No Respecter of Persons

From a very early age I was taught that God was fundamentally fair. We were given laws and told to obey. We were taught that we would be punished for disobedience. We were taught that there was an atonement and that through Christ our sins could be forgiven. We were taught that there would be a judgement. We were taught that this plan was the only way to satisfy the demands of the eternal laws of justice and the eternal laws of mercy.

As Mormons we conceptualize life as a test. We believe that if we pass the test by being obedient and accepting the atonement that we will have eternal reward. If we are valiant enough we will even be able to live in the celestial kingdom as a continuation of our earthly family and participate in creation. All of this depends on passing the test.

Well, who exactly will pass the test? Will most Mormons pass? Or just a few?  What is meant by “many are called but few are chosen?”

It all comes down to the final judgement. And since God is no respecter of persons, this final judgement will have to be absolutely, utterly fair, right? That is why he made accommodations for people who aren’t taught the gospel in this life, right?

So in order to be fair, God will have to take into account every aspect of every situation we faced. He will take into account what we were taught. He will take into account our strengths and weaknesses. He will take into account our brains, our genes, our drives, our biology….right?

When LGBT people are told that same sex attraction is a burden like any other, we know this isn’t true. It is not a burden like any other. Just ask any LGBT person if it is like any other burden. Just picture yourself being asked to live a life of celibacy. Just picture yourself being required to worship in a church where you are despised and marginalized. Just picture yourself being told that the only way to reach your fullest potential is to force an intimate relationship that is aversive and revolting to you. Just picture being told that in order to return to God’s presence you must separate from someone you have been living with and loving for 5, 10, or 50 years. Just picture being told that everybody else gets eternal reward for doing exactly what they want to do (enjoying intimacy and family with the person they love) but that you will be damned for eternity if you doing that very thing.

So God gave us this burden; this burden that only feels like a burden because we are told it is a burden; that only feels like a burden when we experience hatred from our brothers and sisters; that only feels like a burden when we are taught that we have to remain alone; that we aren’t allowed to follow our hearts like everybody else.

Did God give us this burden to test us? Did he intend to give us a burden that most of us will fail?

It is obvious that the vast majority of LGBT people fail this test. The vast majority of LGBT people leave the church.  Is God trying to separate the wheat from the chaff? Why would God do this to anybody? Why do LGBT people have to pass a test that is so much harder than everybody else’s? Why would he only give some of us this more difficult test? Did we do something wrong in the pre-existence? Were we less valiant, than our heterosexual brothers and sisters? Is that why we earned a less favorable position on earth?

So, is God a respecter of persons?  The bible says no. My heart says no. So how can I explain this situation, my reality? I can only come up with a few possibilities:

1) LGBT people were less valiant in the pre-existence, so they are given a more difficult test to pass (this concept was quite familiar to most Mormons prior to 1978) –or

2) This burden really is not harder than any other (but we know this isn’t true, based on our own experiences, and from our really high failure rate) –or

3) That God will judge heterosexual Mormons very harshly, because fairness requires him to level out the playing field. Since only a small percentage of LGBT people are able to pass the test, fairness would dictate that only a small percentage of straight Mormons pass the test, based on what each of them was given. Thus, only the cream of the crop, the most righteous Mormons, will make it and the rest will be cast out (after all, to whom much is given much is expected) –or

4) God will take into account the special difficulty of being LGBT in the restored church and take that into account on the judgement day, and look at his children who left the church or who stayed with their same-sex partner, and will judge them with love and compassion and understanding and will take into account everything about them, and look at all the genetic and biological and environmental factors, and will give them a reward that is fair considering the burdens they were given.

Can you describe any other possibility that better answers this dilemma for LGBT people and the families that fear losing them for eternity? Is there another way of looking at it that takes into account that God is no respecter of persons? That God is ultimately fair? That we are not subject to his whims?  That we are not being punished for sins from our pre-existence?

Some LGBT people ask God that question, and he answers them. He answers that he wants them to seek a same-sex partner and be true to that person and make a family. (Meanwhile, other Mormons don’t respect the role that personal revelation plays in the lives of those people who choose differently, and they continue to judge that they must be following Satan’s plan.)

I need an explanation. An explanation that can make sense to me and to every LGBT person. Right now the church isn’t providing me with an explanation that makes sense based on what I already know. My only choice is to ask God directly.

6 comments for “No Respecter of Persons

  1. Anonymous
    March 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I have thought a lot about all of these things, and I too am frustrated that the church offers so few answers for such an important problem. For me, I take the approach of refusing to look at life as a test. That makes God look like the administrator of the test rather than a parent. Do you think of raising children as putting them through a test? Will you grade them when they reach adulthood and decide where they get to go? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that’s the way that God looks at it either. When we finally meet our maker in the next life, I doubt very much that He is going to go through a checklist with us, marking off things like “Married to an opposite gender spouse,” or “raised x number of children with an opposite gender spouse,” or “went to the temple x number of times,” or “paid a full tithe.” I think He will ask, did you try to love your brother, as I loved you? And He will look into your heart, and know exactly what you need to do next in order to grow as one of His spirit children, and you will be overwhelmingly happy with whatever that is.

    But of course, most in the church teach the business model of the checklist, so my ideas really don’t count for much.

  2. spiderlady
    March 18, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I am not LGBT. But the Church’s treatment of my LGBT brothers and sisters is ultimately why I left.

  3. Rea
    March 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    There is another possibility, and it is one that’s come to my mind alot, lately. In some times and places, as you know, individuals who were naturally other than heterosexual were believed to bring gifts directly from the gods, to their culture. In ours, LGBT people have struggled to be recognized as anything other than deviant because people are afraid of anything that deviates from “their” norm.

    What if God allowed nature to proceed as it would, knowing that any culture reveals its truth by the way in which it relates to those who are “different?” (While I don’t think that’s the best word, I use it because it is easily understood in this context.) What if, eventually, LGBT people could come to see themselves AS a gift to our culture? What if much of life is like a photo negative, and we are only now moving toward seeing things as they really are?

    I do get that this doesn’t make it easier for those who are struggling now, and that until and unless they find themselves free to breathe so they can buy in to the concept, it can’t help. But I am willing to buy in. I hope others are as well,and I trust that it will not only get better… but that it IS TODAY getting better.

  4. Rea
    March 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    I completely accept #4, and would add this: What if humanity has been viewing life as a photo negative, and we are only now ready to see the final print? What if it is those who have their religious ducks all in a row and find it easy – even REQUIRED – that they categorize and judge others… what if THEY are the ones being tested and judged, while the challenges of those who are “different”* will not only be taken into account… but will have earned them GREAT REWARDS for all they went through? I realize this doesn’t make it easier today. Joy is desired and deserved TODAY. But would it eventually make it easier for LGBT persons if they could fully embrace this concept going forward? I know I can embrace it, but then I am not LGBT.

    *(I don’t like labeling whole persons as “different,” but used that word only because it is – in this context – easily understood.)

    • Daniel Parkinson
      March 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      Thanks Rea…a nice thought. I think that only very recently did the church accept that it isn’t a mere choice. They still say it is a burden like any other and they still only refer to it as same-sex attraction. The church hasn’t yet made any effort to articulate any meaning of the LGBT experience beyond that. Carol Lynn Pearson does a very nice job of framing the LGBT journey as a hero’s journey. Many LGBT people have found affirmation in this.

  5. Jacob
    March 22, 2013 at 7:27 am

    I agree with number 4 but I would really like to know what the reward will be. Church leaders and members alike often say to me well you will be changed when you are resurrected. This makes no sense! If the purpose of this life is to develop character, prepare for eternal life, and eternal marriage, then why will God have to finish this development for me in the resurrection. For straight people this is the time to prepare to meet God, “straight man are, that they might have joy” but gay man sorry there is no plan for you yet!!! We are in limbo in terms of the gospel.

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