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Stuart Matis’ Letter to His Cousin (and Boyd K. Packer at the end!)

October 17, 2011

This was a letter written by Stuart Matis to his cousin, Clay, weeks before Stuart committed suicide on the steps of my Ward building.  The church at this time was heavily involved in campaigning for Proposition 22 (The Knight Initiative), the precursor to Proposition 8.  Stuart was a gay Mormon man who had been celibate and faithful his entire life, but in his own words, “Could not live another day choking on my own feelings of inferiority.”

Clay,

It was great to hear from you. I had been wondering whether you were planning soon to put in your papers. The whole concept of Clay going on mission disturbs me – I suddenly feel real old. Actually I’m excited for you. It’s a tremendously scary time in your life right now because you are facing into a void of so many unknowns. The second you step foot in the MTC, however, it will all seem so natural.

So, you want to have my opinions regarding the Knight Initiative? At the outset, I’ll tell you that the events surrounding this initiative have been painfully difficult for me to endure. Last July, I read online that the Church had instructed the Bishops to read a letter imploring the members to give of their time and money to support this initiative. I almost went into a panic attack. I cried for hours in my room, and I could do very little to console the grief of hearing this news.

Furthermore, I read that the Church had supported similar measures in Hawaii and in Alaska. In Alaska, the supporters of the measure had raised $600,000. Of this, $500,000 came from the Church. Ads were aired on television describing the downfall of the Roman Empire and placing blame on Rome’s tolerance of homosexuality. Its message was that a similar fate would occur to those who supported equality for gay Americans. Not only was this historical analysis completely fallacious, but this was a prejudicial ad designed to invoke a visceral reaction of fear and hate among the Alaskan citizens.

Apparently, the Church has raised $1 million in support of this initiative. This is so disheartening because I feel that my own peers are attacking me. Caesar’s Brutes comes to mind. In July, I realized that I was going to have to endure viewing millions of dollars of television ads designed with one intention in mind: raise fear against gay and lesbian Californians. What’s worse is that this fear campaign has been orchestrated by my own friends.

My mom is completely distraught over the issue. She told me that she is scared to read the papers or watch TV. When her bishop read another pro-Knight letter last Sunday, she wanted to cry. My gay friend, Clay (I met him on my mission), has implored me to never mention anything regarding Knight in his presence. It causes him too much pain. He almost asked that his name be taken off the Church records (indeed many have done just that). I was at a party several months ago with about fifteen gay men, and I mentioned to one that I was Mormon. Immediately, the room became deafeningly quiet. One guy looked at me and said, “Do you realize how hateful and destructive your Church is?” The expression “By your fruits ye shall know them” is common in the Church. Among gay men and women, the Church’s fruit is perceived as being hate. This is so unfortunate because many gay men and women become atheist as they are only presented with a God of hate.

Naturally, I have become very well versed in the Knight Initiative and the Church’s involvement. This is my world after all. I have met with my bishop to discuss the matter. He too disagrees with the Church’s involvement in anti-gay politics. It’s very disheartening for him as well, but his concurrence still does nothing to ease my pain.

Be forewarned; I’m going to deluge you with all my thoughts and feelings on the issue. Within the Church, there is such a knee-jerk reaction on this issue that many never engage in a healthy dialectic debate. They also never realize the consequences of their actions. With not even a cursory analysis of the logic behind the Church’s argument, most believe that their response is proper, and thus they don’t give it much thought. My hope is that I could enlighten you on how we gay members feel about it.

Before I begin, I want you to know that my arguments are not an attack on the Church. Rather they are a logical analysis of the arguments the Church and others give to support the Knight Initiative. My feelings will come across as extremely strong, because I believe the Church’s arguments are extremely weak. Furthermore, as I will explain, the Church’s actions are actually harmful to families and gay members and directly contrary to the central message of Christ’s gospel. Therefore, I feel compelled to strongly speak my mind on this issue. In the end, if you believe that I have vindictively attacked the Church, then I have failed in the intent of this letter, and I apologize beforehand.

The Author

I’ll begin with the author of this initiative, William “Pete” Knight. To say that he is homophobic doesn’t even begin to underscore his hatred of homosexuals. His own brother is gay as well as his son. His son was his pride when he returned home with honors from the Gulf War. That soon fell apart when his son came out, and his son quickly fell out of favor with his dad. So much for family values. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, the younger Knight said his father’s measure is “a blind, uncaring, uninformed, knee-jerk reaction to a subject about which he knows nothing.” Knight consistently produces legislation to strip away any gay rights including basic necessities such as employment non-discrimination. He is also notoriously racist. He’s written racist poetry that he has passed out to his conservative peers in Sacramento. His world is white, male, straight, Christian and conservative. All others be damned!

Frustrated with his inability to pass any of his legislation within the deliberative body of the state legislature, he has decided to focus on the more prejudicially swayed California electorate. You see, Clay, bumper sticker politics works best with the voters rather than in a state legislature.

Certainly, the lack of integrity of the messenger does not automatically mean the message is flawed. However, I just wanted you to understand the force behind this legislation and with whom the Church is now sleeping. It’s greatly disturbing to me.

“Traditional” Marriage

Next, it’s important to discuss what this issue is supposed to be about: marriage. Anti-gay advocates love to use the word “tradition” because it is emotionally prejudicial as it plays into people’s inherent fear of change. However, this is not a legal argument nor is it a valid argument for denying rights to a group of individuals. Neither is it a tenable argument, for it relies on the faulty premise that history has provided us with a consistency in the foundation of marriage. Marriage as is commonly known today is actually a relatively novel concept in the history of mankind. Depending upon the culture, religion, politics, and period of history, one may find a myriad of formations. Even among Christian people, marriage has undergone a metamorphosis contingent upon the needs of the people. When anti-gay advocates use the term “traditional”, I always wonder what tradition and what time. Do we support early 19th century traditional marriages when married women had no legal standing, could not own property, sign contracts, or legally control any earned wages? When the minimum age of consent for sexual intercourse in most states was 10 years old and in Delaware seven? When some states allowed boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 12 to marry with parental consent? Or do we support mid-1900 traditional marriages when in 12 states a woman could still not make legal contracts? When it was illegal to sell contraceptives? When in 13 states interracial marriage was forbidden and punishable by prison? Or do we support 1977 marriages when no states outlawed rape in marriage? Or in 1990, when only 10 states outlawed rape in marriages? I also find it somewhat hypocritical for the Church to appeal to people’s emotions and use the “tradition” argument when it was on the receiving end of such abuse during its polygamy era. The Church more than anyone in this country should know how persecution feels.

There are actually two kinds of marriages that people in America maintain: a legal marriage and a ceremonial marriage. Legal marriage is a relationship between three parties – the two individuals plus the state. Ceremonial marriage, often called a “wedding,” is quite distinct from legal marriage and is a relationship, not with the state, but between the couple, their religion and usually their familial and social circle. While many opposite-sex couples engage in both legal and ceremonial marriage, these two forms of marriage are entirely distinct – legally and functionally – under the United States’ Constitutional separation of church and state.

The word “marriage” is so emotionally charged that people fail to recognize the difference between legal and ceremonial marriage. To them it’s one and the same. The Knight Initiative, however, actually only precludes same-sex legal marriages not ceremonial marriages. Currently, many same-sex couples receive ceremonial marriages (weddings) each year by gay-friendly churches. If Knight passes, gay couples will continue to manifest their love in front of their friends and family by getting married in these churches. However, their marriage will not be legally recognized by the state of California (incidentally, they are already not recognized in California or in any state – the Knight Initiative merely codifies into law the status quo). They will be denied legal protection and benefits that are accrued to all opposite-sex marriages. In sum, they will be treated as unequal members of our society.

On the other hand, if same-sex marriages were legally recognized, the state could never force any church or institution to offer same-sex ceremonial marriages. The separation of church and state completely allows this. Mormons, Catholics and Southern Baptists could continue to deny ceremonial marriages to same-sex couples.

The state-enforced prohibition on same-sex marriages is nothing but the result of mob rule. There is no valid moral argument to deny equal rights to people simply because you dislike or fear them. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.” The same can be said of the Knight Initiative.

Many claim that the state should forbid same-sex marriages on moral principles (read: Biblically interpreted laws). These arguments are worn and tired. Biblical laws were used to validate slave ownership in America. They were used to deny women’s rights. They were used to forbid interracial marriages. The arguments are always the same; it’s the persecuted group that changes. Hate, fear and prejudice have always been traditional human values but why should be uphold them? It’s time we change this tradition!

Marriage, Family, Homosexuality and Reality

The Church has a right to be concerned about families. The divorce rate is rising. Spousal and child abuse continues unabated. Adultery remains a persistent part of the marriage landscape. These are all afflictions that have weakened families. The problem is that the Church has picked the wrong culprit. I understand that it is far easier to point the finger outward than inward, but it requires a great leap of faith to conclude that somehow homosexuals and their desire to marry is somehow responsible for these calamities or will make these calamities worse.

If there is anything consistent in any anti-gay debate, it is the superfluous use of platitudes and bumper sticker slogans. The debate in support of the Knight Initiative is no different. The slogan that is repeatedly used is that the Knight Initiative is needed to protect families (the Church uses “defend the institution of the family”).

I’m curious how exactly families will be defended. I will probably never know because the Church and other supporters never substantiate their argument. They leave the slogan to speak for itself. The problem is that it says nothing. Instead it relies on people’s fears to fill in the blanks. In order for their arguments to work, anti-gay advocates must convince people that homosexuals are in some way anti-family. As this is so completely fallacious, the arguments that rely on this premise crumble.

This is precisely why you will never read a full-blown argument in defense of the anti-family argument. In the end, a casual observer will quickly ascertain that anti-gay arguments are nothing but a patchwork of indefensible slogans and prejudicial sound bites. It makes for extremely effective politics, but lousy logic.

Let’s analyze the anti-family argument. How exactly are homosexuals anti-family? Homosexuality is not a choice; instead it is an indelible part of a person’s identity. The choice debate may still rage in the far right fringe of our society, but among those medical professionals who work daily with homosexuals, the overwhelming consensus is that homosexuality is a permanent identity. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Association of Social Workers have all declared that homosexuality is not a choice. Even the Church (very reluctantly) is beginning to admit this.

Since the Church now recognizes the indelible aspects of one’s sexuality, it actually dissuades homosexuals from getting married; they realize that marriage is not a cure for one’s sexuality. A same-sex marriage can only be “anti-family” if a person chooses a same-sex marriage over an opposite-sex marriage. As this simply is NOT the case, the entire issue of a homosexual being anti-family is moot.

A homosexual can only choose one of two avenues: being celibate or being sexually active. Neither of these choices will allow a homosexual to participate in the traditional family of a husband, wife and kids. Thus regardless of whether a homosexual gets married or not, the net effect on the family or on marriage is zero. The Church desires that homosexuals remain celibate, but how will this choice affect families any differently than if a homosexual nurtures a relationship? Once again, it’s a moot issue.

The problem is that this issue has been framed as a false dilemma and too many members and supporters of Knight have been snookered into believing it. The false dilemma is that either one is either pro-homosexuality or pro-family. This, of course, is false. I am gay. I hate to sound redundant, but whether I remain celibate or find a partner, the net effect on families is zero. The Church can certainly make whatever subjective moral argument for or against homosexuality. However, if it desires to make an objective argument, it must be logical, and in the case of the homosexuality/anti-family connection, the argument is illogical and fallacious.

Ironically, the Church’s positions on homosexuality have actually been anti-family. Several decades ago it was church policy to advocate marriage as a cure for one’s homosexuality. This inevitably resulted in many broken marriages and families. The Church also postulated that men became gay because of a doting mother and an absent father. This inevitably cast blame on the grieving parents. The Church’s positions and outspoken frankness on this issue has nurtured a climate that is hostile for young gay Mormons. Kids have been thrown out of homes under the guise of Christian love. Brothers and sisters have broken off contact from their gay brother and sisters. I recently read the letter of a brother in Salt Lake City who had to send his son far away from home to a private high school because he was constantly tormented in his Salt Lake high schools and by his neighbors. Unfortunately, the promotion of the Knight Initiative will only worsen an already polluted environment. Homophobia is a disease that destroys families. Unfortunately, the Church’s rhetoric and actions will only continue to nurture this disease.

Straight members have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up gay in this Church. It is a life of constant torment, self-hatred and internalized homophobia. Imagine the young gay boy frightened to death to divulge his secret pain to his dad because he witnesses his dad tromping around the neighbor placing up Knight signs. Imagine the young gay girl who listens to her mother profess her love for her as she writes a check to oppose “those filthy homosexuals”. Imagine any young gay kid who is desperate to scrape together a sliver of self-esteem as he or she daily hears the pejorative “faggot” and the word “gay” used as a negative adjective (as in “that was such a gay movie”).

The Church has no idea that as I type this letter, there are surely boys and girls on their calloused knees imploring God to free them from this pain. They hate themselves. They retire to bed with their finger pointed to their head in the form of a gun. Every waking moment of every day they must be on constant alert to not divulge any clues that will identify themselves to their peers. “Was my glance at that boy too long? Does he think I’m gay? Will he now publicize my secret and beat me up?” They are afraid of their parents. They are afraid of their bishop. They are afraid of their friends. They have nowhere to go but to lay on their floors curled in a ball and weep themselves to sleep.

The Church’s involvement in the Knight Initiative will only add to the great pain suffered by these young gay Mormons. This is a fear-based, divisive, galvanizing movement. Members who don’t even vote in presidential elections now put signs on their laws and march around the neighborhood like precinct workers. On the night of March 7th, many California couples will retire to their beds thrilled that they helped pass the Knight Initiative. What they don’t realize is that in the next room, their son or daughter is lying in bed crying and could very well one day be a victim of society’s homophobia. The Knight Initiative will certainly save no family. It is codified hatred. It is anti-family, anti-love and it is wrong.

Another argument that is quite prevalent is that marriages are weakening and must be defended. I always get a kick out of hearing this argument particularly from politicians. Marriage certainly does need defending and we as a society are doing our best to defend it. Indeed, Newt Gingrich will soon be defending his third marriage. Bob Dole is defending his second. Notoriously anti-gay Rep. Bob Barr is defending his third marriage. And Bill Clinton is still defending his first marriage.

Seriously, once again I’m confused at how exactly the Knight Initiative will defend marriages. What does it mean to defend marriages? I know of no gay activist who is calling for the dissolution of straight marriages, so who exactly is trying to destroy it? Do young couples make a decision to get married based on the actions of their gay neighbors? Will some couple decide that they’ll get a divorce because same-sex marriages are legally recognized? I never knew that we gay people had so much power over the decision making process in straight relationships. As is always the case with the issue of homosexuality, truthful information is rare and misplaced fear is high.

The issues that face marriages and families are real: divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, adultery, wages that are below the living requirements, lack of health care for children. I could give a laundry list of proposals and solutions to help families, but most of these are opposed by the very same organizations and politicians that claim to be pro-family. Same-sex marriage and homosexuals just make easier targets…a red herring.

Same-sex marriages already are not legal in the state of California. The Knight Initiative just codifies the status quo into law. It is a worthless endeavor. I would rather see the church ask its members to raise a million dollars for battered women’s shelters or for free marital counseling. Instead of asking its members to engage in neighborhood campaigning, the Church could ask all of its members to spend several Saturdays working with Habitat for Humanity building homes for low-income families. If the intent is to help families, why doesn’t the Church engage in a campaign to actually do something worthwhile for families? The Knight Initiative campaign is just a frivolous use of time and money. The proponents are wasting their resources on an empty suit. The opponents have to spend money to defend love and stability. The Knight Initiate is maddening in its petty benightedness.

It’s maddening also because even if the hyperventilated fears of anti-gay advocates come to fruition, the social impact will be negligible. For the sake of argument, I’ll assume that homosexuals constitute 5% of the population. If the rate of marriage among gay men and women is commensurate to the rate among heterosexuals, about 1-2 of every 100 marriages will be same-sex marriages. The end of marriage? Hardly. I once read that on the politics of homosexuality, the ratio of advance hysteria to actual social change is as out of whack as most NASDAQ Internet company valuations. Openly gay employees were supposed to disrupt the workplace. Gay school teachers were supposed to terrorize our kids. Tolerance of homosexuality was supposed to usher in an explosion of homosexuals (actual result: the percentages of self-professed homosexuals have remained consistent during the past several decades ). Like our experience with books and movies, the advance hysteria (book) is always far more interesting and eventful than the actual results (movie). The frenzy in favor of the Knight Initiative is no different.

The Slippery Slope Argument

Many claim that if same-sex marriages were legalized, what would stop the state from legalizing pedophilic marriages, bestiality marriages, or, heaven forbid, polygamous marriages. I sound redundant, but this argument also is flawed and downright frivolous. Marriage is a conscious decision by two adults to affirm their love for one another. Whether a couple constitutes an opposite-sex couple or a same-sex couple, the arrangement is between two consenting adults. Both pedophilia and bestiality are relationships where only one member is conscious and mature enough to consent. They are on an entirely different plane than homosexuality.

Society and the government allow any two consenting adults to get married: black and white, Christian and atheist, tall and short, deaf and blind, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat. To deny a marriage to someone based on gender is purely discriminatory. We as a Constitution-supporting and freedom-loving people should be the first to support the equal rights of all American citizens.

The Great Fallacy

The argument against same-sex marriage is a classic zero sum game argument: a gain for one side corresponds with a loss for another. I have seen the ads produced by the proponents of the Knight Initiative. It portrays a large family reunion as the announcer describes the beauty of families. The voice over ends with the statement, “Marriage and family. That’s what proposition 22 is all about.” On the surface it appears completely innocuous, but what is the implication behind the message? It is that if we allow homosexuals to get married, then straight marriages and their families will suffer. It’s a zero-sum game argument, and it is deceitful and fallacious.

In order to be effective, the message MUST play on people’s fears. My parents oppose the Knight Initiative because they know that whether I get married to a man or not, my family and my parent’s marriage will remain sound and healthy. They have no fear, and so they oppose it. Those who support it do it solely out of fear. Why else should one support it? The arguments made by the proponents prove it’s all about fear. “We need to protect the family”. From WHOM? “We need to protect marriage.” From WHOM? The whom is, of course, me, your gay neighbor, family member, friend and coworker. The message is that if I, Stuart, get married to a man, your family will suffer. You know that is wrong, and so is the Knight Initiative.

Second-Class Reality for Gay Couples

I don’t think that people in this country realize just how many laws are written dealing with marriages and how many benefits are accrued to married couples. These are just a few of the more than 1,000 federal and state benefits that married people automatically enjoy:

  • Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
  • Automatic Inheritance
  • Automatic Housing Lease Transfer
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Burial Determination
  • Crime Victim’s Recovery Benefits
  • Divorce Protections
  • Domestic Violence Protection
  • Exemption from Property Tax on Partner’s Death
  • Immunity from Testifying Against Spouse
  • Insurance Breaks
  • Joint Bankruptcy
  • Medical Decisions on Behalf of Partner
  • Certain Property Rights
  • Reduced Rate Memberships
  • Sick Leave to Care for Partner
  • Visitation of Partner’s Children
  • Visitation of Partner in Hospital
  • Wrongful Death (Loss of Consort) Benefits
  • Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
  • Social Security Survivor Benefits

Perhaps Mormons believe that it is better to deny us filthy and disgusting gay people any benefits. Perhaps they believe that it is divine that a gay man is refused entrance into his partner’s hospital room while he dies because he has no legal connection to him. Perhaps they believe that it is divine that a lesbian is unable to afford insurance and cannot receive discounted insurance through her partner’s company’s program. Well, I believe in a loving God. I believe in a God who sacrificed His own son for us. Therefore, I simply refuse to acknowledge that God in any way desires that his gay children are marginalized, treated as second-class citizens and denied equal benefits simply because of a society-believed character flaw. I also can’t imagine a Mormon who professes to love both God and his neighbor will allow himself or herself to believe that homosexuals should be treated as second-class citizens.

The Aftermath

An issue I have with Christian culture is its use of military metaphors: “war in heaven”, “onward Christian soldiers”, “Armageddon”. In order for these metaphors to be validated, churches must create enemies: communists in the fifties, hippies in the sixties, feminists in the seventies and now homosexuals. A desire to understand and to engage in an open dialogue is jettisoned in favor of sound bite rhetoric.

When the Columbine massacre occurred, people were quick to point fingers. The targets were the usual suspects: Hollywood, video games, liberal politicians, rock singer Marilyn Manson. No one stopped, however, to ask the critical questions: Why were these killers hated in school? Why were they taunted? Why did they endure daily name calling? Why were they ostracized? If these killers had been fully embraced with love and support by their fellow student, I postulate that all the video games, rock music and movies couldn’t have turned them into killers. These boys had to be nourished with hate. They had to be treated as an enemy.

Clay, there is far too much hate and division in our society. Our society is becoming Balkanized as we segregate people into groups. The parallels between our society now and that of the Nephites/Lamanites at the end of the Book of Mormon are frightening.

I understand that the world is seemingly chaotic. It is innate in each of us to apply order to this chaos (our inner Aristotle). We thirst after a clean delineation between good and bad, black and white. We also have an insatiable desire to divide up people into two camps: “us” friends versus “them” enemies. Perhaps when we are confused at the chaos, it is easier for us to scapegoat others to give reasons for our fears. I too suffer from these human weaknesses, and I am trying to rid myself of them. The reason is that, ultimately, I see no good in pitting one group against another. It seems so contrary to the principles laid out by Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

After the millions of dollars have been spent on television ads promoting the Knight Initiative, homophobia will be inflamed and our gay youth will intensify their self-destruction by internalizing society’s homophobia. The disquieting results already:

  • 22% of gay and lesbian youth skip school each month because they fear for their safety.
  • Gay students are seven times more likely than others to have been threatened or injured with a weapon
  • 18% of Bay Area college men said they had physically assaulted or threatened someone they thought was gay or lesbian and 32% admitted to verbal harassment.
  • Gay and lesbian teenagers are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. 53% of gay youth served by the Los Angeles Youth Services Department had attempted suicide at least once, 47% more than once.
  • About 25% of all homeless youth in the United States are gay or lesbian
  • 90% of gay and lesbian students suffer from verbal and physical harassment in school (half indicate that they suffer from verbal harassment on a daily basis)
  • More than 25% of gay and lesbian students drop out of school because of discomfort in the environment.

Do the members not even care about these statistics? Their lives are validated by their peers, society, church, and government. I, on the other hand, have to claw my way into social acceptance. I am the one who will have to live in the wake of the Knight Initiative. Most members never know what it feels to be marginalized. They are Christian and mostly white and middle class. They never know what it’s like to live in fear.

Imagine for a moment that the Knight Initiative was a proposition to ban Mormon marriages. The proponents believed that Mormon marriages would destroy families and destroy marriages. Imagine seeing your neighbors place anti-Mormon marriage placards on their lawn or seeing your neighbors march around the neighbor in support of this initiative. Imagine having to watch over $5 million in TV ads designed to raise fears about you. Then imagine the proponents of this initiative having the audacity to claim that they are not bigoted and that this initiative is not about prejudice. Rather they simply want to affirm what everyone knows: Mormon marriages are immoral and not healthy for society. The shoe doesn’t feel so good, does it?

My world is so vastly different than that of my straight friends. For every person I meet, I am forced to quickly ascertain whether or not he or she is a friend or foe. I have to keep quiet at work about something that is so integral to my identity for fear of the repercussions. Most of my gay friends (and I) were suicidal at one time in their lives. I have friends who have swallowed pills, cut their wrists, burned their arms, placed bags over their heads. I have friends who have taken anti-depressant pills as if they were candy. Years of internalized homophobia have deeply scared my friends and me. It is only after we began to accept our identity that we have been able to heal our minds.

Straight people have no idea what it is like to turn on the television and watch some angry demagogue spew hateful rhetoric and cast the blame for society’s problems at our feet. They have no idea what it is like to have the Bible shoved in our faces and hear the love that stirs in our souls described as “repugnant”, “disgusting”, “immoral”, “unnatural”. They have no idea what it is like to live in a society that treats you like a second-class citizen and fights to keep you from having the same rights that all other citizens enjoy. They have no idea what it is like to hear people truly believe that we desire to terrorize children and that our mere existence is evident of the eventual decline of our civilization.

Do I blame the Church for society’s homophobia? I know that I am quick to cast blame at the feet of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Gary Bauer. However is the Church any different? Did you know that Russell Hendersen, one of the two boys convicted of killing Matthew Shepard, was raised by his Mormon grandparents? The Church does not operate in a vacuum, and its message does plant seeds in people’s hearts.

I realize that the Church is quick to point out that we should love gay people. However, this is usually a short caveat after a lengthy condemnation of our behavior. Our “behavior” is such an integral part of our identity that it’s difficult for people to separate the two. To most members, the two are not mutually exclusive; they are joined at the hip. After spending several weekends knocking on doors supporting the Knight Initiative, could anyone feel closer and more love towards gay people? Despite what the Church says, the energy level devoted in the attack is significantly greater than the few sentences thrown in a talk to appease the Church’s critics.

Can any of the Brethren really say without equivocation that the hatred of the California members towards homosexuals has not increased in the past several months? What is the Church doing to diminish the animosity and fear directed at gay people? A position based on fear could never grow into an understanding based on love. Fear is never a solid foundation for love. I wish that one day the members could realize that this sort of fear has no business in a Church of Love.

Not Divine Revelation

When all is said and done (and believe me, I have talked to many members on this subject), the membership of this Church will invariably support the initiative. I have discussed this issue with my friends of over two decades, and while they agree with me in substance, they inevitably tell me that they will support the initiative anyway. Their sole reason is that the Brethren have requested it. Because President Hinckley referred to it in a Priesthood session of General Conference and because the letters read over the pulpit were on official stationary, many members feel that the Church’s support of this initiative is divinely inspired, that God Himself had decreed to President Hinckley that he and the Church should pursue this course of action. This is entirely not true; God has not spoken to President Hinckley regarding this initiative. This is purely a temporal and administrative decision.

If this were indeed divinely inspired, then why does the Church repeatedly tell reporters that the church members are not compelled to support the initiative? A member can actually publicly donate money to and conduct fieldwork for the “No on Knight” campaign and still take the sacrament and go to the temple. How could this be if the Church’s support for the measure was “divinely inspired”?

I know many active and devoted members of the Church who do not support the Knight Initiative and plan to vote no. Are they sinners? No, because the proposition has nothing to do with divine gospel. It is solely a triumph of the rule of law over the rule of love. Indeed, if the Church’s support were divinely inspired, then one would conclude that God’s law is illogical, He speaks in fallacious sound bites, and He has no concern for the fears racing in the hearts and minds of His gay children.

Spiritual Analogy

In Luke 10:25, a lawyer asks Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replies, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” The lawyer responds, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God will all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and will all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus tells him that he had answered correctly, but the lawyer wants to know more. He asks, “Who is my neighbour?”

The answer is, of course, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It is a simple response to a simple question, yet the response underscores what Christ believes it means to be a Christian: no law is as important as the law of love. It transcends all other laws.

That the traveler was left “half dead” is no small significance. According to Biblical Law, the holy men among the Jews were forbidden to touch the dead. As the man was “half dead”, the priest or the Levite would have had to touch the man to ascertain whether or not he was truly dead. Instead of unintentionally breaking the laws, the priest and the Levite decided to ignore him entirely. By this parable, Jesus underscored the Samaritan’s love as superior to that of the rulebook mentality.

The Samaritans were extremely despised by the Jewish people and particularly around the time of Christ. Near Christ’s birth, some Samaritans had defiled the court of the Jerusalem temple by strewing dead men’s bones around the place. Therefore, the reaction by the Jews upon hearing that Jesus had suggested to a Judean lawyer that a Samaritan might attain external life, while a priest or a Levite would not, would be analogous to the reaction by a Mormon upon hearing the suggestion that a homosexual is a better Christian than a Mormon Apostle.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan has been discussed so many times that it has become trite. Lost in our familiarization with the story is the knowledge that, at the time, it was truly a revolutionary message. Jesus was definitely iconoclastic for his times, and his message required a dramatic leap of understanding. If a Christian were to utter a familiar message today using a modern-day Samaritan (say, a homosexual), it might be perceived as a quaint lesson on a Christian theme, but the modern-day Christian listener surely would still believe that the Samaritan would be condemned to hell.

Our modern day minds are not different from those of the ancient Jews. Like the Jews, we would fail to realize that the thrust of the story is that in Jesus’ eyes, the Samaritan was a Christian. He wasn’t baptized a Christian. He didn’t go to church. He didn’t profess any Christian affiliation, however, he is still is a Christian. The reason is that he loves his neighbor. In the Samaritan’s eyes, his neighbors are not his friends, or church members, or those like him, or those who share his beliefs. A neighbor is simply any human being regardless of his or her backgrounds or characteristics. And what is more remarkable in this story is that the Samaritan’s neighbor happened to be his detractor, his chief enemy.

Did the priest or Levite not love the fallen Jew? Perhaps they did, but they were compelled from touching him due to their law. Are the Church’s actions any different? Would they actually “touch” me, a gay man – would they try to know me and understand me? Would they attempt to stop their harmful rhetoric? Would they stop supporting divisive initiatives? Would they support my equality regardless of whether I was their “enemy” or not?

Unfortunately, Jesus’ message is still needed in our day. The parable is a mighty challenge to us not just to say that we love all but to actually act with love towards all. We must do, not talk. This message is particularly relevant for us when dealing with those who belong to oppressed, despised or disenfranchised groups (the metaphoric Samaritan). In sum, love in action is the only kind of love there is, and it is at the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

In what way is the effort by the Church to campaign for the Knight Initiative in concert with the message found in the Parable of the Good Samaritan? Are their actions based on love or on fear? Are they intended to unify us as a people or divide us? Will the campaign result in the vilification of a perceived enemy? I think that you know the answers. This is precisely why I am so deeply troubled by the Church’s involvement in this wretched initiative.

Conclusion

The successful passage of the Knight Initiative will do absolutely nothing (repeat: absolutely NOTHING) to protect marriages. Wives will still be battered. Children will still be abused. Spouses will still commit adultery. Marriages will still break up. Meanwhile the Church will have raised and spent a million dollars and the members will have volunteered thousands of hours to support…nothing.

Unfortunately, as the members retire to their beds on the night of March 7th and fall asleep in relief that their marriages are once again safe, what could ensue the next day? A gay man will not be able to see his partner of thirty years die in a hospital bed because he had no legally recognized relation. A gay woman will have depleted all of her savings fighting breast cancer because she couldn’t afford insurance and her partner’s company refused to grant domestic partner benefits. A gay man will be denied permission to take sick leave from work to care for his dying partner (a benefit readily available to his straight peers). A gay kid will be beaten to a pulp in high school because he dared to tell the truth. Thousands of frightened young gay Mormons will dig deeper into the dreadful closet in panic that their parents or friends may discover the truth about them. Homophobia in California will have been nurtured and inflamed and ready to engulf its next victim. The Church’s actions are completely contrary to the message found in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The rule of law has transcended the rule of love. Fear has transcended compassion and understanding. It’s a travesty, Clay. It’s a travesty. And it’s one that has caused (and will continue to cause) me immeasurable pain.

In the end, remember, Clay, that we gay people are your family. We are your brothers and sisters. We are your sons and daughters. In your case, I am your cousin. You know from your 18-year life that I adore my family. I respect my family, I look up to them, and I love them. I would lose my life in order to protect them.

The entire premise of the Church’s argument, however, is that if I were to fulfill the measure of my creation, fall in love with a man, and desire to commit my love to him through marriage, then suddenly I become anti-family. My union somehow will weaken families. Which family, Clay? My family? Your family? Whose family am I supposed to destroy? When placed in this context, it seems so absurdly silly. However, this is exactly the intent behind the Knight Initiative.

This is precisely why you will not see a church member who has a gay son or daughter placing signs on his or her lawn. These members will not be walking around their neighborhoods. These members will ache every time a gay debate ensues in the chapel halls. These members know the intent of their children’s hearts. They know the goodness of their spirit. They see the goodness in their children’s gay friends. They see and experience homophobia on a personal basis, and they collectively mourn the Church’s involvement in the Knight Initiative. I wish that I could shout this message from the rooftops, but alas, I sit alone in my room typing wondering what will happen next.

Well, Clay, my fingers are blistered. By asking me your question, your poured water on my electrical wounds. Thus I apologize if my words were a bit strong. I hope that these words, however, give you a substantial alternative point of view and help you in your report.

On a more upbeat note, good luck preparing for your mission. I’ll see you in the spring. Take care.

Warmly,
Stuart

Apparently the medical examiners and people who prepared Stuart for burial were surprised to discover that he had callouses all over his knees.  Those who knew him well were not surprised.  This was a man who had great faith, a man who prayed frequently, and a man who ultimately took his own life because the church he believed in had no place for him.

Boyd K. Packer’s infamous talk

Now, understanding how sermons from the church leaders affect gay people can be hard if you are close-minded about it.  I want you, the reader of this blog, to imagine for a minute that you are a gay person listening to this Boyd K. Packer speech given to BYU students in 1978.  Like almost all gay people as well as biologists, psychologists, and anthropologists, believe for a minute that being gay is natural, that you were born with it, and that it’s a part of who you are rather than a choice or tendency.

What I say in this presentation will be serious and solemn. I will not speak to everyone. I ask the indulgence of the “ninety and nine,” while I speak to “the one.” I ask you, the ninety and nine, to sit quietly if you will, reverently if you can, and to generously help create an atmosphere where we can reach that one who desperately needs the counsel that I will present. The cooperation of you of the ninety and nine may not, after all, prove to be without some benefit to you. There may be a time in the years ahead when you can use something of what I say to help someone else, perhaps someone very close to you.

I have worried for fear that any treatment of the subject I approach may be indelicate or immodest. I feel perhaps as did Jacob, the Book of Mormon prophet, when he opened a sermon with these words:

. . . It grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God; . . .

But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God. (Jacob 2:7,10)

I understand those words of Jacob as I never have before. I see before me the worthy youth of Zion. I must nevertheless touch upon a subject such as he did, and for the same reason.

One more sentence from Jacob: “Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord” (Jacob 1:17; italics added) Rest assured that I have wrestled in prayer over this assignment.

And so, now to the subject, to introduce it I must use a word. I will use it one time only. Please notice that I use it as an adjective, not as a noun; I reject it as a noun. I speak to those few, those very few, who may be subject to homosexual temptation. I repeat, I accept that word as an adjective to describe a temporary condition. I reject it as a noun naming a permanent one.

I have had on my mind three general questions concerning this subject. First: Is sexual perversion wrong?

There appears to be a consensus in the world that it is natural, to one degree or another, for a percentage of the population. Therefore, we must accept it as all right. However, when you put a moral instrument on it, the needle immediately flips to the side labeled “wrong.” It may even register “dangerous.” If there has been heavy indulgence, it registers clear over to “spiritually destructive.”

The answer: It is not all right. It is wrong! It is not desirable; it is unnatural; it is abnormal; it is an affliction. When practiced, it is immoral. It is a transgression.

There is much in the scriptures that applies to this subject indirectly as well as a number of very direct references. In all of them, this and every other form of moral mischief is condemned. I read but two. This, from Romans, chapter one:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Romans 1:26-27; italics added)

The Book of Mormon states: “And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil…” (2 Nephi 2:5). Even one who is spiritually immature ought intuitively to sense that such actions are wrong, very wrong.

There is a reason why we in the Church do not talk more openly about this subject. Some matters are best handled very privately. With many things, it is easy – very easy – to cause the very things we are trying to avoid. On one occasion, with a friend of mine, I went to the medical center of a large university to see another friend who was a doctor there. In the waiting room before us was a low table covered with pamphlets describing various diseases. My friend observed: “Well, there they are. Read enough about it and you’ll think you’ve got it.”

Do not be misled by those who whisper that it is part of your nature and therefore right for you. That is false doctrine!

The second question: Is this tendency impossible to change? Is it preset at the time of birth and locked in? Do you just have to live with it? For example, the shutter of an expensive camera is calibrated at the factory and cannot be adjusted in the field. If such a camera, by chance, is thrown out of calibration or damaged, it cannot be fixed locally. It must eventually go back to the factory, for only there can it be put in order. Is perversion like that? The answer is a conclusive no! It is not like that.

Some so-called experts, and many of those who have yielded to the practice, teach that it is congenital and incurable and that one just has to learn to live with it. They can point to a history of very little success in trying to put whatever mechanism that causes this back into proper adjustment. They have, to support them, some very convincing evidence. Much of the so-called scientific literature concludes that there really is not much that can be done about it.

I reject that conclusion out of hand. And there is a very sensible reason. How can a conclusion on a matter like this be valid when the studies have ignored the part of our nature most affected by it? It has not been fully studied as a moral and a spiritual disorder.

It is not unchangeable. It is not locked in. One does not just have to yield to it and live with it. Test it against moral law and you learn something very quickly. If a condition that draws both men and women into one of the ugliest and most debased of all physical performances is set and cannot be overcome, it would be a glaring exception to all moral law. If that were so (and it is not), it would stand out as a strange and peculiar exception, one that can be applied to none other of the kinds of mishief that relate to the power of procreation. Such a thing is totally inconsistent.

The Lord does not work by exceptions. He works by rules. Put a moral or a spiritual test upon it and the needle flips conclusively to the indicator and says “correctable.” Almost every major physical disease was once thought to be incurable but yields now that the cause is fully known and the right combination of remedies is applied.

Now, back to the illustration of the camera. There is a reason why there has been so little success in putting this mechanism back into proper adjustment – we keep using the wrong manual of instruction. For the most part, experts refer to the pages written by those who are assigned to do corrective work, rather than to the instruction provided by the Maker who created us.

When we understand fundamental moral law better than we do, we will be able to correct this condition routinely. The solution to this problem rests with the “thou shalts” and the “thou shalt nots.”

If someone is heavily involved in perversion, it becomes very important to him to believe that it is incurable. Can you not see that those who preach that doctrine do so to justify themselves? Some who become tangled up in this disorder become predators. They proselyte the young or the inexperienced. It becomes very important for them to believe that everyone, to one degree or another, is “that way.” You hear them claiming that a large percentage of the population is involved, in one way or another, with this activity. Do not be deceived. If you are one of the few who are subject tot his temptation, do not be misled into believing that you are a captive to it. That is false doctrine!

The third question is a very logical extension of the other two: If it is wrong, and if it is not incurable, how can it be corrected? What can be done for someone who has had a few thoughts in this direction? Or for one who has experienced a long and ugly history of indulgence? How can they be helped?

First, understand that the power of procreation is good! It is the power to create life. Think of that! The power to generate life given to man! Through its employment a couple can unselfishly bring children into the world. This power becomes a binding tie in marriage. Those who employ this power in complete worthiness have the promise of eternal increase. Those who do not, face the possibility that it will be withdrawn from them.

In marriage a couple can unselfishly express their love to one another. They reap, as a result, a fulfillment and a completeness and a knowledge of their identity as sons and daughters of God.

The power of procreation is good – divinely good – and productive. Pervert it, and it can be bad – devilishly bad – and destructive.

This power is very different from our physical or emotional nature. We cannot toy with it, or employ it prematurely or unwisely, without being on some very dangerous ground.

Now it is not all that unusual for a boy or a girl, in a moment of childish play with someone of the same gender, to enter into some mischief that should remain essentially innocent and meaningless and should be forgotten. And two young men or two young women, motivated by some attraction or responding to a desire for affection – any kind of affection – sometimes are drawn almost innocently into unnatural behavior. They can be drawn into some circumstances that makes them, for the moment, doubt their identity. Do not be deluded into thinking that such thoughts and feelings are normal for you. Just because you experience some period of confusion, do not make of that thing something that it is not. Do not order your life to conform to a transient thought or experience.

And just because someone has stubbed his toe a bit, or just because someone did not watch carefully where he was going and got off the track into some unnatural behavior, or just because he may have fallen victim to some clever predator, that is no reason to jump off the cliff into spiritual oblivion.

It is normal for a male to want to become more masculine, or for a female to want to become more feminine. But one cannot increase masculinity or femininity by deviate physical contact with one of his own gender. There are many variations of this disorder, some of them very difficult to identify and all of them difficult to understand. When one projects himself in some confused role-playing way with those of the same gender in an effort to become more masculine or more feminine, something flips over and precisely the opposite results. In a strange way, this amounts to trying to love yourself.

A male, in his feelings and emotions, can become less masculine and more feminine and confused. A female can become, in her emotions, less feminine and more masculine and confused. Because the body cannot change, the emotional part may struggle to transform itself into the opposite gender. Then an individual is on a hopeless, futile quest for identity where it can never be achieved.

There is even an extreme condition in which some individuals, in a futile search, will undergo so-called “change” operations in an effort to restructure their identity and become whole. Do not ever even consider that. That is no answer at all! That has eternal, permanent consequences. If an individual becomes trapped somewhere between masculinity and femininity, he can be captive of the adversary and under the threat of losing his potential godhood. And so we are brought once again to the doctrine of agency, which is fundamental to the very purpose of our coming into mortality.

If an individual tries to receive comfort, satisfaction, affection, or fulfillment from deviate physical interaction with someone of his own gender, it can become an addiction! At first it may fill a need and give comfort of some kind, but, when that has faded, feelings of guilt and depression follow. A greater need soon emerges. A cycle begins which sets that individual on a long, sad, destructive skid into emotional and physical disintegration, and ultimately spiritual oblivion.

For centuries men have sought to find the cause of this condition. This is an essential step in developing a cure. Perversion may have some very physical expressions, but it is not a physical disorder. A most extensive physical examination will not reveal one shred of evidence that it is. Physicians have never located any tangible control center in the body that can be adjusted by medical or surgical means to change this condition. The next obvious place to look is the emotional or psychological part of our nature. Here we come closer.

Psychologists and psychiatrists have struggled for generations to find the cause. Many have searched with resolute dedication and have studied everything that might have a bearing on it – parent-child relationships, inherited tendencies, environmental influences, and a hundred and one other things. These things and many, many more remain on the scope. They either have some important effect on this problem, or they are affected in important ways by this problem.

Counselors somehow seem always to be working on the symptoms. When they find something that works on one case and apply it to another, it may not work at all. They have not, as yet, found a remedy. This condition cannot as yet be uniformly corrected by emotional or physical or psychological or psychiatric treatment. Depending on the severity, some forms of these treatments are of substantial help in about 25 percent of the cases. And anything that does help, does help. But there must be a better answer.

Since perversion can have such an effect on the physical and on the emotional, it has been thought to be centered there. But where do we turn when the physical and the emotional treatments are only partly successful? To Latter-day Saints the answer ought to be obvious. We turn to the spiritual nature. The world may not regard that as important, but we do! When this is regarded as a moral matter and as a spiritual matter, there are answers not otherwise available.

The cause of this disorder has remained hidden for so long because we have been looking for it in the wrong place. When the cause is discovered, it may be nothing so mysterious after all. It may be hidden because it is so obvious.

I present a possibility. And I remind you – I am talking to the one. You, the ninety and nine, are merely listening in. I am conscious that when I mention it, the first reaction may be resistance, resentment, even hostility – that is to be expected – but hear me out!

Have you explored the possibility that the cause when found, will turn out to be a very typical form of selfishness – selfishness in a very subtle form? Now – and understand this – I do not think for a minute that the form of selfishness at the root of perversion is a conscious one, at least not to begin with. I am sure it is quite the opposite. Selfishness can attach itself to an individual without his being aware that he is afflicted with it. It can become imbedded so deeply and disguised so artfully as to be almost indistinguishable.

It is hard to believe that any individual would, by a clear, conscious decision or by a pattern of them, choose a course of deviation. It is much more subtle than that. If one could even experiment with the possibility that selfishness of a very subtle nature may be the cause of this disorder, that quickly clarifies many things. It opens the possibility of putting some very sick things in order.

The spiritual perspective for the cure of perversion emerges with the realization that the physical power of creation or procreation is different from every other part of our nature. It is so devised that the only employment of it calculated to bring happiness is in giving, not in receiving. Consider this: One cannot procreate alone. And this: One cannot procreate with his own gender. These are absolutes. And there is a third: One cannot procreate without yielding or giving.

When one has the humility to admit that a spiritual disorder is tied to perversion and that selfishness rests at the root of it, already the way is open to the treatment of the condition. It is a painful admission indeed that selfishness may be at the root of it, but we do not have much evidence that one can cure perversion by trying to cure perversion. If unselfishness can effect a cure, we ought to be desperate enough by now at least to experiment with the possibility. I repeat, we have had very little success in trying to remedy perversion by treating perversion. It is very possible to cure it by treating selfishness.

Some individuals, entangled in perversion, make a clear-cut decision to come out in the open, to stay that way, and to plunge further into it. That becomes a clear-cut act of selfishness. There is an inevitable result. From it we learn something important. Any individual is, of course, free to do that because each has his agency, but he cannot do that and produce any happiness for those who love him nor, ultimately, for himself.

There are bonds of love that tie human beings together. How sad when signals of love are sent across this network of communication from one human being to another and there comes back in return static, rejection, heartbreak, and agony! That kind of signal generates very quickly from selfishness. That is a selfish signal.

Individuals guilty of very selfish acts inevitably hurt those around them. No person ever made a conscious decision to make unnatural behavior his life-style without sending brutal, destructive, selfish signals to those who love him.

If you cannot understand perversion – and I admit that I cannot understand it – you can understand unselfishness and selfishness. You can learn to cure perversion.

Now, before we go any further, let me point out that anything can be perverted – even unselfishness. So don’t come up with some rationalization that participation in an act of sexual deviation is a generous and an unselfish gesture. Don’t claim that it is an unselfish thing to relieve the craving of someone who is similarly afflicted. Any thinking soul ought to know better than that. And don’t argue that in natural relationships, even in marriage, there can be completely and brutal selfishness. That may be true, but that is not our subject. And in any case, that is no justification for any immoral or selfish act of any kind.

The admission that one may suffer from selfishness cuts to the very quick. That is how deep the cut must be to repair many physical disorders. And yet our hospitals are full to overflowing with patients. They count it quite worthwhile to submit to treatment, however painful. They struggle through long periods of recuperation and sometimes must be content with a limited life-style thereafter, in some cases in order just to live. Is it not reasonable that recuperation from this disorder might be somewhat comparable? If unselfishness can cure it – if it has to be applied for a long period of time, and thereafter continually – is it not worth it?

We can do many things that are very personal, but these need not be selfish. For instance, it need not be a selfish thing to study and improve your mind, to develop your talents, or to perfect the physical body. These can be very unselfish if the motive is ultimately to bless others. But there is something different about the power of procreation. There is something that has never been fully explained that makes it dangerous indeed to regard it as something given to us, for us.

Now I hope I will not disappoint you too much if I say at once that I do not know of any quick spiritual cure-all. Setting aside miracles for the moment, in which I firmly believe, generally I do not know of some spiritual shock treatment that will sear the soul of an individual and instantly kill this kind of temptation – or any other kind, for that matter. No spiritual wonder drug that I know of will do it. The cure rests in following for a long period of time, and thereafter continually, some very basic, simple rules for moral and spiritual health. a lesson from the prophet Elisha is in order here.

Naaman was the general of the Syrian army. “He was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” There was in his house a slave girl from Israel. She told of prophets in Israel who “would recover him of his leprosy.” The king of Syria, wanting to save his valued general, sent a letter to the king of Israel saying that he has sent Naaman, “that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.”

The king of Israel was frightened and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?” Elisha heard of the letter and told the king, “Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” When Naaman arrived, Elisha sent a messenger to him saying, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.”

At this Naaman was furious. He thought he would at least come out and “call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.” And the Bible records that Naaman “went away in a rage.”

But then his servant (it seems that, always, there has to be a servant) “came near, and spake unto him, and said, . . .If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” Naaman stood rebuked by his humble servant, and the incident concludes in these words: “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (See 2 Kings 5:1-14.)

If I could announce to you some dramatic, even bizarre, cure for this condition, I am sure many would move without hesitation to accept it, but when we talk of little things, most, I fear, will receive it just as Naaman first received the message from the prophet Elisha. If I should tell you to do some great thing and you would be cured, would you not do it? How much better, then, for you to do the little things! Then your flesh can become again as a little child, and you will be clean. Think very seriously on that.

You must learn this: Overcoming moral temptation is a very private battle, and internal battle. There are many around you who want to help and who can help – parents, branch president, bishop, for a few a marriage partner. And after that, if necessary, there are counselors and professionals to help you. But do not start with them. Others can lend moral support and help establish an environment for your protection. But this is an individual battle.

Establish a resolute conviction that you will resist for a lifetime, if necessary, and deviate thought or deviate action. Do not respond to those feelings; suppress them. Suppression is not a very popular word with many psychologists. Look what happened to society when it became unpopular!

You have a God-given right to be free and to choose. Refuse the unnatural; choose the moral way. You will know, then, where you are going. Ahead is but the struggle to get there.

Do not try merely to discard a bad habit or a bad thought. Replace it. When you try to eliminate a bad habit, if the spot where it used to be is left open it will sneak back and crawl again into that empty space. It grew there; it will struggle to stay there. When you discard it, fill up the spot where it was. Replace it with something good. Replace it with unselfish thoughts, with unselfish acts. Then, if an evil habit or addiction tries to return, it will have to fight for attention. Sometimes it may win. Bad thoughts often have to be evicted a hundred times, or a thousand. But if they have to be evicted ten thousand times, never surrender to them. You are in charge of you. I repeat, it is very, very difficult to eliminate a bad habit just by trying to discard it. Replace it. Read in Matthew, chapter 12, verses 43 to 45, the parable of the empty house. There is a message in it for you.

Now to you, the one, some very direct counsel. If you are subject to this kind of temptation, it is essential that you break all connections with those who for one reason or another encourage it. Do not go back to places where you were tempted. Do not frequent those places where people with like attractions gather. This may require an adjustment socially, occupationally, even geographically.

If you are involved in a liaison, no matter how innocent it may appear, break it up right now. Some things tie you to this kind of temptation. Quit them. Avoid the very appearance of evil. This may be very painful if you are entangled in a relationship with deep emotional ties. Cut those ties and encourage the other person to do likewise. Get it done soon, and get it done completely and finally.

Freedom from this kind of enslavement is up to a trail that an individual must walk alone. If you stumble, get up and move on. Soon your bruises will heal. You will grow stronger. Your battle it two-thirds won, or three-fourths or four-fifths won, when you take charge of your identity.

Accept yourself as belonging in the tabernacle that God has provided for you. Your body was provided as an instrument of your mind. It has the purpose to bless others. Don’t be mixed up in this twisted kind of self-love.

With physical ailments we always want a quick cure. If a prescription hasn’t worked by sundown, we want to get another one. For this ailment there is no other prescription that I know about. You will have to grow away from your problem with undeviating – notice that word – undeviating determination. The longer you have been afflicted, or the more deeply you have been involved, the more difficult and the longer the cure. Any relapse is a setback. But if this should happen, refuse to be discouraged. Take your medicine, however bitter it tastes.

There is great power in the scriptures. Study the gospel – live it. Read the revelations. Every prescription against selfishness of any kind will bring some control of this disease. Every routine of unselfishness will give you more strength.

Look forward to being well and clean and happy. Even if you are guilty, there is no life sentence imposed or pronounced upon you. Keep that in mind.

Now, I want to express my gratitude to you of the ninety and nine who have listened patiently, I think even intently, to a message that has been directed, primarily, at the one. I think your time may not have been misspent. The principles that we have talked about apply to any moral temptation, and you may likewise have been reinforced and forewarned.

I want to tell you, all of you, pointedly that I have thought this to be a very personal message. No good purpose will be served if you make this message the subject of chatter in the dormitories, or in classes, or in Church meetings. I repeat, I have thought this to be a very personal message, and I have already said that we can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them.

Now, what I have to say on this subject, I have said. And that is all I would say to you if you wrote to me, or if you came to see me personally. I am not the one to treat you. You are the one to treat you. If you are worried about this problem, if you need help, it should come first from your parents, then from your branch president or bishop or from other that he may enlist to assist you. But you yourself can call upon a power that can renew your body. You yourself can draw upon a power that will reinforce your will. If you have this temptation – fight it!

Oh, if I could only convince you that you are a son or a daughter of Almighty God! You have a righteous, spiritual power – an inheritance that you have hardly touched. You have an Elder Brother who is your Advocate, your Strength, your Protector, your Mediator, your Physician. Of Him I bear witness. The Lord loves you! You are a child of God. Face the sunlight of truth. The shadows of discouragement, of disappointment, of deviation will be cast behind you.

Is there any wonder why gay Mormons are depressed, closeted, and committing suicide?  What a terrible thing to tell them (remember, he specifically said this sermon was for them).  They are gay because they are selfish? Being gay is a “twisted kind of self-love”?

I fully realize that gay people don’t fit into the Plan of Salvation as it has been defined.  But it’s not a choice.  It’s not a tendency.  It’s not a temporary condition.  Over 450 species have homosexuals, but only one species treats them as outcasts.  The church that claims to have Christ at its head should do more to love and less to hate.

I highly doubt that anyone who knew Stuart Matis well and understood his struggles thought he chose to be gay.  It’s patently ridiculous.

Next step: Racism

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