Last fall in one of my graduate seminars we were discussing a reading by a scholar by the name of Bruce D. Porter who was a respected, published scholar from BYU in political science and international affairs. My professor remarked that he didn’t know what had happened to Porter because he had stopped publishing and “disappeared”; well apparently Bruce D. Porter is an LDS general authority these days in the Quorum of the Seventy. In the June issue of The Ensign (a monthly magazine of the LDS Church containing talks, columns, and stories from church leaders that members are encouraged to read as part of their regular scripture study) Porter has an article entitled “Defending the Family in a Troubled World.”
It is not surprising that a man who has a PhD in political science from Harvard and who built his career as a researcher and professor in that field would have opinions on one of the most pressing social and political issues of this generation. And let me be clear, my purpose here is not to, as some have written, contend that the article in the Ensign was in poor taste or out of place for a publication that some members believe to be modern scripture. Porter is entitled to voice his opinions whether I agree with them or not.
My purpose is to confront the CONTENT of what was said. Porter is a smart man who, regardless of what he says over any pulpit or in any religious publication, truly knows that by exercising his right to free speech and free expression he is not free from critique by those who exercise their free speech with opposing views and that such critiques do not constitute any form of bigotry or persecution—for he built his career in a field (academia) that does not survive without critique.
I’m not a fan of conservative commentator Michael Medved, but his recent USA Todayop-ed made some instructive points about the gay rights debate.
The nation’s increasingly visible and influential gay community embraces the notion of sexual orientation as an innate, immutable characteristic, like left-handedness or eye color. But a major federal sex survey suggests a far more fluid, varied life experience for those who acknowledge same-sex attraction.
The results of this scientific research shouldn’t undermine the hard-won respect recently achieved by gay Americans, but they do suggest that choice and change play larger roles in sexual identity than commonly assumed. … While pop-culture frequently cites the figure of one in 10 (based on 60-year-old, widely discredited conclusions from pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey) the new study finds only 1.4% of the population identifying with same-sex orientation.
Moreover, even among those who describe themselves as homosexual or bisexual (a grand total of 3.7% of the 18-44 age group), overwhelming majorities (81%) say they’ve experienced sex with partners of the opposite gender. Among those who call themselves heterosexual, on the other hand, only a tiny minority (6%) ever engaged in physical intimacy of any kind with a member of the same sex.”
The author’s name has been omitted for anonymity’s sake.
I used to write a lot, but now I mostly make art. Making art is more comfortable than writing. When writing I am extremely conscious of what words connote and denote. This consciousness makes it harder to decide which word is the most appropriate for what I want to say. When I paint—and more when I sculpt—my decisions come naturally simply because art lends itself to ambiguity.
Without a universal meaning of colors or lines or compositions, I can ʻsayʼ what I want without saying anything. People see what they want to see in my art. If there is uninteresting, disruptive, or offensive content in a piece, people usually will still just see what they want, or they will pass it by. Art is safer than words.
Earlier this week, a rather brave group of BYU students wore t-shirts that read, “I’m okay if you’re gay.” (The handsome gent at the bottom right is my friend Cary Crall, who helped organize this event. You may remember Cary from his controversial Prop 8 editorial published in the Daily Universe.)
At most universities, this wouldn’t be a provocative message. At the conservative BYU, however, I’m sure it raised some eyebrows. More importantly, it raised awareness that there exists a community of LGBT students and their allies at BYU.
Take a cursory glance at this blog and you’ll notice that I often write about homosexuality. The issue of gay marriage in particular has received a lot of discussion here—and not all of it well-informed.
I find the case for gay marriage to be far more compelling than the case against, but I think some of my fellow gay marriage proponents overstate the weakness of the opposing view. Objections to gay marriage are often summarily dismissed as religious, bigoted, or a combination of the two. This is unfair.
Religion and bigotry animate a lot of the opposition to gay marriage, no doubt. But there is, in my estimation, at least one viable secular argument against gay marriage—that is, an argument that doesn’t make an appeal to faith or prejudice. Here is the abbreviated version:
Many thanks to Project Mayhem for bringing these changes from the 2006 Church Handbook of Instructions to the 2010 version to my attention (deletions in strikeout, additions in italics):
Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, distorts loving relationships, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.
If members have homosexual thoughts or feelings or engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth. Leaders also should help them accept responsibility for their thoughts and actions and apply gospel principles in their lives.
I want to share with you one of the most formative moments of my adolescent life, recorded in the MSN Instant Messenger conversation below. But first, some context.
Seven years ago, when this IM conversation took place, I was an intensely religious—and guilt-ridden—Mormon boy struggling to overcome masturbation and homosexual ‘feelings’. A friend of mine also had a ‘problem’ with masturbation (like virtually all boys), so he and I entered into a pact to help each other. Inspired by the Seinfeld episode “The Contest”, we competed for who could abstain the longest.
In the spring of 2003, my friend and I scheduled bishop interviews to obtain our patriarchal blessings. We hoped it’d be the spiritual boost we needed to keep the Law of Chastity. His bishop found him worthy for a patriarchal blessing, and mine found me unworthy. The difference: I confessed my sins and my friend did not. (I cannot blame a 14-year-old boy for not wanting to divulge deeply personal things to an adult outside his family. Still, it’s frustrating that the church rewards people for lying, and punishes those who are honest and repentant. So much for a bishop’s ‘gift of discernment’.)
Shortly after I got home from the bishop’s office, I got online to tell my friend about the interview. I relayed to him my bishop’s message that masturbation is a grievous sin and a significant cause of homosexuality. Here is part of that conversation: