Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Steps Back

Boyd K. Packer's Conference address this month has touched off a firestorm of protests, petitions, and heated dialogue. In one stroke he nearly erased the progress the Church has made over the past several years to soften its rhetoric on homosexulaity - in particular homosexual attractions. Its doubtful the Church will ever change policy on the sinful nature of homosexual (or heterosexual) extramarital sex, but some great strides had been made in educating the membership that homosexual attrractions were not chosen and not a sin. In a couple of sentences, Elder Packer blew that all to hell.

"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?"

This flys in the face of the recently released pamphlet 'God Loveth His Children', which clearly states some may NOT overcome Same Sex Attraction in this life. Other GAs have made similar statements.

Elder Packer has a history of approaching this issue in a condemning tone. In a former conference address he praised a young misionary for slugging his gay companion. In an older Church pamphlet he pronounced the cause of homosexuality as "selfishness". These statements have had a lasting negative effect on SSA church members and the Gay community as a whole.

Conference talks are NOT screened before the fact, so this is Packer going out on a limb, and the Church is now doing damage control. Do I think he meant to offend? Probably not. But the damage was done, nonetheless. Although the Church issued a rebuttal, which was almost an apology, and Elder Packer "edited" the original content of the talk; no one can erase the fact that he said what he said. In this age of near instantaneous communication, it went viral around the globe in a matter of minutes.

Am I bitter over this? Not really, I think I'm simply disappointed, frustrated and I'm definitely concerned. An opportunity to uplift and educate was replaced with a disastrous statement that will perpetuate misunderstanding and prejudice for years to come. Its hard sometimes, waiting on the Church to catch up on this particular issue. We don't need setbacks like this, especially from someone of Packer's stature.

The Brethren can make mistakes. Moses did when he struck the rock against God's instructions. Joseph Smith almost lost the ability to translate because of his carelessness with Martin Harris. We read that the Apostles of old were sorely chastened because they bickered and fought among themselves. Hard for us to imagine Apostles fighting, but there it is. What I'm saying is that these men are still men, and still frought with imperfections, prejudices, and all the other human frailties we have discovered are the common lot of man. 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God'.

So in our day and time I don't think its at all surprising that an Apostle could translate some of their own prejudices into their remarks. Brigham Young said once, at a General Conference, that the members should not just accept his words as the truth. Rather, they should go home, ponder the things they had learned, and then ask the Lord if they are true or not. This is a profound statement. In another instance he said:
“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.
We are NOT to simply swallow everything that comes over the pulpit from the Brethren! We must apply the filter of the Spirit to their words and recieve a testimony of the truth of them for ourselves. I think most of us, including me, are remiss in this duty.

And we must allow even the Brethren the grace to make mistakes and grow in their callings. They are still being perfected, as are we. We must not forget all the good they do, the sacrifices they have made, and the many inspired talks and writings they have produced. I must forgive, but I wonder - how soon will the world forget?