The Devil is in the Details

During a recent trip to the Philippines on behalf of the Liahona Children’s Foundation, I found myself in a car with some Philippine saints as we were travelling across Manila to screen children to ascertain their levels of malnutrition. We spoke of a number of things and then somehow the subject of homosexuality came up.  I spoke of the work in which I have been engaged on this subject and mentioned the positive statements on the Church’s new website, www.mormonsandgay.org, which no one in the car had heard of. The brother sitting next to me, someone who held a responsible position in his stake, turned to me and said in all sincerity, “I heard that Brigham Young said that Satan was gay and that his plan is to convince as many mortals as he can to be gay in order to frustrate Heavenly Father’s plan for families.

I was stunned and then, without thinking, responded, “That’s nonsense! Brigham Young said a lot of crazy things, but that’s not one of them!”  The conversation continued along these lines:

“Well then what explains them?” 

“Do you mean gay people?”

“Yes.”

“No one can make someone gay any more than they can make someone heterosexual. I assume you are heterosexual.”

“Yes.”

“Do you think someone could make you into a gay man?”

“Of course not.”

“Do you think you could will yourself to be gay?”

“No. Why would I?”

“That’s the same question one would ask any gay: ‘Why would you choose to be gay in a culture that is hostile to gays?’ . . .  Do you believe Satan made transgender people?”

“Are there really such people?”

“Yes, of course.”

“That doesn’t make sense. God only made men and women.”

“There is much we don’t understand about human nature and biology, but what we do know is that there is a range of sexual identity and orientation not only in humans but in other animal species as well.”

“What about the next life. They can’t be gay there because of the teaching about eternal families.”

“Let’s focus on this life. As for the next, sometimes I feel like Alma, who said, ‘Now these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me; therefore I shall forbear’” (37:11). Do you believe that everyone who comes into mortality who does not fit the norm is the way they are because the Devil made them that way?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Do you think blacks were made by Satan?”

[Silence]

“John Taylor taught that blacks were created “because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God.”  Such a belief was based on the worst kind of mythology, prejudice and intolerance, just as is the idea that Satan created gays. These are destructive ideas that do terrible damage to people. We are called by Christ to love everyone and are taught that we should consider everyone we meet, male and female, black and white, bond and free, gay and straight, as children of Christ. Please don’t spread the idea that Satan created gays, because it will cause people to hate them and try to hurt them and punish them for being who they are.”

 

I was so astonished by this brother’s belief that I wondered how wide-spread it is. I Googled “Satan and gays” and discovered that it is indeed widespread and in fact is taught in other religions–Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim. For example, Daniel Avila, a policy advisor on Marriage and Family for the Catholic Church, described homosexuality as a “‘natural disaster’ caused by Satan invading the wombs of mothers of LGBT children; . . . whenever natural causes disturb otherwise typical biological development, leading to the . . . beginnings of same-sex attraction, the ultimate responsibility, on a theological level, is and should be imputed to the evil one, not God.”  Similar expressions are found in teachings of some other Christians and Muslims.

What a terrible distortion of Christ’s teachings this is and what a terribly dangerous and destructive idea! Satan has no creative powers and he certainly has no power over human biology. To believe otherwise is to believe in a God who is not in control of the universe. It is, however, not difficult to believe that Satan, “the Father of Lies,” is responsible for implanting such beliefs into the hearts of people who have not bothered to understand Jesus’s teachings or to learn of his universal love and infinite atonement, teachings that will ultimately defeat Satan and destroy all of his lies—and lead us to a more enlightened and compassionate understanding of the lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

 

 

3 comments for “The Devil is in the Details

  1. Phil
    June 22, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Great post, Bob. We don’t often talk about the social justice work yet to be done in the far reaches of Mormondom. Thanks for having and sharing these conversations with others.

  2. sean
    June 23, 2014 at 11:37 am

    i served my mission to the Philippines, it is one of my most cherished experiences. at the same time to understand Filipino’s one must understand there are massive amounts of cultural misunderstandings, mythologies, and superstitions that are very, very pervasive and very negative.
    Much of it, I chalked it to a poor educational system, while more of it is directly linked back to cultural traditions handed down by colonial and religious powers of years past. Of course, within the LDS settings, there are some sociological conditions that exacerbate the problem. there is a massive deferential treatment towards people who are white; and that is compounded when these outside leaders are placed on pedestals of power, even more so than what is experienced along the Wasatch Front.
    It took me sometime, while living there, to understand that I was dealing with a cultural mindset that is not unlike the early western industrial mentality. where education was still infancy and where ‘magic’ and ‘superstition’ still explains natural phenomena.
    from an anthropological viewpoint, it will be interesting to see how matters relating to both policy and doctrine play out in these developing world.

  3. Suzanne
    June 24, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Very “common sense” post with meaningful comments. Having had many coworkers and friends from the Phillipines I have found Sean’s words to be accurate according to my experience and knowledge. Hopefully we here in the US will be leaders in changing the way LGBT people are regarded and treated ( as opposed to followers who are late to the table).

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