Sunday, September 20, 2009

Evergreen International Vs. Affirmation: Dueling "Gay Mormon" Conferences In Salt Lake City, Elder Bruce Hafen Keynote Speaker At Evergreen

While many Utahns were preoccupied with college football on September 19th, 2009, two conferences dealing with the issue of gay Mormons were taking place in Salt Lake City.

Evergreen International, which seeks to diminish same-sex attraction amongst its clients and promotes the idea that reparative therapy for gays is a viable option, was holding their conference at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. A Deseret News story entitled "Don't succumb to cultural confusion, Elder Hafen urges" highlights an address delivered by an LDS General Authority. Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the First Quorum of the Seventy told conference attendees that "You are not simply a child of God. You are a son or a daughter of God, with all the masculine or feminine connotations of those words". He also urged people seek a testimony, even a personal vision, of that identity, and to take every possible step, each day, to align one's physical and emotional life with the spiritual reality of who one really is.

Elder Hafen then touched on four misconceptions that he said gay rights activists try to establish as facts to try to influence policymakers and the public:

-- That same-gender attraction is an inborn and unalterable orientation.
-- That therapy cannot treat, let alone change, same-gender attraction.
-- That most Americans favor same-gender marriage, which means the church is outside the mainstream in opposing it.
-- There are no rational, nonreligious reasons for opposing same-gender marriage.

Elder Hafen also expressed admiration for audience members for their courage and righteous desires and their choosing to deal with a same-sex attraction that they may have not have consciously chosen. He also stated that Jesus Christ's atonement offers two healing blessings to those challenged by same-gender attraction:

"First, Christ helps us draw on his strength to become more at one with God, even while overcoming the attraction. He helps us bear the burden of the affliction... . As a second healing and compensating blessing, the atonement enables the grace that assures this grand promise: No eternal blessing — including marriage and family life — will be withheld from those who suffer same-gender attraction, if they do 'all they can do' to remain faithful". Read the full transcript of Elder Hafen's address HERE.

Update September 20th: Since this post, a blogger on Feminist Mormon Housewives presents evidence suggesting that Elder Hafen may have misrepresented some source documents to support his assertions about homosexuality. Hafen’s article does not provide hyperlinks to the source documents, and in many cases, the citations are incomplete. From a Google search, the FMH blogger tracked most of them down and found evidence interpreted to suggest that Hafen’s article had quoted selectively from source documents or had misrepresented them entirely. Despite the title "Feminist", the FMH bloggers appear to be faithful members of the LDS Church.

However, another Bloggernacle resource, ThinkingInAMarrowBone, presents an explanation and partial rebuttal to FMH's claims. Dennis counters by suggesting that people frequently quote paraphrase for rhetorical reasons, the Wall Street Journal article does talk about a resolution, and that the WSJ paraphrase DOES accurately characterize the APA resolution.

The Evergreen conference concluded on September 19th; you can read the full agenda HERE. While Evergreen International promotes the pro-LDS point of view, it is not formally affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other stories on this conference filed by the Salt Lake Tribune and KSTU Channel 13, which reported on both conferences (video embedded below):

Meanwhile, across town at the University of Utah, Affirmation was holding their own conference for gay Mormons, gay ex-Mormons, and their supporters. Read the conference agenda HERE. During this conference, many LDS and former LDS men and women shared their experiences growing up in the church and their struggles to accept the church's position of denouncing same-sex marriage while being true to their own beliefs. While Affirmation is not pro-LDS, it should not necessarily be considered anti-LDS, either; it considers leaving the Church as one of several prospective options for gay Mormons rather than the preferred option. Bloggernacle discussion now available on By Common Consent.

A Deseret News article entitled "Gay Mormons seek to be LDS on own terms" focuses upon an address delivered by Emily Pearson, who discussed her experiences and own ideas about staying true to yourself despite sexual identity. Pearson's mother, Carolyn Pearson, is the author of "Goodbye, I Love You," which tells the story of her marriage to a gay Mormon man.

Pearson described herself as "very Mormon" growing up, which made for a difficult reconciliation since her gay father died from AIDS, and her ex-husband later identified himself as gay. Pearson left the LDS Church awhile ago after what she called an epiphany in which she "gripped her desk at work," realizing that people have to follow what's in their heart, not what those around them tell them to do. Pearson then concluded by saying that gay and lesbian Mormons have to be "Mormon on their own terms" struck a chord with several listeners.

To have both a father and an ex-husband, the two men closest to a woman in her life, turn out to be gay, must be a heavy burden for a woman to bear. Emily Pearson indeed has my sympathy. Nevertheless, there are limits to how a gay Mormon can be a Mormon on one's own terms. One can certainly be a cultural or an ideological Mormon on one's own terms. However, one cannot remain a member of the Church strictly on one's own terms. If one commits an infraction warranting formal severance from the Church, the Church will sever one, through the process of excommunication.

And any sexual activity outside of traditional marriage between one man and one woman is considered an excommunicable offense. This will remain so until superseded by revelation. And revelation is not something one orders up at the drive-thru window at Wendy's. President Thomas S. Monson cannot be expected to ask for a revelation authorizing the membership of practicing homosexuals so long as scripture bans nonmarital sexual activity. So regardless of how much the gay lobby kicks against the pricks, it is unlikely the Church will change its policy anytime soon.

Gay Mormons who cannot reconcile themselves to this reality need to consider finding a different environment to serve the Lord.

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