Sunday, August 16, 2009

Topical Guide

Somewhere out there is a young man, struggling to make sense of these feelings he has ... for boys.

He opens his scriptures - because that is what we teach young people to do. He turns to the Topical Guide - because that is where we teach young people to go; and, he looks up homosexuality.

He reads about homosexuality being the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. He reads about men lusting after men going after strange flesh. None of this is new, he's heard these things before. At the bottom it says "See also". He turns to
2 Timothy 3:3
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good
He then turns to
2 Peter 2:10
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
These, he concludes, must be the attributes of homosexuals.
  • without natural affection
  • trucebreakers
  • false accusers
  • incontinent
  • fierce
  • despisers of those that are good
  • walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness
  • despise government
  • presumptuous
  • selfwilled
  • not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Next he reads
2 Nephi 9:40
O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.
The words he is reading are harsh - but they must be true, it's right there in the scriptures. Homosexuals are evil, undeserving of God's love.

He falls to his knees, shaking and praying to God in heaven to take these feelings from him. A prayer he has uttered many times before. He climbs into bed, and cries himself to sleep - wondering why God is ignoring him. Is he too unclean? Is he not righteous enough?

* * *

Unknown to him, God will not heal him - because there is nothing wrong with him. A truth that Mary Griffith finally realized after her son Bobby killed himself - because he could not reconcile his religious faith and his sexual feelings. We will never hear this in church, however, because these are the truths that every Latter-Day Saint carries with them.

The problem is, none of these verses have anything to do with homosexuality. The only tie to homosexuality is in the Topical Guide. In other words, someone decided that these verses describe homosexuals - and if we consider it harsh then we're not righteous. Why else would they have included these verses in the Topical Guide under "Homosexuality" - how else can this be interpreted?

But, the bigger problem is . . . it's not truth! Are there homosexuals for whom those verses would be an accurate description? Absolutely! But, I venture to say that there are probably more heterosexuals described by those verses. The apostles of old were describing the unrighteous. Being a homosexual does not automatically make you unrighteous!

It's not my intent to disparage the brethren. Although I have some serious disagreement with their views on homosexuality - I believe that they are good righteous men who are just trying to do the right thing - their view of 'right'.

The Topical Guide has been around for a long time (around 1980, if memory serves). It reflects the general attitude that society had at the time for homosexuals. It reflects the attitude I had for homosexuals - which is why it was so difficult and took me so long to accept that I . . . am a homosexual.

Times have changed - unfortunately, the Topical Guide has not. Maybe it's time for an updated version of the Topical Guide.


Goldarn said...

Welcome to the Church of Bruce R. McConkie of Latter-Day Saints.

Daniel said...

I was 12 when I received a pamphlet called the For the Strength of Youth which called homosexuality an abomination. I wasn't old enough to separate myself from the confusing feelings naturally being awaken within me. I thought I was an abomination.

I was later asked to memorize the abbreviated version of that pamphlet.

Since then, the pamphlet has been rewritten, but the sentiment is still there. It's just sugar coated.

The church is handing children nooses, and has been for decades.

Evan said...

Interesting observation, Abe. Maybe a general authority will read this :)

Ned said...

Which is why we all need to keep doing what Elder Ballard urged church members to do: blog about our beliefs. That young man may also turn to the Internet and here he may discover us. And perhaps he will read the scriptural account of Jonathan and David and the blog of David Baker.

And perhaps he will conclude, I am not alone and I am not evil. Never before in the history of mankind have ordinary people like us had the opportunity to reach anyone in the world who has access to a computer and a search engine. We can't afford to waste the opportunity to tell our stories and speak our truth.

TGD said...

Amen Abe, Amen!

MNJ said...

Holy cow! I have read & reread those verses so many times and have felt the pain that I AM AN ABOMINATION! Why would they use all those descriptive words to identify who I am. WHY? Are they scared of me? I'm lot's of fun at parties, just let me come to one....

kevin said...

I've always felt that it is unfair in a religious debate to quote the Pauline epistles. He contradicts himself so much, and they seem like a bunch of conference talks taken out of context and pasted together.

And I'm surprised that the 2 Nephi 9 reference is there...seems out of context.

Still, while these scriptures don't describe any of my gay friends and family, they also don't say that homosexuals are undeserving of God's love.

The one that bothers me the most is the Romans 1 reference, because, according to the LDS footnotes, Paul is talking about giving the death penalty to people who commit the sins he has just listed. I'm with you, Abe: clearly, it's time for an overhaul of the LDS topical guide and footnotes. I don't think they accurately represent the teachings of current LDS leaders.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused...

Today's prophets DO NOT teach that men/woman who are attracted to the same sex are evil/abominations/ect. They do teach that intimacy is reserved only for husband and wife. God has made His will clear concerning this matter through His living prophet.

BOTH STRAIGHT/GAY are condemned EQUALLY by God!!! God is no respector of persons. When either gay/straigt do not keep the commandments, consequences follow. Yes, I'm attracted to guys! I don't know went wrong in my sexual attraction development. But I do know God's doctrine about sexual relations and when it is appropriate. How can I debate God's will???

Carter Niven said...

@ Remington: "BOTH STRAIGHT/GAY are condemned EQUALLY by God!!!"

That is completely untrue. I remember on my mission talking to my mission president about having homosexual desires. He said it was no different that heterosexual desires... and I just needed to learn to control them.


With heterosexual desires I can control them until the day that I can be married and express them under a proper relationship. With homosexual desires I would always and forever have to work on those so that I could never succumb.

How can you debate God's will? First by acknowledging that God's will is not consistent, it changes over time, and reflects society. Sure, be a Mormon if you want but know that Mormonism has just as itchy of ears as the rest of the religious community.

Hidden said...

Thanks so much for this post. I actually sent it to my parents. That means you get a star for impact.

Beck said...

The Topical Guide is definitely reflective of the times it was written nearly 30 years ago. It is scheduled for a re-write.

As for me and my house, well, I just don't believe in those references applying to my homosexuality anymore. I am a good person and I am happy with my homosexuality and I think Heavenly Father is, too. So there!

Tiane said...

I didn't realize where you were going with this, and was surprised by your assertion that what many people take in as doctrine is merely implied by the topical guide's classification. Good thoughts, well put.