This post comes to Doves & Serpents from Atticus F. McConkie.
Joanna Brooks, a respected author and scholar, and faithful member of the Church, in an August 24 article in Religion Dispatches, covered the significant news that Mitch Mayne, a Mormon who happens to be gay, has been called to a leadership position in his San Francisco congregation.
Unfortunately, denial of this historic moment has come from some unlikely places. This denial is the product of the failure of bloggers to follow simple fact-checking processes. A blog post by Lyman Kirkland in a publication called LDS Newsroom Blog, “demonstrates what happens when [the fact checking] process breaks down or, worse, is ignored.”
Brother Kirkland asserts:
Religion Dispatches, in writing about a man in California who received a Church calling (lay assignment) and who states he is “openly gay,” implies that the Church’s position on sexuality and morality is somehow evolving and changing. GetReligion’s Mattingly correctly challenges that claim in asking Religion Dispatches to “back that statement up with some on-the-record quotations from people in positions of LDS authority. …Where are the crucial names and titles that make these claims matter? In other words, where is the journalistic infrastructure? Is this article news or opinion?
Not only did Sister Brooks not imply that there was a change in policy, she explicitly stated that Brother Mayne’s call “does not represent an innovation but simply an implementation of policies permitting any member who is found worthy by their local priesthood leaders to serve.” Did Brother Kirkland even bother to read Sister Brooks’ full article?
As a liberal Mormon, I have enjoyed Sister Brooks’ articles. They are faith affirming and loyal to the Church. They have strengthened my testimony. Sister Brooks is a great ambassador of our faith. As such, Brother Kirkland’s thinly veiled attack on her integrity as a means to deny history and progress is deeply disturbing and embarrassing.
Regardless of the position taken by Sister Brooks and Brother Kirkland, the Church’s positions on matters of sexuality generally, and homosexuality specifically, have undergone dramatic changes over the years.
Even so, change in policy and doctrine is completely consistent with the Restoration and the Gospel. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God (Articles of Faith 1:9). We believe that as individuals and as a people we learn “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30).
Is it not wonderful to wake up today knowing more than we did yesterday? Is it not a celebration of our divine potential as children of our Heavenly Parents to recognize when we have made improvement and progress?
Brother Kirkland’s untenable position is not only denied by history, but itself denies one of the most sacred and distinctive doctrines of the Restoration: continuing revelation. Brother Kirkland has taken the arrogant and heretical position that we know all there is to know about homosexuality, and thus change in policy and doctrine simply isn’t possible. There hasn’t been change, there can’t be change and there won’t be change. In short, Brother Kirkland has closed the door on continuing revelation so far as homosexuality is concerned.
At the end of Kirkland’s blog post in a publication called LDS Newsroom Blog, he issues the following challenge:
Mattingly correctly asserts, ‘If people make claims about evolving Mormon doctrines, look for names, titles and clear statements of attribution.
Need quotes, titles and clear statements of attribution, Brother Kirkland?
Elder Boyd K. Packer [NAME] of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles [TITLE] gave an infamous talk entitled “To Young Men Only” in Priesthood Session on October 2, 1976 [CLEAR STATEMENT OF ATTRIBUTION].
There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist.
While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess. I was very worried because he just could not get himself to tell me what he had done.
After patient encouragement he finally blurted out, “I hit my companion.”
“Oh, is that all,” I said in great relief.
“But I floored him,” he said.
After learning a little more, my response was “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.”
I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself.
The message is clear. Gays are out to recruit others to join in their evil acts and lifestyle. If a gay tries to recruit you, it’s ok to use violence against them.
Now, if the Church’s position has not changed on this issue, then this policy still stands. It’s OK to hit a person if you perceive they are trying to recruit you into homosexuality. Curiously, this address appears nowhere on the Church’s official website. Perhaps Brother Kirkland, in a publication called LDS Newsroom Blog, could explain to us why that is.
“Brother Atticus, that was just President Packer’s personal opinion. You’ve proven nothing.”
All right. Let’s get more official. In our correlated Church, there’s nothing more official than the publication called the Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI). The Church Handbook of Instructions is the operating manual for local leaders. It contains definitive statements on Church policy. Fortunately for you, Atticus F. McConkie has served in a couple of bishoprics himself and has copies of the Handbook.
The Handbook was recently updated in 2010. The previous version from 2006, had this to say about homosexuality:
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 should also help them accept responsibility for their thoughts and actions and apply gospel principles in their lives.
Emphasis added, Church Handbook of Instructions, pg. 187 (2006). In 2006, the Church’s policy prohibited “homosexual thoughts or feelings.”
The 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions has this to say about homosexuality:
While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.
If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple blessings.
Church Handbook of Instructions §17.3.6 (2010). In 2006, the Church prohibited homosexual feelings. In 2010, homosexual feelings are innocuous so long as they are not acted upon.
No change in policy there, right?
Perhaps in an upcoming post in a publication called LDS Newsroom Blog, Brother Kirkland could reconcile the 2006 and 2010 Handbooks for us.
In the meantime, I join with others in celebrating Mitch Mayne’s recent calling to the bishopric. He is a pioneer. In 30 years, a successor to Brother Kirkland will herald him as much in a publication called LDS Newsroom Blog.
What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.
-The Prophet Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:445-446