June 2012: Watching “Prop 8” With The Kids

A mother writes about how she can maintain her belief when she disagrees with some of the churches actions and the theological framework that she uses:

By Mungagungadin (also posted at her blog http://mormontimedisplacedjournal.blogspot.com/)

In preparation for taking the big kids to the Pride Parade where I was certain emotions would run to extremes, we sat down to watch and talk about the documentary, Prop 8. I knew it was a fair picture (I had done my research and watched it prior to showing the kids) and I even had some prior knowledge of some of the more radical turn-gays-straight methods that had been tried at BYU, to the permanent detriment of those victims, due to having been a psych student there.
Son1 and Daughter1 could easily reason that the Church had proceeded on its understandings of “gayness”–that it must a sin and choice, and of course it must be possible to “fix” being gay or why else would God condemn acting on the impulse? It is like punishing a hungry child that finally steals some food–everyone can recognize that as unfair unless it is just a “want” and not an identity. I explained that at the time the Church did not imagine that it could be wrong in the possibility of the changeableness of this, primarily because we Mormons are not Bible scholars in the traditional sense of the phrase “Bible Scholar”. A Mormon Bible scholar is rarely of the credentials of every other non-Mormon Bible Scholar. We do not have divinity schools that teach the languages and times of the writers so that our leaders would be educated to understand what was actually written.
I rehearsed with them some of the things that I had studied over the past 2 years–that the Sin of Sodom, primarily, was greed and disdain for the poor (Ezekiel and others of the time period and parallel traditions confirm). The angels were already sent to destroy the city when men noticed that there were visitors and wanted to confront Lot for feeding strangers who might in fact have been poor people–-and feeding and caring for the poor was effectively against the law in Sodom. Lot offered his daughters because he knew that same law would prevent the men from attacking the young women, as citizens of the city. Also contributing to the telling of the scene–back in those days raping of people was considered a form of domination so that an enemy was completely subdued. It was not uncommon after a battle to rape all the conquered survivors on the battlefield and in the village. Jesus spoke nothing at all against gay folks and in fact in many places embraced those who were out of their gender-roles and the Old Testament was clearly misunderstood. Son1 and Daughter1 could see that our leaders–good people–can make even harmful mistakes and that we need to give everyone chances to change and do better.
Son2 was distraught, however, at the problem: our trusted leaders failed to understand very old scriptures (how could God let that happen?) and thus hurt gay people, even hounded and abused them so that they committed suicide, or put out such language that Mormon families heaped such abuse on their young people as to force them out of loving homes and away from family, friends and physical safety and security. How could God let our prophets do that?
This question allowed me to tell the kids of my own observations–over a small adulthood of 20 years.
In childhood, who questions what has been lovingly taught?
But in adulthood, we study history and observe current motions and draw conclusions ourselves, from our own analysis. I have had to ponder on our failures as a Church–on withholding the priesthood from blacks for so long, on failure to clean up the consequences of polygamy today (young FLDS girls thrust into secret marriages without the civil protection of a legal wedding) the church’s position on ERA, and the loss of the women’s right to jointly hold and administer the priesthood with our husbands which *should* have led to women holding it personally on the same claims of the restored priesthood line but instead reverted to an effective removal of permission to administer from 1900ish onward, and has since been followed by almost total subjugation of women under men.
Now, there are many ways to talk about these problems with the kids, but I chose to focus on the ELOHist-vs-YAHWEist spectrum. ELOH’im is of course God the Father, and is expressed in the Bible as “GOD” and YAHWEH is Jesus expressed in the Bible as the “LORD GOD”. I plan to go through my scriptures again, just to catch the differences of who says what. I think that would be an exercise that would be enlightening. I learned about this not too long ago from JG, a Mormon who went to Harvard Divinity School.
As soon as JG and I discussed this, I began to have categories for the boxes I had already been using in my mind. I had always understood that there was a reason to respect order, conformity, top-down unthinking obedience and “flock” or “hive” coordination, even a “my way or highway” plan of discipleship. People who think and act this way are not bad people but they are ELOHists, and among them are Boyd K Packer, Ezra Taft  Benson, Brigham Young, Jacob, Nephi, Alma the Elder and others. A simple person might just call them “conservatives” but there is much more to the construct than loving that which is older and mistrusting innovation. Elohists believe that order will achieve zion-results much faster than individuality.
Then, there are those who say that grace purchases our own exploration of faith and that true miracles among men–that which transforms us–must take that chance, earn that knowledge, and then, we are each to build zion of our own unique gifts contributed and sorted by the Lord God to all. These are the YAHWEist of our leaders including Joseph Smith, J Golden Kimball, Hugh B Brown, Alma the Younger, Ammon, Mosiah. Same simpleperson would call them “liberals” but again that terminology is too narrow because this viewpoint embraces both individual gifts and the atonement – in other words, knows that mistakes will happen and does not worry about it because we live in Christ. Yahwehists believe that supporting the individual to actualization (each individual laboring privately with the spirit to develop gifts needed for all) is what brings about Zion.
Me, I am strongly Yahwehist.
(Another way of discussing this would have been to include the “Iron Rod” versus the “Liahona” discipleship model, but I have reason to love the Savior’s plan more and so, I chose these terms.)
Son2 could see that well-meaning people who seek a rule to follow and then to enforce it as a way to create what they believe to be swift order are good people who will make great works and some awful mistakes of coercion as the declared pattern will not fit all individuals, and that certainly Heavenly Father will have mercy on those errors and reward the good. Son2 could also see that those who seek to build other people into zion-seekers and repenters/changers so that we each contribute what gifts we were sent to earth to individually contribute will also make mistakes of order failure and will overlook rules that could have avoided problems, and that Heavenly Father will also have mercy on those failures and reward the good here also. I explained that this complexity is required to understand how God can have both Elohists and Yahweists leading the church–those who will foster the individualist path and those who will foster the group path. This is how God leads all His sheep who, obviously, are composed of both Elohists and Yahwehists as well. Friction can arise when one group attempts to enforce its views on the other (it is always the Elohists–black and white, justice and strict interpreters–who do this to the Yahwehists, and who can argue that the Elohists did not hound the gay Yahwehists to death in many cases) but for the most part we manage to exist together in peace.
I gave them my best hope: just as I had expanded my thinking on the matter of GLBT people and what their sexuality means, I believe that the Church is preparing to also change its understanding and the for the first time since the beginning of history and since the restoration it will be known on the earth again that God has created his children as He thought wise to bring together all the gifts needed on the earth, and that we will form cooperative families in the heavens. There is–in the heavens–no lack of a plan of happiness for any of God’s GBLT children, we are just waiting to hear it articulated.


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