of it. All the sites that referenced it say this did not yet happen.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Brian, thank you for looking into that! It actually is quite a relief. (I’m sincerely hoping it is true.) My recollection is that we did have to sustain the “Proclamation” at the first Ward Conference after the General Conference that it was presented in. (Somehow I also have a memory of feeling uncomfortable not raising my hand to sustain the proclamation while watching something on a video screen, and must have mistakenly assumed it was General Conference?)

    • Bitherwack says:

      Brian, I just experienced an odd thing that is either cute or bizarre depending on how you view the church. The following is the verbatim transcript of my attempt to learn more on the ‘Proclamation’ from lds.org window that professes to be able to answer questions. I wasn’t the most accurate in my spelling, and you will see that remains in the transcript.

      Welcome to Mormon.org chat.
      A representative will be with you shortly.
      Agent [July] is ready to assist you.
      Agent [Diana] has joined the chat.
      July: Hello!
      Me: Hi July, thank you for being available to answer my
      Me:Diana too!
      July: Great,
      July: How may we help you?H
      Me: I was wondering about the ‘degree of canonicity’ (if that
      makes any sense) of the proclamation on the family.
      July: That does not really make sense, sorry!
      Diana: hi
      Me: Is it officially scripture, or more of a statement of doctrinal
      Me: What I mean is: Has it, did it go through the official
      canonization process hat hose final sections of the D+C did…
      ie ‘by common consent’ through sustaining by the whole
      July: Wha is it the point of this question?
      July: What do you “really” want to know?
      July: Our purpose is to Invite others to come Unto Christ
      July: teaching:
      Me: I would like ot know if the Proclamation is official scripture
      or a declaration of doctrine
      July: Faith in Jesus Christ
      July: Repentance
      July: Baptism
      July: receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost
      July: and enduring until the end
      July: that is our Purpose
      July: May we help you with that?
      Me: Um, so if I have a doctrinal question, you won’t help me?
      Me: I believe in the standard works, bu I find he proclamation
      July: We teach simple principles
      Me: OK, I am grateful for your generous use of time…. I cant
      seem o get an answer, and thought (mistakenly?) that you
      might be able to help.
      Agent [Diana] has left the chat.
      The chat session has ended.

      That is verbatim the chat I’ve just been in, and I’m sill trying to figure out
      if I’ve just been transported into some sort of Mormon “Alphaville” (sigh,)


  30. madison says:

    I’m not gay and I don’t have gay family members. But still it is exhausting, as an LDS member, to keep overlooking the ignorance of some Church leaders. When “Six Consequences” was taught to us one Sunday during the 3 block meeting I immediately knew it was wrong, and we did our homework, looking up actual court cases which confirmed our hunch. The leadership ignored us. My husband resigned his position in the bishopric. The Prop 8 campaign employed fear-mongering and deceit. I’ve tried to chalk it up to people not knowing better, making bad decisions. But Packer’s talk just adds more fuel to the fire. How blind can the leadership be to the hurt and harm they are causing? I don’t expect them to sanction same-sex marriage but I do expect the “principal” to be taught honestly and lovingly. Their insensitivity and ignorance is astounding, really. I’m very disappointed this talk was allowed to be presented in the form that it was. It is really making me question whether I can/should continue being an active member.

  31. Lee says:

    Sorry to enter this discussion so late. Everyone has probably left the party and gone home by now. I found this via a link at another site.

    I think part of the problem is that many Mormons have trouble fitting the brain into their theology. I don’t mean this in the sarcastic way it might sound. I mean that we believe that our spirit is the center of intelligence and truth, and gender is an attribute of the spirit. What role does the brain play in all this? Is it a control panel the spirit uses to control the body? As neuroscience finds out more and more about the brain, it is obvious that it is central to all aspects of thought, perception, reasoning, memory and the like. A small lesion appears, due to stroke or injury, and part of the brain’s function is disrupted, sometimes in very small-scale ways. I remember learning of a person who lost his/her memory for words naming root vegetables. Split-brain patients (those with their corpus callosum severed) have something like two personalities inhabiting the same body. Alzheimer’s dementia leads to profound changes in personality as well as memory. My point? The brain has a gender, and the brain’s gender is expressed in sexual orientation as well as gender identity. The brain’s gender is laid down starting at about four months during the gestational period, and is determined largely by hormones present in the uterine environment. Brains are “genderized”, and the result is not “altogether male” or “altogether female”, but on a continuum, with considerable overlap in a minority of the population. There is extensive research to show that the brains of gay males show many characteristics statistically associated with being female. Whatever may be the case for the spirit, there are consistent and statistically significant ways in which the brains of gay males more closely resemble the brains of females than their straight counterparts.

  32. NB says:

    To Brent: I appreciate your sincere attempt at a thoughtful, well-written and respectful posting. Such arguments result in discourse that most effectively finds truth.

    But let me point to a flaw, if I may.

    Quote from the Daily Herald:
    An LDS Church leader said Sunday that homosexuality is not “inborn.” “Why would our heavenly father do that to anyone?” asked Elder Boyd K. Packer. “Remember, he is our father.”

    Actual quote from President Packer’s talk:
    “Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father.”

    There is a big difference between the two! (Note “Some suppose” and “cannot overcome”) The assumption in every post on this page (and many in the media and other web sites) is that President Packer stated homosexuality is not “inborn”. If you listen carefully you know this is clearly false. It a classic straw man argument that is damaging to how we handle this very important topic, not only in the LDS community, but in our society. (Shame on the likes of the Daily Herald for jumping to conclusions without verifying what was actually said.)

    So here is your mistake (besides not verifying what was said):
    “Why would he create homosexuals, and then condemn them? For Elder Packer, the solution to this conundrum is to conclude that God didn’t (and doesn’t) create them.”

    Your claim: President Packer thinks that because God does not create homosexuals they must either suffer from some affliction or choose this themselves and are, therefore evil. This is another straw man argument! No where does he talk about where he thinks homosexuality comes from.

    Another quote from your post:
    “To admit that God creates gay people would represent a troubling theological inconvenience, to say the least.” This is absurd! Even if President Packer claimed that having homosexual tendencies is a sin (he doesn’t), he surely knows God created at least a few sinners. The whole point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He paid a great price for ALL of us.

    In my view, President Packer’s remarks talk more about expectations of conduct, repentance and forgiveness than condemnation. Of these, there are plenty of opinions to be debated. If your position differs from someone else’s, even an apostle’s, that is fine. But it is wrong to mis-characterize your opponent’s position. Shame on you Brent.

    (Most readers do not need this but, a straw man argument is when you set up your opponent’s position inaccurately so you can easily knock it down.)

    • BD Beal says:

      Hmm. I don’t think I’ve misrepresented Elder Packer’s position. It seems clear to me that:

      1) Elder Packer (and others) are reluctant to use the word “gay” or “homosexual”–preferring the phrase “same-section attraction,” as in so-and-so has struggled with same-sex attraction (instead of saying that so-and-so is gay). The reason for this, it seems to me, is that there is a reluctance to view homosexuality as innate.
      2) Regardless of where same-sex tendencies come from, they are to be resisted–and should be resisted (cue the scripture about not being tempted above one’s capacity to resist).
      2) Homosexuality, or in Church-speak, the temptation (or tendency, or whatever) to act on feelings of same-sex attraction, is equivalent to other immoral behavior, like pornography.
      3) Homosexuality (and same-sex marriage, by implication) is wrong and will always be wrong because God said so (cue the cute kitten story with the kids in the class voting to decide the gender).

      I don’t think any of these assumptions are mischaracterizations of the content of Elder Packer’s talk.

      As I stated in an earlier response, I don’t accept these assumptions–and I think this kind of thinking does real damage. If you are heterosexual, think about your sexuality for a minute. Do you struggle with opposite-sex attraction? Did you, at any point, decide to be attracted to the opposite sex? I’m sure you could live a celibate life–people do it all the time for all sorts of reasons–but that’s not the point. It not just about sex. It’s about companionship, mutual support, and being intimate with another human being. If you are heterosexual, then you just can’t get those things from same-sex relationships–and for most people, their lives will be shallower without them. Likewise, if you’re homosexual, then you can’t get those things from heterosexual relationships (and I’m sure there are folks in the middle that could go either way, but let’s leave them out of the discussion for now). One of my points is that Elder Packer just doesn’t get it–it’s not about same-sex attraction, it’s about being gay–it’s about being homosexual–and being able to fulfil the basic needs for companionship, mutual support, and intimacy with someone of the same sex. It’s not about just having sex or not having sex (ask anyone who’s been married for more than 6 months).

    • AE says:

      NB, thank you for pointing out the misquote. I agree that President Packer did not say that homosexual tendencies are “not inborn,” as everyone seems to be interpreting his words. Rather, he was saying that they are not unconquerable.

      I find no conundrum in God creating homosexuals and them asking them to restrain themselves. He created us all as sinners, with our own weaknesses in different areas, and asks us restrain ourselves.

      I’m no expert on the emotional part of dealing with homosexuality in conflict with religion, but I can see that it is absolutely heartbreaking. I think President Packers words actually offer some hope on the subject, not condemnation.

  33. Susie says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for putting out such a well- written piece. This has been weighing heavily on my over the last few days, and I am so glad to know I am not alone.

  34. Will says:

    Those that support Boyd K. Packer can show it by following the link.


  35. NP says:

    “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” this is the same question as “Why is there innocent suffering in the world?”

    God gave us all imperfections, urges, disfigurements, asymmetry, pain, etc. You ask why. Answer it for yourself, it is the human question. Just recall that you CAN ask that question and thank God.

    God has created suffering and joy. God has ‘condemned’ us already. God has ‘blessed’ us already. We are innocent in that we are not God. But, we ARE. Thank God.

  36. BD Beal says:

    A great site picked this up: Religion Dispatches

  37. Mike says:

    So is this article advocating that gay and lesbian couples ought to be abe to be sealed in the temple? Are we saying that they ought to be able to have kids?
    I don’t hate homosexuals. I do think a lot of the information blasted out there about gay statistics is misrepresented. I don’t want my kids to be gay, but if they are I won’t love them any less. I’ve never had gay tendencies, so I don’t know what that’s like, and won’t assume that I can understand those who do. I can say I have other inclinations that are in opposition to my moral understanding. Some people are born as alcoholics or addicted to drugs etc. Some people have more violent natures that make them prone to violate human law as well as the divine. If these tendencies are natural and given to us from birth, we still have a choice as to what we do with them. If they are the result of actions or choices, then actions or choices can be made to change them. That being said, I respect other’s right to choose, and only ask they do the same in return. If supporting the Church and what I feel is right is narrow-minded or bigoted from your view, than I’d appreciate it if I could continue in it much as I allow openly and actively gay relations, even though it’s morally wrong in my view.

    • BD Beal says:

      I think a live-and-let-live policy on these kinds issues, as you suggest, is the right path to go down. Religions should be able to preach what they want to preach–and I’ll be out there on the street corner defending freedom of religion along with everyone else. When it comes to public policy, however, I think the rules of the game are a little different. One religion should not expect to be able to force its views on the rest of society–regardless of the issue or the specific religion involved. I think we also need to remind ourselves that basic civil rights aren’t something we vote on. We often have to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority–that’s why we have the Bill of Rights and an independent judiciary. It wouldn’t have mattered if there had been a referendum in Alabama that demonstrated that it was the “will of the people” that blacks not be given the right to vote or ride in the front of the bus–just like it really doesn’t matter what the majority of people think about the rights of LGTB community (cue Packer’s kitten story–although I’m using it a little different here, smile). Religions need to keep their beliefs to themselves and we need to get on with creating a public square that is more open and accepting for everyone.

  38. David says:

    I really liked this thoughtful analysis…saw it after a friend posted the link on facebook. Thanks!

  39. Sideon says:

    Well done.

    You hit on the crux of the entire argument here with your brilliant writing, that Mormons have a pathological fixation and belief-system regarding gay and lesbians that in no way resembles reality. Gays and lesbians do exist, they do have relationships, they do raise families, and they are part of every family of every race in every country of every denomination. Marriage equality already exists in several states. NO WHERE are any religious organizations required to allow, sanction, approve gay and lesbian marriages within their facilities. Gays and lesbians don’t WANT to get married in LDS temples – we don’t don’t to be involved with organizations that are closed, non-affirming, and intolerance – it would be the equivalent of the black community asking to use KKK buildings for worship.

    Even when Mormons begrudgingly acknowledge those aforementioned realities for gays and lesbians, they will ALWAYS fall back on their next-best argument that sexuality comes down to choice. Mormons will proudly hold up their “Proclamation of the Family” and demonstrate a slick plan of salvation that works for just about everyone except: single parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, childless families, divorced families, divorced and remarried families, grandparents raising their childrens’ children, oh – and gay and lesbian families.

    I was born gay and raised by a Mormon family. I never CHOSE to be gay any more than I chose my height and weight. What I did choose was to leave the Mormon church at twelve years old because I was taught that Mormonism doesn’t believe in “the gay,” doesn’t see “the gay,” doesn’t acknowledge “the gay,” and will demonize and ostracize “the gay” at every opportunity: close friends committed suicide, other friends were disowned by the “families are forever unless you’re gay” homes, and other friends quietly disappeared and went off to die alone in the early years of AIDS.

    At twelve years old, I knew enough to trust myself versus any supposed moral authority. If I couldn’t believe a church regarding identity and my reality, how could I trust an organization on any supposed “truth” and moral authority? I couldn’t. Boyd Packer continually attempts to make gays and lesbians the proverbial bad guy, make us the “unnatural” ones, but I have yet to see any organization that claims that “we cannot change; we will not change” to ultimately… change. Boyd Packer will die some day. Prophets come and go. Mormons don’t look too attractive to middle-America – they’re ranked about the same as the Muslim community on the public relations scale: this too shall pass. There is nothing in this universe that stays the same, because God has shown that he changes his mind, too.


  40. Lee says:

    Brent — Great analysis. Thanks! I added a comment yesterday, but I wanted to polish it a bit more and resubmit. Here it is:

    I’ve been thinking that part of our cultural problem with homosexuality is the fact that the brain doesn’t really hold a place in our theology, and I don’t mean this in a sarcastic way. We talk about gender as a characteristic of our spirits, but not as a character of our brains. We think of the spirit as being the center of identity and intelligence, but don’t realize that the brain thinks, reasons, remembers, feels, and is wired in a way that supports sexual orientation and gender identity. I don’t think Church members as a rule (more than anyone else) think much about the brain or the role it plays. If you ask someone, he’s likely to respond that the brain is just some kind of instrument the spirit uses to control the body, like a control panel. With all that’s known from neuroscience, this doesn’t make any sense. What happens when a person undergoes a personality change due to dementia, or has a stroke and forgets about one side of his body, or has a smaller stroke and forgets the names of a class of nouns (e.g. root vegetables)? And split-brain patients — having two distinct personalities controlling different sides of the body? What is known nowadays is that there are many notable differences, statistically, between male brains and female brains, and that the degree of masculinization of a brain (feminization is the default, biologically) falls on a spectrum, with considerable overlap between the two poles in a minority of the population who experience a crossover or ambivalence in sexual orientation or gender identity.

    I have a friend who is also a bishop who told me he thinks of homosexuality as akin to being a kleptomaniac — having impulses that are bad, hard to control, but treatable. My friend is a smart person, other than his inability to recognize when an analogy is completely off the mark. I didn’t ask (but should have) whether he thought his heterosexuality, and his desire to share his life with someone he could love romantically, was also comparable to an urge to steal (other than stealing a kiss). What he (and so many others) just don’t get is — it’s not about sex.

    I remember reading an article by a neurologist who talked about stroke patients developing neglect for part of their body. For instance, he would hold up the patient’s arm and ask “Whose arm is this”, and the patient would say “It’s your arm”. When he asked, “Isn’t this your wedding ring?” the patient would reply, “Why did you steal my ring?” The brain is very creative in its ability to spin stories to account for data that are inconsistent, incomplete, or that violate our beliefs and expectations. The stories may not be accurate, but they are what the brain does to make sense of the world. It’s a brain thing, not a spirit thing.

  41. Jennifer says:

    I missed conference last weekend, and so my husband and I watched it the following night. I had heard from numerous friends that BKP really stepped in it, that he spewed so much hatred, etc. So we watched it.

    Now, for the record, I am for equal rights of same-sex couples. It has been something I’ve struggled with when I go to church, because my ward at the time (in the San Francisco bay area, mind you, not Utah) was extremely conservative, even more than most LDS members I had been in contact with.

    But, when I watched the talk, I saw that, yes, he did make a few comments about homosexuality, but to me, it seemed like a few blips on the radar. Most of what I heard him denounce was sexual addictions and pornography. And I can understand where he’s going with that one. Pick up newspapers or magazines and we see how anyone of status is going to rehab for sexual addictions, and it seems to be much more commonplace in the last few years. And, in a way, some people do think that it is okay to cheat on someone if you have this addiction, because you can’t control it, it’s a disease, etc. And that, he says, is wrong, because it is a tendency you can control. No one is making you hook up with prostitutes while your wife and kids are home asleep.

    I hope that I am not making this plight for equality any less important by my words. I really do think this is an important issue that needs to be remedied. However, I think that, for quite a few people, they heard “homosexuality” and ran with it, and might not have heard everything he was saying.

    • Heather says:

      Jennifer, you are right that he explicitly spoke about pornography–not about homosexuality. But IMO, much of what he said was actually about homosexuality and Prop 8–not porn. So he would start out talking about porn . . . and then he’d be talking about people have certain tendencies, but they can overcome them . . . and then something about the ballot box and voting . . .


      To me, it seemed like some underhanded jabs at gays/lesbians, what church members tend to call “same-sex attraction.”

      And it was pretty low to couch a discussion of homosexuality in a discussion of porn addiction.

  42. Liz says:

    There is one core reason why the church will never change its stance on homosexuality–you cannot create life with someone of your same sex. That’s it. No on can argue with that fact, for it’s based on the laws of nature.  One main purpose of life, according to church doctrine, is to create a family. Think about it–you’d have to be a believer in God first, but it’s a godlike power to be able to bring life into the world. Everything natural upon the earth recreates itself with “seed”. It’s everywhere. 

    That said, while I understand the church doctrine on homosexuality overall, and it makes sense to me, I struggle very much with the church leadership’s strong influence opposing gay marriage. Yes, the belief is that marriage is sacred and made for man and woman, but the belief of choice or agency is also a core belief in the church.  Whether being gay is inborn or not, a choice or not, people are going to do what they’re going to do and desire what they’re going to desire. Who am I to say two good people who have found companionship and love and are happy can’t be together officially, under state law? I have gay friends who have this, yet, I haven’t found someone to share that with. Perhaps I’m not understanding the greater affect it would have on the church itself, if gay marriage was made legal nationwide. Would it force the church to marry gay couples in the temple?? I doubt it. Maybe someone knows more about that than I.

    Really, so many things, if not everything, the church so strongly opposes (homosexuality, abortion, drugs, sex before marriage) relates back to sacredness of LIFE-body and soul. It’s all about creation. This is how I know it’s truth. It’s really that simple.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Be honest with yourself Liz.

      Is marriage really about procreation? If that were so, post menopausal and infertile people would be banned from marriage. Marriages would be dissolved after menopause because it serves no procreative purpose. When the zing goes out of your sex life, is it time to say goodbye? Of course not.

      “It is not good for man to be alone,” has more meaning, more depth when it comes to relationships.

    • fiona64 says:

      Dear Liz:

      I have one word for you: parthenogenesis.

      Look it up.

  43. Tabitha says:

    Boyd K. Packer is a representative of the L.D.S. Church and when he speaks, members are to take his words as scripture. There is no other choice in this matter. I can see that some people believe what he says and others do not. The sadness in this whole thing is that members do not look through the eyes of a devoted L.D.S. member who is struggling with their sexuality and wanting so badly to still be a member of the “true” church. They can choose to not “behave” in a way that is sinning in the eyes of the church, but their sexuality is a part of them, just as it is a part of a heterosexual person. Can you imagine the anguish someone must feel to hear that their leaders, who they respect, are telling them that God wouldn’t make them that way, that they are choosing their preference. Do you heterosexuals have a choice too? Really? What are they to do? How do they reconcile their very being with the teachings of the church except to either deny themselves and stay in the “true” church or leave a treasured religion. Either way it’s a lose/lose situation. Where is the compassion in the hearts of the members and leaders of this “true” church? Where is the understanding? Sad…so sad.

  44. Brent says:

    Thanks for the intelligent, well-written article. Beautiful. I hope it will be an instrument in altering people’s perspectives for the better.

  45. Janonda says:

    I had been married in the temple for 20 years and had three children when the Mormon church began it’s all out assault on the gay community to legislate away their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not to mention their right to equal protection under the law. After Prop 8 passed I had my name removed from the records of the church and I continue to educate people by going into colleges and universities with PFLAG teachings about the dangers of rejecting our own gay brothers and sisters. What is tragic about Elder Packer’s talk is that it came in the shadow of about 5 suicides of young gay teens who could take nor more bullying and decided death was better than living in a hell (that the Mormons helped create I might add.) I am appalled that so much misinformation continues today about this very simple straight forward issue: A small percentage of our population is born gay, and that will never change. They can’t be cured, (there’s nothing to cure.) And there right to legally marry the person they love doesn’t harm a single person, but adds great joy and security to them and their family. If Mormons want to make a positive difference in the world they need to recognize this outdated concept that homosexuality is an abomination, and instead act on the laws given to them by the Savior, to love their neighbors as themselves (not just the straight ones), do unto others as they would like done unto them, and judge not lest they be judged. I fear that one day, their involvement in the politics of gay marriage will be their downfall. I pray they change before that time..

  46. Earl says:

    My comments will undoubtedly alienate many of my friends and be offensive to those who question whether Elder Packer was giving his opinion or speaking the official position of the church. What follows is a concise history of my own experience and how it ties into what Elder Packer is saying.
    I suppressed my attractions for other boys when young and other young men as a teenager and young adult. I suppressed my attractions while on my mission and the near six years after my return. I also suppressed my attractions to men during the first five years of my marriage. At that time, I admitted to myself that I was gay and liked and desired men more than a woman. But, for the next 15 years, I continued to control and supress my desires until I finally gave in and started having sexual relations with other men. After ten more years of living a double life, I was “found out” and excommunicated from the LDS Church very quickly since I was a Ward Clerk. My wife and I have six grown children. Three years later my wife and I legally separated. I have since had two of what we call long term relationships. I loved both of these men very much. I considered myself a gay man and defined myself by the gay lifestyle and immersed myself in it.
    I came to decide, from what I encountered and saw among my friends and acquaintances, that there was and never would be much true happiness in my life living this way. I saw little or nothing as really being enduring, lasting, or faithful. I saw constant drama, conflict, bitterness, low self esteem, and turmoil in those around me. It seemed that most all my acquaintances had a false sense of satisfaction or happiness with themselves and life in general and deep down they could not find their way or even be economically secure.
    I decided to change my life and return to my beginnings and life before I made the choice to think of myself as other than the real person I am. I had never lost my testimony of the Gospel and never left the church; but I have struggled as many have with some of the things said or done over the years. As far as Elder Packer’s conference addrress goes, I only wish one word had not been used and that was the word “evil” To me, misguided would have been a better choice in this case. I, like most of us condemned Elder Packer’s untimely letter or talk to “The One” I do think he has redeemed himself since then especially in many other talks. Elder Packer’s October 4th talk was right on for me. and was given in the spirit of love and revelation. It hit home with me and contrary to all the banal chatter from activists and those constantly looking to be offended, his talk is very helpful to my current path to return.
    Along with Packer’s talk, President Monson’s talk at the end of Priesthood Session gives any of us who want to make changes, the keys to do so when he spoke of the RIGHT to choose, the RESPONSIBILITY of choice, and the RESULTS of choice. The president’s talk reinforced to me what Elder Packer was saying.
    I used my right to chose but did so wrongly and supposed that all the influences, inborn tendencies, and situations that I experienced as a young boy defined me. I did not take responsibility for these things and choices and even though I suppressed my feelings, eventually released what I call the dragon. I did not make choices that would help me realize what a wrong direction I was taking. And yes, there were bouts with thoughts of suicide. As a result of my choices, my life was turned upside down until I came to grips with who I really am later in life and started over. I have a ways to go, but in time, I hope to re-obtain all the blessings I lost because of my wrong choices.
    Elder Packer’s conference talk is a powerful influence for all men and women struggling with being gay or attracted to the same sex. It is also a powerful talk for those that feel any degree of happiness with being gay in that those underlying doubts you won’t address opening can be addressed if you will somehow lay aside the bitterness and realize that his talk is given in the spirit of love and encouragement and not the hate and bigotry you are being told. As I said before, some few words could possibly been better chosen, but remember Moses chose Aaron to be his spokesperson. President Monson’s talk referred to here did similarly for me to clarify some possibly offensive phrases use in Elder Packer’s talk. I am seeing a big changes in my perspective about who I am and my purpose in life. I know I am on the right path now and even though there was a time that I too thought it not possible, I now know it is possible to change.

    • BD Beal says:

      Earl, thanks for sharing your story in such a public forum. Let me make a few observations:
      1) The need for companionship, mutual support and human intimacy is part of being human. As a heterosexual, I strongly suspect that I could not satisfy those needs in a same-sex relationship—not matter how much I tried. Based on conversations and other interactions, it appears that the same is true (but in reverse) for most members of the LGBT community.
      2) One of the themes that runs through Mormon theology (and is certainly present in other religions) is the need to suppress the “natural” man—to become, through discipline and self-denial, a more a better or more perfect individual. The idea of the atonement plays a role here, as does the idea of the “fall” and the need to transform ourselves, over time, into something that is worthy of eternal reward. In many ways we are taught to live our lives “aspirationally.”
      3) There is often a tension between basic human needs and the “aspirational” life that we are taught from an early age that we should desire (and that we should be happy living). Many people discover that as the gap grows between who they are at a basic level (and the needs they have as human beings) and the “aspirational” lives that Mormon theology outlines for us (and tells us will eventually make us happy)—as the gap between these two realities grows—they become less happy, more frustrated and unfulfilled, and they feel less and less “authenticate.” Many people end up trying to have it both ways (and end up leading double or duplicitous lives).
      4) There has to be a balance between the “real” person—the person that has basic needs and desires as a human being and is capable of forming opinions about what makes them happy—and the aspirational ideal that we often strive to mold ourselves into. There has to be a balance—and this balance is often difficult to find.
      5) I’m certain there isn’t a one-size-fits-all behavioral prescription for self-fulfillment, particularly for those in the LGBT community. Can one live a celibate life, as the Church prescribes, and be happy? Sure. Many people—both straight and gay—do it (and find their lives rich and fulfilling). I think this path is probably a difficult one for most people (both straight and gay). For most people, however, I think long-term, loving relationships are probably the best way to find the companionship, mutual support, and intimacy that most human beings seem to need.
      6) I believe that individuals should be able to seek companionship, mutual support, and intimacy in the type of relationship that they are most comfortable with (and that best satisfies these needs). I think it is unfortunate that we, as a society, and more specifically, as a religion, continue to marginalize, devalue, and demonize same-sex relationships because this makes it difficult for those in the LGBT community to satisfy these needs. Barring same-sex individuals from marrying, for example, complicates these relationships in various ways. If we removed the social stigma and the institutional and legal barriers that often keep individuals from fully benefitting from these relationships, we would all be better off.
      7) None of this is intended to diminish your personal experience. I believe there are individuals that can (and will) benefit from your comments. There are many gay Church members that are doing their best to live celibate lives as the Church prescribes—and I wish them best. May they find self-fulfillment and happiness. I’m not convinced, however, that that is the only path, or even the right path for the majority of folks in the LGBT community.

  47. Dr. B. says:

    It never fails to amaze me that people think that the Church is going to change its position on Gays or even for that matter same-sex attraction if you talk about it enough. And that all this discussion is going to affect the official policies of the Church. Many believe it is like Blacks and the Priesthood and if you exert enough pressure it will change it. But it is much different issue since it goes to moral principle that has been adhered to by Jew and Mormon alike. Boyd K. Packer is speaking in an official capacity at conference. His words have been correlated at the highest level. The man is not just some apostle he is the President of the Twelve Apostles. The next in line to lead the Church. I am sympathetic to the exclusion of gay persons but it doesn’t matter what I think or you think. The LDS Church is not going to change its moral position officially or unofficially any time soon. In fact it stands behind the Proclamation to the Family, which I think will eventually be canonized. I think Boyd K. Packer is definitely a voice in the wilderness pointing out something which he considers a moral sin. Packer has been consistent throughout his ministry. When PBS asked him if he made a statement about Gays he said “I might have said something like that.” I personally like the guy because he is so consistent in his rhetoric. He makes conference interesting. Why should it even surprise you. In fact I wrote a post entitled Boyd K. Packer Is My Hero about how much I enjoy him. Things are black and white to him. To me Packer is like Samuel the Lamanites crying repentance and then having arrows shot by the so-called righteous Nephites except in this case Mormons who claim they sustain and support their leaders.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Elder Packer’s opinions about what he thinks are the causes of homosexuality won’t change the facts (the reality that genetic science has proven) us any more than a vote can repeal the law of gravity.

      Isn’t it ironic that Packer can reject decades of scientific research on a matter of his personal taste, and in the very same talk use the example of opinion not being able to change the scientifically proven fact of gravity.

  48. Concerned Mormon says:

    I am concerned about those in the church who feel the talk by Elder Packer was an attack on their personal beliefs. I thought his words were very clear and exact. His talk opposed perspectives supported in the world today. But the church has always condemned worldly views.
    This was not Elder Packer’s personal opinion. It was delivered in General Conference and when it is printed in the Ensign with the church seal on it, it is doctrine. It is approved by the first presidency. This is not some passing apostles opinion, but the word of God which we would be wise to follow.

    Elder Packer’s talk put forth two thoughts on homosexuality, both of which stem from essential doctrine. I am struggling to see where the controversy lies.

    The first is that homosexuality is a sin. This has been confirmed by ancient and modern prophets. It has been and always will be a sin. Those waiting for that to change in the church misunderstand. God is the same yesterday today and forever. His standards do not change. The feelings and temptations of someone who is gay do not condemn them. Everyone has agency and the ability to make choices. The world tell us that anyone who struggles with same gender attraction is gay. It is who they are. That is their entire persona. This is a false and worldy view which seeks to define individuals by their sexual preference rather than as children of God.

    The second point made by Elder Packer, which I think is the point people find controversial, is that people can overcome this sin. If you accept his first point that it is a sin to be true, then it would naturally follow that it is possible for individuals to overcome that sin. If it were not possible to overcome the sin of homosexuality then God would indeed be cruel. He would be condemning all those who have those feelings. Additionally, if it is not possible to overcome the sin of homosexuality, then you are limiting the power of Christ’s Atonement. His Atonement is infinite. It helps all of us overcome sins.

    • BD Beal says:

      I believe your summary is fair. Elder Packer (and the Church) view homosexual acts (not homosexuality defined as same-sex attraction, a propensity, or a temptation, etc.) as sin. It then follows that since homosexual acts are sin, that everyone should be able to resist engaging in them (because we all have agency, etc.). This is exactly what I object to. Homosexuality is innate (it’s not the equivalent of “urges” to view pornography, etc.). It’s not something that needs to be resisted, confined to the closet, prayed away, or “fixed” in the next life.

    • Concerned Mormon says:

      You then argue that it is not a sin. That homosexuality is acceptable and should be embraced by society. While I do not think we should hate people or discriminate based upon sexual preference, I do think that it is dangerous to justify the sin away. Elder Packer did not encourage people to hide in the closet or pray it away, but rather to fight the temptations. To avoid sin.

      If the church were to take any other stance they would no longer be teaching true doctrine. The gospel is based on the principle of attaining perfection. We seek to overcome sin and temptation. we seek to progress infinitely. That is not possible through homosexual relationships. It is not possible through justifying sin.

      Even if being gay is something people are born with, everyone still has the agency to make choices. Arguments that gay individuals should not be single or avoid acting upon their homosexuality are wrong. It is just as much a sin for those who are heterosexual to have sex before marriage. Heterosexual members of the church who do not get married are also expected to live a celibate life. It’s not easy, but people do it because they believe the church is true. I think Elder Packer’s words were encouraging to many. I feel that your offense at his talk is really just being offended by the doctrine and not Elder Packer.

    • Bitherwack says:

      “Concerned Mormon” what is your definition of Mormon hell? Thats rather difficult since we rarely discuss it. Essentially, it is a state where we aren’t able to live with our loved ones.

      I’m interested in your stand on this issue because it seem well thought out, and balanced and fair. The only difference is that you haven’t quite hit the nail on the head. You say, “heterosexual members of the church who do not get married are also expected to live a celibate life. It’s not easy, but people do it because they believe the church is true.” That statement seems so fair and empathetic… but it just aint so.
      Heterosexual members do it because the believe the church is true, AND they have hope that if they are faithful, they can one day meet their soul mate, and live happily together for all eternity. Homosexuals have NO hope of someday marrying someone they love, they find NO comfort in the promise that if they remain celibate, they will be rewarded with someone of the opposite sex in the next life, and they find NO comfort in the simplistic doctrine on gender and sexuality set down by the ‘Proclamation’.
      Essentially, the church’s teachings as they stand is that IF you are faithful, you will be able to enter into your reward for eternity alone. There is no hope of being sealed to the one you love. That sounds like the Mormon definition of hell.

      What is the proper response to “God does not make mistakes?” It should be, “You are absolutely right!”

    • Concerned Mormon says:

      The Mormon definition of hell or damnation, is simply a stopping of progression. We have the potential to progress forever, that is a central point of LDS doctrine. Hell is not a place, so much as a state of being caused by succumbing to sin. In terms of the division of Kingdoms, the church teaches that in the highest kingdom families which are sealed on earth will be together. That doctrine does not reject people who are homosexual. They have families too and can be with them forever.

      The promise of a marriage to those who do not have that opportunity on earth is a great one. I do not know how that will apply to people who deal with same gender attraction on earth. The way I understand the doctrine though is that because homosexuality is a sin and the temptation is not coming from God, that those feelings will not be there in the Celestial Kingdom. I think the promise of finding a spouse in the Celestial Kingdom applies to those who overcome the sin of homosexuality. While they may not want a heterosexual companion now, when the temptation is removed they might.

      I agree that God does not make mistakes. Elder Packer explained that God does not create the feeling of same gender attraction which exists for many, but they are still children of God. He loves them just the same. God allows Satan to tempt us on this earth as a test. People face temptations in many different ways. I am not tempted by same gender attraction, but I face my own temptations.

      I offer the following comparison not to say that same gender attraction is an issue of mental health, but rather to say that those who suffer with mental health issues go through a similar process. I have depression. I have feelings of inadequacy, sadness and often a numbness as well. I am tempted to do nothing but stay in bed all day. The Lord however has commanded that we be a hardworking people, he expects me to go to church, the temple, take care of my family, and work on school. Staying in bed all day is not productive and if I succumb to the depression then I am sinning. Even though depression is likely something passed down genetically, those feelings of inadequacy and sadness do not come from God. He does not tempt me to stay in bed, but rather Satan, recognizing my depression creates the temptation.
      Again, I do not think homosexuality is something to be treated with medication or that it is an issue of mental health, but rather I see that there are lots of conditions on this earth which people are born with whether physical or mental which causes us to be tempted by Satan. The Lord loves all of us and can help us to overcome these temptations.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Concerned Mormon, may I make a sincere request that you pleas stop using the term, ‘sin of homosexuality’ (homosexuality is NOT a sin, ACTING on it is) you are enabling bullies and gay bashers when you speak that way.

      Within recent years, the general church leadership (not sure how officially embraced this doctrine is, but it has been presented by GAs in the Ensign– so pretty orthodox) has generally settled on an acceptance of a genetic factor in determining homosexuality. (that they no longer blame the parents is truly merciful!) They have stated quite clearly that they don’t think it is a choice either. They don’t seem to recommend therapy, and now strongly advise against marriage as a ‘cure.’ (thank heavens counterindicative anecdotal evidence does sometimes bring a change) Celibacy is the key to them, because it is ostensibly fair. I’ll state for the record again, single members can endure celibacy because they have hope. They have hope because they are promised that they will someday have a loving spouse. Homosexual members have celibacy without the comfort of hope. They are married to despair. They are engaged to rejection, they date cruel characterizations. Even the comfort of singles programs, or kind social acceptance is sadly not available to gay brothers and sisters in the church. There is NO social community that welcomes them, or fellowships them. There is a chilly tolerance, but that is little comfort. No, you really can’t compare the two; single adults and celibate gay members. To do so is to enjoy the convenient assumption that you are being just and that the gospel is fair and that you have no need to associate with those disgusting people.
      People like Packer end up being rightly or wrongly the justification for such cruelty, the kind of cruelty that is completely separate from the struggles of temptation. There is also the temptation to maul the speaker of a snide comment. There is the temptation to stand up in church and shout, “How the hell can you be talking so self righteously about something you clearly have no clue?!!” There is the temptation to end it all, because no hell could be as unendurable. Until you have gone through even one tenth of that, until you can tell me that you can week after week, year after year, decade after decade, be told how vile and repugnant you are to the Lord, be shown each week by word and action by the very people who are supposed to be your friends how much you disgust them, then maybe we can have a discussion, and maybe I can accept that you have a point…. but until then, your occasional temptation to stay at home when you feel under the weather is not going to sit well with me. Until you can sink to the depths of pariah-hood, continue to endure to the end, and even smile in the face of some self righteous bastard who tells you that some choice brought it all upon yourself, you will never be in a position to know what it is like. When you are sitting in your first priesthood meeting and you are told that it would have been better to have died, you have to deal with a lot more than just depression. You are being instructed to commit suicide by the very people who profess to speak for God.

    • Bitherwack says:

      Concerned Mormon, you state that, “if it were impossible to overcome homosexuality, God would be a cruel God.” I can only forgive you for your simplistic innocence. Have you ever thought about the fact that it isn’t God that is cruel, but you yourself? (And all the other members of the church who willingly drink in the hate speech of the likes of Packer) If overcoming homosexuality were all we had to deal with, how truly simple life would be. I mentioned earlier about one of my earliest experiences in Aaronic priesthood. What about life while approaching 19? You have a testimony, you want to serve God, and there is no reason you are not worthy. Week after week the lesson in Aaronic Priesthood is about serving a mission. Mutual, Boy Scouts, Home Teachers, Bishops, well meaning members of the church all carping on you to go on a mission. But the idea of spending 24 hours a day for 2 years with a companion and the stress of needing to keep up the masculine act. If acting on homosexual impulses were the only thing that we would have to worry about, life would be wonderful. But no. There is no tolerance for even effeminacy. You go the extra mile on camping trips, and excel at scouting though you find it incredible absurd. You endure thoughtless remarks you cringe at your new nickname and attempt the impossible and hope that a dangerous show of masculinity will make the nickname seem ironic. Your pride isn’t the only thing wounded, you have just had a terrifying brush with death. Have you ever thought about how all the youthful hubristic ‘accidental’ deaths are most likely a kind of gay bating? The internal monologue is, “If I can only prove how tough I am, maybe they will let me alone.” In high school your friends start dating. You find that the kind of people you want to go out with, and be with are not the people you can show your true emotions around. You realize that you man never be allowed to show your feelings for another person, and the impossibility of someone liking you. You see friends on dates, and holding hands you realize that even such a simple thing as that to most people would be scandalous. At BYU, you see couples kiss each other good night. You see that there is a cruel double standard. The same act would get you expelled. This is not simply celibacy, it is complete denial of all human contact. The standards are most clearly not the same. Now you are 20 and people are starting to wonder. He must be gay, there is no reason he wouldn’t choose to go on a mission. Just imagining going on a mission, you know it is nearly impossible. Spending 24 hours a day with the same person. A homophobic bigot would be hell, but what is worse is what if you came to like your companion. Whatever the companion, not for a second can you let down your guard or he might think you are gay. But day in day out, not just at church, but persistent telephone calls, ward members you bump into at the store asking you when you will be putting in your papers. You go to a fireside and afterwards a GA comes up to you and asks you how old you are, and he tells you you must go on a mission. You pray and fast. Not about whether you have a testimony, not about whether you can preach the gospel or even whether you are worthy. You can, you are. You pray about whether you have the strength to endure the challenges of being gay and on a mission. You finally give in to pressure because you are too tired to resist, and frankly the only reason you have left is the one you cannot admit to. They are already suspecting you anyway. Your final resource is to get the patriarchal blessing. You have avoided it for years because you fear all the loathsome things it would say. You are surprised that it mentions going on a mission. A wife (?) that you will know is ‘the one’ only as you kneel at the altar in the temple. Choice spirit children are also mentioned. So you leave. On your mission, you can’t sleep at night because what if you talk in your sleep. You are criticized for being remote and unfriendly. That is the only safety you have as you realize that you dare not let your defenses down with your companion. You were born into the church, you realize that there are two cataclysmic forces of infinite incompatibility within you. One makes up your understanding of the very reason you are alive, the other is you as you learn from interacting with others. You do not see, value react to things and people as others do, so you must not ever let that part out. Women are a landmine because you react differently with them than others do. It is easy to be familiar with them, and that is just as dangerous as being with men for whom your feelings may become visible. An investigator appears to be slightly effeminate. You realize that whether or not he is gay is immaterial. He will never be accepted in the church. You know through experience. You make an excuse not to teach him knowing that you were born into an impossibility. You didn’t choose to be gay, nor did you choose to be raised in the church. Teaching this investigator must stop. He must not be held responsible for the things he learns of the gospel. You see he is comfortable with himself and at peace; that the world has been able to accept him for the most part, and it is not an issue with him. Though you have nothing more to do with him, you realize that your torment is not the same experience that others outside of the church experience. You wonder if you can reject the gospel, and it seems to be as much a part of you as your homosexual tendencies. Ironically, they have been able to find a gene that determines gender identity. They still haven’t found the Mormon gene. If truth be told, Mormonism is the real choice, the church is actually a lifestyle. I found that I could not give that up either. After my mission, the relentless litany of “when are you going to get married, when are you going to get married” became shrieking and furious. You went out a little when asked, and ironically girls felt ‘safe’ around you. They weren’t afraid you’d try ‘anything funny.’ But it isn’t very fun either. You didn’t want them to get the wrong idea (‘leading them on” was the terminology.) They didn’t particularly interest you in ‘that way’ so you could never remember to little things like to hold the door for them or ‘ladies first’. You got a reputation for being impolite, and they started to be as disinterested in going out with you as you were with them. Eight years after your mission, and you meet someone who shares your interest in the arts and culture. She seems interested in you. you are excellent friends. You date for three years, she proposes to you, and you think how difficult it would be to go without this first real companionship you’ve ever known. This person holds some of the puzzle pieces that make you decipherable. The thought of marriage… the impossibility of it all. The responsibility you have for ruining someone elses life weighs heavily down on you. You know that the motivation must be pure, that she must not be a cover, but an eternal companion. The thought of words like ‘wife’ and ‘spouse’ are extremely unpleasant to think of, but ‘helpmeet’ and ‘companion’ would be possible to imagine. “When are you going to get married?” weighs down, and one Sunday I lose control and blurt out. “When I’m good and ready, no thanks to you dammit!” The first and last time I have ever sworn. I’m distraught. I get sick. I can’t keep food down, and when I do, the diahrrea is so bad that even water passes in minutes. I lose weight and energy fast. I can no longer stand up or walk. At 104 pounds, the bishop starts to worry, and tells this sister to stay with me and make sure I can eat, and that in an emergency, someone will be there to call an ambulance. I am too weak for him to worry about any inapropriate behavior. After 3 months, you are so tired, breathing is even difficult. Thinking takes such effort, have barely enough energy to talk left. Sleep is longer, the escape is so delicious, but in your conscious moments, you think very seriously of the realities of death. I could give everything to her. She is very kind, and does everything she can to get me well. In the middle of this all, I realize the silliness, the irony of the fact that I am a gay celibate mormon ‘living in sin’ with a woman with the approval of the Bishop! I realize that these three months, I was ‘living with’ her. Perhaps I can do this thing. I got better rather quickly after that, and we did end up getting married. There is no need to go into the personal awkwardness of married life. I thought the litany would end. No, it only got worse. “When are you going to have a baby, when are you going to have a baby.” It was not annoying it was rude. Conversations against birth control became frequent. Then the personal suggestions, ‘maybe you just aren’t doing it right’ began. After 5 year of this nonsense, I was seriously at the end of my rope. After the 4th person asking the same question in so many minutes, I had had enough. “Have you ever thought that we might be infertile?” I shouted, and that began the complete rejection by the ward. Does same sex attraction ever end? No, it does not. Am I ever tempted? Constantly. My wife is a good friend, but there is no physical intimacy. Oddly, if I desire to be touched, when I desire to be touched, she will pull away. What is this? It is a frigidity that none of us expected, but most ‘differently oriented’ couples experience. It was emotionally easier to be remote than to be rejected. I was emotionally distraught and could no longer be employed. I had to go into business for myself. I started sleeping at the office too, meeting nights for dinner, and then back to work and sleep. Finally, we found she was pregnant. I prayed it wasn’t a boy. I could not bear to have him go through what I have. Those first few months were painful. Finally, the sonogram revealed the baby would be a boy. I was devastated. What have I done? I am causing more misery than I can take responsibility for. I read him books. Ferdinand the bull is a favorite. Ferdinand doesn’t fight like the other bulls, he likes to sit and smell the flowers. I make certain he knows that in spite of everything, we love him. I can love him more than I can love myself. Will he have same sex attraction too? Its all too likely. Will I allow people like elder Packer bully him for feelings he has not chosen? No. No one is to bully my son. He has a father who knows what its like. I might not have had the courage to leave the church for myself, but I promise you, I will leave the church for him.

      If the church were to recognize same sex unions, it would take the ‘gay gene’ out of the gene pool. Fewer of us would be marrying your daughters, and here would be fewer gay members born into the church. We could be happy in mutually loving relationships, and the sin of intolerance would pass from the heads of the church authorities, and the general membership. Would my life have been better? Yes, and I would know how to love and be loved. We are told in church that God is love. If we cant recognize love, we can’t know God. As a follower of Christ, until YOU can love your gay brothers and sisters, can you claim to know God?

  49. Victoria says:

    I must say I am grateful to see arguments for both sides. I have been so bothered by Elder Packer’s talk. While I have a very strong desire to trust his every word, my heart feels sick about it. I cannot look at my friends and condemn them sinners. I believe they are good, kind hearted people. Nothing about them is bad. They create beauty, are kind, respect me as a member of the Church… Who am I to A. Decide whether or not their attraction for the same gender is a choice or not and B. Judge their lifestyle?

    My best friend is a gay man and I love him more than anything. I have to admit, at times, I struggle to really grasp what that means, but at the same time, I respect his lifestyle…just as he respects mine.

    I understand the Church’s stance on marriage. Really, I do… but I also wish we could all be a little more kind about it. The Church doesn’t support gay marriage. We get it. Isn’t it time to start repairing the damage Prop 8 caused? Time to show members of the LGTB community that they are God’s children and that they are loved? Perhaps if the world (and I mean people outside the Church as well) reminded them more often, all six of the gay teen suicides that have occured in the past 2 weeks could have been avoided.

  50. Bitherwack says:

    The irony is that Elder Packer’s personal opinion really doesn’t change the biological and genetic facts of homosexuality, just as “you can’t vote down the law of gravity.”

  51. Ryan says:

    It’s sad that so many people can’t think for themselves and take to heart the words of the naive and further pass them down the chain of life and try to spin them as truth. The religion was founded on magic. People went to the show and were awed by what they saw and heard. I like a good magic act too, but at the end of the day, David Copperfield himself will tell you he’s full of sh*t, too. The more people you can get to believe and come to the show, the more tickets you’ll sell. Same goes for the Mormon church.

    • 2bgayornot2b says:

      Ryan, you will never understand the will of God with that attitude. You are blinded by illusions built by the falsities of society.

  52. Karina says:

    I have read about and researched this topic so many times. I am a mormon and have never felt a doubt in my heart that the decisions I have made in my life that have been guided by LDS doctrine are right. I have, however, always felt so troubled about the ‘gay issue’.
    There are a few things that bring me comfort:
    1. I can find out for myself whether Elder Packer’s words were doctrine, opinion or simply false. I can go to the source because I feel close to my Father and he guides me in every aspect of my life when I come to him. Sometimes the answers take time but not once has the answer simply not come. It has required obedience to his commandments firstly thought, but the blessings and answers were never far behind that leap of faith.
    2. Are diseases created by God? Are natural disasters? Are cigarettes? Is lust? I know people tend to go nuts when you compare homosexuality to a disease, but isn’t that in essence the point? Finding comfort in the fact that God indeed did not afflict you with this, (like he didn’t strike my dear friend with terminal cancer for the fun of it) and that he therefore does not condemn you simply for struggling with something. The same way he did not condemn me when I had a post-partum depression and wasn’t as good of a mother as I could have been while I struggled through that. He does condemn acting on our every natural desire/ tendency/biological urge (yes I said tendency, uh oh). He requires restraint and obedience and though that sounds like a prison to many, I have always felt so freed because of it. Much like how my children feel free and loved when I set rules for them to live by.
    I believe that we are all faced with an intensely difficult struggle at some point in our lives and that how we choose to act when we are faced with that determines our happiness and blessings. We should face difficulty with courage, patience, integrity. I know from experience that that can seem near impossible when all you feel inside is fear, anger, confusion and sadness or despair. I truly believe that Elder Packer merely tried to continue to set straight what this church is about and that he did not do so with any intent to shut anybody out, and I don’t think he did.
    Do we choose to look to a perfect and loving God for answers to difficult questions or do we choose to ‘… look out the window and view the reality we see…’?
    I didn’t read a single reference to your relationship with God, Brent, and considering your topic and points made and obvious intelligence and knowledge/experience in the matter, this worries me.

    Let’s remember first and foremost the that we must love, be patient, refrain from judging our neighbors, and seek out the Lord in ALL our doings, especially when faced with deeply troubling adversity, whatever form that may take (and it WILL take form, for each and every one of us).

  53. manaen says:

    Hasn’t anyone else noticed that Elder Packer was not talking specifically about homosexual attraction or desire?

    He set the context by explaining the Church’s position that the greatest happiness is available through a marriage of a man and a woman and then talked about threats to this relationship. He discussed pornography specifically at some length and then said,

    (my transcription of his spoken comments, my emphasis added)
    “We teach a moral standard of CONDUCT that will protect us from Satan’s substituteS and counterfeitS for marriage. We must understand that ANY persuasion to enter into ANY relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. In ‘The Book of Mormon,’ we learn that wickedness never was happiness.
    “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencIES [clarified to be "temptations" in the printed version] toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our heavenly father do that? Remember, he is our father. Paul promised, ‘God will not suffer that ye are tempted above what ye are able, but will with the temptation make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.
    “You can, if you will, break the habitS and conquer the addictionS and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.”

    So, after setting his context of how to have the greatest joy, he:
    * Warns specifically only against pornography
    * Says that any persuasion toward ANY relationship out of harmony with the gospel is wrong. This would mean a drug dealer’s or prostitute’s enticements at least as well as anything else. Some relationships disharmonious with the gospel would be: addictions, adultery, alcoholism, blogging to excess, eating disorders, flirting by married people with others, gambling, many habits, internet games, intimate friendships that supplant marriage confidentialities, sports to excess, vanity (primary relationship with self), and workaholicism. Note that all of these also damage the marriage relationship that Elder Packer reminded us brings the greatest joy.
    * Speaks of conduct, not of attractions or desires
    * Talks about substitutes, counterfeits, tendencies, habits, and addictions — all in plural. If he were talking about homosexuality specifically, as so many have been claiming, these words would have been singular
    * Immediately follows “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies” phrase that was the touchstone for the current kurfuffle with Paul’s identical promise that God won’t let us be tempted (tried, tested) more than we can bear it, i.e. we won’t have a desire greater than we can overcome the feeling to act upon it.
    * Immediately follows that with his promise that we can become free of habits and addictions — in which almost nobody includes homosexuality.

    So, how did his warning against any wrong relationships and his promise that we can overcome habits and addictions with help from the priesthood (as he says elsewhere in this talk) become what’s claimed to be a statement that homosexual desire is not inherent?

  54. Michelle says:

    Amen, manaen. I noticed that, too.

    Whenever I hear the word “hate” or “anti-gay” inserted into a sentence where the subject is homosexuality, I start to squirm because it isn’t coming from anyone who feels inclined to support Church doctrine. The H8 stuff is coming from the ones who want to legalize and include homosexuality in the Church. I do not consider myself anti-gay! I do not support homosexuality, but I do not hate anyone who does or who has same gender attraction. I do not feel like we need to have Jim Crow laws for gays! That’s what “anti-gay” sounds like and it is NOT representational of ALL the people who feel like we need to submit our will to the Lord’s, because His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.

    We, in fact cripple, our homosexual brothers and sisters when we coddle them and tell them that their sexual orientation is WHO they are, that they are a victim of their genes or circumstances, that everyone out there hates them because of their sexual orientation. In my opinion, it is far more damaging to keep grinding in this indoctrination of hatred that very frequently does not even exist. Yes, hate crimes happen. Yes, there are bigots who do terrible and cruel things. But, that does not mean that every person who does not support homosexuality is terrible, cruel and hateful. Come on, guys! Talk about stereotyping! The indoctrination of ‘non-supporters as being hateful’ draws the lines deeper into the sand and causes more alienation, than someone saying, “I love you, but I don’t love what you’re doing.”

    People keep saying the Church needs to stay out of political and policy-making arenas because religions shouldn’t dictate laws. Yes, that’s true. But, we also, as Mormons, believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates, and obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. So, when a law is being proposed that could try to force us to adopt practices that are against our doctrine, then we have a problem. If same-sex marriage becomes legal, especially at the federal level, could people then try to make it a hate crime to not support the homosexual lifestyle, or for the church to not give temple recommends to practicing homosexuals or to not hire someone because they can’t get a temple recommend (because they are practicing homosexuality), etc.? There is a heap of difficulty that can arise. Endorsing and pushing the hate indoctrination sets things up for this.

    • BD Beal says:

      I have often heard this argument from Church members–the argument that IF same-sex marriage were to become legal, THEN the Church’s ability to teach that it is wrong (or refuse to conduct same-sex marriages, etc.) would be compromised. I have two problems with this argument: 1) Based on historical precedent, it doesn’t seem to be true (the repeal of prohibition, for example, didn’t lesson the Church’s ability to teach that drinking alcohol is sin, or to discriminate against members that drink, etc.), 2) I find it troubling that Church members would be willing to take away the rights of an entire group of individuals to conduct themselves as they see fit in the public square because to do otherwise MIGHT, at some point in the future, negatively impact them in some way.

    • Bitherwack says:

      I agree with Brent.

      Additionally, he and you may be interested to note that the final state which cast the deciding vote that caused the repeal of prohibition was ironically Utah’s.

      The Church originally got the message– live and let live. The D&C 134:4 clearly condemns the idea of forcing church standards on a nonmember public via the law.

      “We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others.” D&C 134:4

      We are told that when a talk differs from scripture, it is wrong. I’m sorry to say this, but if Elder Packer advocates Prop 8, he is at odds with the scriptures.

  55. howellaz says:

    The fact that most members of the LDS church don’t feel that people are ‘born’ gay doesn’t make them bigots, sexist, or haters of gay people. All people have a right (just like gay people do) to hold to a set of beliefs, so why is it that LDS people have to be targeted as being haters? It is almost as if, on the one hand, the gay community openly welcomes anyone who agrees with their mantra, but on the other hand shuts out and discredits anyone who has opposing views. The gay community doesn’t appreciate that Mormons vocalize their beliefs, that they promote their views in ways they see fit…like voting. Don’t gay people do the same thing? Don’t they march and protest and vote? Let’s just sit back and allow people to believe how they are going to believe and get over it!

  56. I knew those black swans were evil. This is an excellent essay; thanks for posting it.

  57. Badger says:


    (I haven’t had time to read all the comments, so pardon me if someone has already mentioned it.)

    If animals do it, it’s right for us. Really?

    If people have done it for thousands of years, then that makes it natural and OK. Are you sure?

    Should I bother to list all the problems with those ideas? I’m not sure how to go about it without being truly obnoxious, which is not my desire, but…wow. Whether or not homosexuality is “OK,” this seems like a very poor line of reasoning.


    • BD Beal says:

      To clarify, these points were used to refute the common assertion that homosexuality is “unnatural.” As I argued, if something has been around for thousands of years, and is present throughout nature, then it is, by definition, natural (using the standard definition of the word). These specific points were not intended to address broader questions of how the behavior should be dealt with in a more general or societal sense. I think I’ve done a fairly reasonable job of addressing these larger questions elsewhere in the essay and in my previous comments.

  58. Chad says:

    Your out look is too closed minded. You say he thinks and says stuff because he is in a bubble, but his bubble, the churches bubble is what God wants the world to be like.
    As for being gay, it is a choice, and you can act on it or not. I know several individuals that arent married, and never will be because they are attracked to men, so thusly they dont marry a women. They dont act upon their attraction, because everything in life is a choice. If you would open your mind to the whole world and not just your liberal world you would see that.

    • BD Beal says:

      I know folks that are priests (and celibate). Not sure what that has to do with anything. Let me summarize: 1) I believe that people are different, and that we should respect those differences by allowing people to live how they see fit, 2) You apparently believe that it is okay to question the legitimacy of others’ sexuality and see no problem with imposing your personal religious beliefs on those around you. You then assert that I am “closed-minded.” I think I’ll let that argument stand on its own.

    • fiona64 says:

      Chad wrote: As for being gay, it is a choice,

      When did you choose to be straight, Chad?

      I know that I didn’t; there was no doubt that I found Paul McCartney cuter than Petula Clarke. In fact, there was never a question. My gay friends say the same thing: they always knew.

      So, I’m curious, from a scientific perspective, when you chose to be straight — and what criteria you applied.

  59. ReaderK says:

    Any thoughts on the revised talk that was printed compared to the talk as delivered?

  60. Courtney says:

    Many species of animals also eat their young, abandon their babies, and eat each other. I don’t think using animal behavior to justify our own is valid. Ever.

    • BD Beal says:

      Courtney, I’ll repost my comment from above (just in case you didn’t see it). The point–and I think this is pretty clear in the essay–is that it doesn’t make much sense to refer to homosexuality as “unnatural.”
      To clarify, these points were used to refute the common assertion that homosexuality is “unnatural.” As I argued, if something has been around for thousands of years, and is present throughout nature, then it is, by definition, natural (using the standard definition of the word). These specific points were not intended to address broader questions of how the behavior should be dealt with in a more general or societal sense. I think I’ve done a fairly reasonable job of addressing these larger questions elsewhere in the essay and in my previous comments.

  61. last week our group held a similar talk on this topic and you illustrate something we have not covered yet, thanks.

    - Kris

  62. Bitherwack says:

    I just realize that I have a problem with loving the bigot and hating the bigotry.
    I don’t love the bigot. I can be civil to him/her, but I can’t love.
    I find their attitude repulsive, and am afraid people will think I’m a
    bigot if I associate with them.

    Love the sinner, but hate the sin can’t be much different.

    I’ll just have to do my best.

    So the next time I’m asked if I sustain my leaders, I will want to
    be able to answer honestly that I love the bigots, but hate the bigotry.

  63. Reason says:

    Why is being gay a sin?

    Because some man said so? Because some man wrote it in a book and said so? Why exactly is it “wrong”? No one has ever been able to explain it other than tradition and superstition. It’s very much like why is eating shellfish or getting haircuts wrong; just because both are in Leviticus doesn’t mean anything because it was clearly written by antiquated ideas of what people think is evil. Is it evil because they can’t procreate, then being old and sterile is “evil” too.

    If you would have suggested 40 years ago that black people would have held the priesthood someday in the church you would have got the same reaction and possibly even ex-communicated. As soon as BYU started getting heat for that discrimination and may have not been able to continue participating in regional football tournaments there was a sudden “revelation.” Same thing will happen eventually regarding gays – they’re not hurting anyone. I’m straight as an arrow and but it’s clear what is “evil” here, it’s the discrimination and hate speech against them.

    • Reason says:

      Oops I meant being “old and infertile” would be evil too. This point has already been made throughout the comments though.

      Brian Johnston above claimed that:
      1. It must be approved by the First Presidency
      2. It must be voted on and approved by the Quorum of the 12 Apostles.
      3. And most importantly, it must be accepted in a sustain vote by the ENTIRE MEMBERSHIP of the church

      If that is the case, then why are members quizzed on if they masterbate in temple recommend interviews. For that matter, The 2nd token of the melchizedek priesthood is given by clasping the right hands, interlocking the little fingers, placing the tip of the forefinger upon the center of the wrist. Where is that in canonized scripture?

      Brian, why don’t you try to grow a beard or pierce your ears – how long do you think you will keep our calling(s) – is that in any official scripture?

  64. Bitherwack says:

    Someone close to Packer is going to have to come out of the closet soon!

  65. JohnM says:

    I’m amazed that so much effort has gone into a misinterpretation of what Elder Packer said. He was pointing to conduct, not proclivity, when he stated that some will say “they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations….” It was completely true when he said it and remains so today: No one is born with tendencies they cannot overcome. He immediately follows it with the explanatory statement that no one will be tempted above that which they are able to bear, if it wasn’t clear enough already, and that God will provide a way to escape temptation. That’s true for everyone he was addressing: hetero- and homosexuals.

    Sorry, Brent Beal, I find your interpretive powers of plain language surrounded by even more context extremely unimpressive. I suppose those looking for offense will find it where none was given, no less intended.

  66. BD Beal says:

    JohnM, it looks like you entirely missed the point. Yes, Packer said that homosexuality was a “proclivity” and THAT is the problem. Homosexuality is a not “temptation” to be overcome. . .

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