Asking the Question

Bear with me here.  This is going to be a bit of a tightrope to walk, and I don’t want you to freak out if I fall off somewhere in the middle. (I’ll most likely get into trouble near the end, which is when I jump off the deep end.) Just take a deep breath, keep your shirt on, and nobody will get hurt.

Ready? Oh Kay!

Mormon youths are all told the story of how the Word of Wisdom, the Mormon dietary code, came into being. It seems that every gathering of Mormon dudes included lots of tobackey, which cheesed off Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma. She had to scrub up the tobacco juice off the hardwood floors, and the place stank to high heaven. So she asked her husband to seek a revelation with regard to the Lord’s purposes for such a vile weed. The result has been canonized in Mormon scripture as Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants and is referred to by members as the Word of Wisdom.

One wonders how long it would have taken the Lord to reveal such a thing if Joseph hadn’t bothered to ask the question. (Perhaps we’d still be able to swig hard liquor before Sunday School if Emma had had a greater tolerance for tobacco stains.) Yet in multiple revelations, the same pattern holds. Joseph considers a scripture, a principle, or a specific problem before taking the matter to the Lord, and the result is a revelation that changes much of what went before.

This, incidentally, is what caused Joseph serious problems in the early days of the Church. When it was first formed, the Church was largely indistinguishable from most protestant churches. But subsequent revelations changed that. Oh, by the way, the Lord wants us to build a temple. By the way, there are three degrees of glory, not just a static heaven and hell. Guess what, folks? Time to consecrate all you have to Zion. And then there’s that little bit about plural marriage…

With each revelation, the church grew farther and farther away from the standard teachings of the time. And with each revelation, someone got angry, denounced Joseph as a fallen prophet, and a few even established their own churches to create, or recreate, the church as it was before Joseph’s latest nonsense ruined everything.

There are two lessons here. The first, which is easy enough to spot, is the idea that in order to receive revelation, we usually have to ask the question. But the second lesson, which is not as clear, is the idea that we probably shouldn’t bother the Lord if we’re not willing to accept what His answer will be.

In my opinion, that was the problem with extending all the blessings of the gospel to all people, regardless of race. I think the early prophets, like the vast majority of people in the 19th Century, didn’t even consider the possibility that blacks were equal to whites, so they didn’t even bother to ask the question. Especially in the case of Brigham Young, they accepted as binding the prevailing, mainstream position of the Protestant world, which was that blacks were the seed of Cain and therefore deserved to be slaves.

Latter-Day Saints have no such revelation that states such a thing, but nobody bothered to question it, so it stank up the church until 1978, when a revelation was received that finally put all people on equal footing and fulfilled the promise of the Book of Mormon that among “black and white…all are alike unto God.” (2 Nephi 26:33)

Of course, the question was asked prior to 1978, most notably by President David O. McKay, who, according to recent biographies, prayed heartily about this idea throughout his time as President of the Church, from 1950 until 1970.

Why did he get no answer? He asked the question, didn’t he?

Those same biographies also demonstrate that President McKay’s opinions about people of African descent were, once again, consistent with those of the generic Protestant world. He was very comfortable with segregation, and he still didn’t believe that interracial relationships were acceptable in the eyes of the Lord.

Consequently, I believe that, while he was willing to ask the question, he wasn’t quite willing to receive the answer.

(Be afraid. Now’s where we start to wander onto shaky ground.)

All this is preface to my central point: where is the revelation that helps us to understand homosexuality?

You can cite all the same Biblical scriptures everyone else does, but that gets silly, especially since they represent tenets of the Mosaic Law, which also bans shellfish and hot dogs. If you’re quoting from Leviticus to justify current church positions, you’re kinda forgetting that we no longer  stone people to death who shop on the Sabbath. Either the Law of Moses was fulfilled or it wasn’t. If it was, then those Old Testament prohibitions are no longer binding.

In the New Testament, we find little on the subject – mainly just oblique references in Romans Chapter One where Paul makes it clear that he doesn’t like dudes who “leave the natural use of the woman.” But Paul gives us no guidance – he neither tells us why people would do such a thing, or what should be done with them.

The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and all other modern revelations are completely silent on the issue.

As a result, the Church’s stand has mimicked the mainstream Christian world’s stand. We’ve moved from the idea that all homosexuals are voluntary perverts to a more tolerant dodge of the issue, where we firmly state that “we don’t know” why some people are incapable of finding the opposite sex attractive. We have progressed from contempt to a sort of detached pity for those who suffer from this temptation, and our shifting position comes precisely because we have had no direct guidance on this issue in this gospel dispensation.

So wouldn’t it be nice if someone asked the question?

I’m not sure if anyone has. And if they have, I’m doubly doubtful that those asking are willing to accept any and all answers.

I’m walking a fine line here. I’m not trying to attack specific leaders or criticize current policy. I’ve just had enough personal experience with fine people who happen to be gay that I feel like there’s more information on this subject than has currently been revealed, and I’d like to know what it is.

Isn’t it, at the very least, a question worth asking?

My Despisal of Science
Truth in Bad Poetry

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