Thursday, October 7, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing

Another cartoon! Two in one week!

Has anyone seen the ridiculous brouhaha the Salt Lake Tribune is making of President Boyd K. Packer's talk in General Conference?

I didn't realize President Packer had said anything new or controversial when I was watching conference. But apparently the Tribune reporter covering conference (who happens to be a former member of the church) decided it was time to start a fire.

So what did President Packer say? His talk isn't written out on the LDS website yet, but it should be done today sometime. Check here periodically until you see it (he spoke in the Sunday morning session). There is audio and video already available on the website.

These are the quotes that the Tribune is using as ammunition:

“There are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. Do you think a vote to repeal the law of gravity would do any good?"

Some argue that “they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.”

I'll get into my personal beliefs a little later. First I'll just describe the Tribune's response.

Here are their articles on the subject:

Although I would agree with that statement, President Packer never said that. I suppose it was somewhat implied, but it wasn't his point and wasn't a direct quote he made. I'm guessing the Tribune went with a more controversy-provoking headline, one that would anger people and lead them to believe that the Church wants to simply "fix" gays, with something crazy like electroshock therapy*. Not true.

This is one that tries to explain that President Packer's statements are somehow contradictory to other recent action from the church in response to same-sex issues. But they're not, something else I will get into a little bit later.

Besides, how can the Tribune say that President Packer is saying something new and shaking things up, and at the same time give a subheadline that says, "Apostle declares that church will 'stay the course' in opposing gay marriage despite opposition."

Thanks to press like the Tribune, people are acting out against the church, holding rallies and protests, etc. Of course, discrimination against gays that leads to extreme bullying and even suicide (something that has been in the news quite a lot lately) is absolutely wrong. But if a teen struggling to figure out his or her sexual orientation really listens to President Packer's talk, he or she should not feel pressure. He or she should feel relief, and look to Christ's Atonement for comfort and guidance.

Now, for my own beliefs and testimony.

I firmly believe that sins of homosexuality go against God's plan of salvation, as does any sin. Whether or not same-sex marriage is legal, it will never fit with God's purpose of marriage and family.

Because homosexual acts go against the plan of salvation, it wouldn't make sense for God to create us in such a way that some of us are "born gay," at least not in a way that we have no other choice but to be gay. People are born with weaknesses and imperfections, and some may have a personality that makes them more susceptible to certain temptations. But any temptation can be overcome.

And it should be emphasized that temptation itself is not a sin. It only becomes a sin when it is acted upon. Whether it be cheating, lying, stealing, being selfish and proud, marital infidelity, sexual immorality or homosexual acts, no one should feel guilty for the temptations that come to them. They should only feel guilty after they decide to act on those temptations.

That said, just because homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle does not mean homosexuals should be persecuted, mocked or attacked. The church is against legalizing same-sex marriage, but in many instances the church has come out to say that gays should be treated fairly. Recently the church supported a law in Salt Lake City that would make illegal any discrimination against gays in housing and employment.

(The Tribune brought up an example of Church's recent compassion to those struggling with homosexuality, describing a meeting Elder Marlin K. Jensen held with youth in California. But what Elder Jensen did and what President Packer said do not conflict.)

You might think all those ideas I just described are incompatible with each other. But it makes sense to me that we can have Christlike love for our fellow man and also be clearly against anything that goes against the gospel.

I hope what I have said does not come across too harsh. I do believe it all to be true, and I won't be changing how I feel about it any time soon.

Anyway, enjoy the cartoon.

*This video on Hulu expires soon!


  1. Thanks for this J.J. Outside the "bubble" we didn't even know there was a controversy!

  2. JJ,
    we often talk about how we think people should react, but it is fairly rare that we actually understand where they are coming from. There are not many who have conversations in sufficient depth to really discover the things that could make a difference.
    I've been having that type of conversation through my blog over the last several months. I am an LDS man, who has struggled with homosexuality and sexual addiction for years. My perspective is of course only my own, and not representative of the population at large, but I offer it as one story that might help others to begin to understand the hell that is the struggle we're discussing.
    I'd love to answer any questions you and your readers might have.
    Thanks for your rationality, your faith, and your compassion.

  3. Legien,

    Thank you very much for your input. I hope nothing I said came across as too harsh or offensive. From reading your blog a little bit it looks like you have the right understanding of what President Packer was saying, and you're making the right decisions. I admire you for the courage, strength, humility and patience it takes to get through the repentance process (the same process we all have to go through for some reason or another). Keep up the good work.

  4. "I hope what I have said does not come across too harsh. I do believe it all to be true, and I won't be changing how I feel about it any time soon."

    I find this incredibly sad. Is it arrogance or is it close-mindedness? I can't decide. What self-respecting person shuts down thought in the middle of the debate?

    You make yourself look the fool to admit you are unadaptable on a subject where there is still so much to learn. Especially in light of the fact that you are obviously taking a stance where you are supremely uneducated, not having experienced these specific tendencies and desires yourself. Nor taking the time to view opposing sides with consideration and objectivity.

    I don't mean to be harsh either. But you've put yourself out there, and have entered the public debate. And It is just myopic you've already taken a stance, (which was easy because the thinking has been done for you). And despite anyone else's best efforts of putting together an intellectually sound argument, your walls are up against it. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil right?

    I guess intellectuals and homosexuals really are the greatest threats to the church...

  5. "Much Ado About Nothing"

    Really? This is serious? Try telling the families of the countless gay teens and adults who have committed suicide that this is nothing. All you have done by writing such a senseless and heartless article is demonstrated your ignorance to the world. My advice would be that you do your own research to get educated on the topics you choose to write about before writing such things.

    It's sad that you can bring religion into this because from what I know and have read about Christ, he would never consider such a threatening topic 'nothing'.

  6. You really should do some research before you start posting false information on your blog. You said, "I'm guessing the Tribune went with a more controversy-provoking headline, one that would anger people and lead them to believe that the Church wants to simply "fix" gays, with something crazy like electroshock therapy*. Not true." During the 70's, the psychology department at BYU experimented with electroshock aversion therapy in an attempt to cure homesexuality - so what you're saying is what's "Not True." The experiments were eventually abandoned because they didn't "cure" homosexuality -- but the fact is, they did take place. And that fact is also that the church is as rabidly anti-gay now as it was then -- and their stance is causing many gays to commit suicide. I don't consider that "Much Ado About Nothing," but rather the facts.

  7. FNWK- I have personally experienced these tendencies. Sometimes I still have trouble with it. However I do not feel that I have absolutely no control over my actions. Just as I do not feel that having depression means I have to commit suicide I do not feel that my attraction to the same sex means I have to act on that attraction. Yes it is sometimes insanely difficult. I am married now and often have a difficult time with the sexual aspect of marriage. However I believe that I am making the right decision. I do not believe God would ever give me a temptation without giving me a way to escape. Honestly I think you are being somewhat closed minded yourself. If we cannot control our lusts are we any better than animals?

    Diane- No one can cause someone else to commit suicide. It is a personal choice.

  8. FNWK, Anonymous #1 and Diane -

    I'm doing my best to follow the Lord's prophet, in which case I don't need personal experience or research to know something. I don't have to have tried cigarettes or have researched the damage caused by nicotine to know that it's wrong, because it was revealed from God through our prophet. Having faith in the prophet and in God is not blind obedience, it is another way to learn and gain understanding (Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke about it in April 2008, go here to read his talk:,5232,23-1-851-10,00.html.)

    I suppose you can disagree with me on whether or not I'm misinterpreting what the prophet is teaching, or you can argue with me whether or not President Thomas S. Monson, his counselors and the Twelve Apostles really are prophets and apostles. But I believe these men really are spokespersons for the Lord and are the leaders of His true church, and I'm doing my best to follow them. I know they are true prophets and this church is true, and I will have that testimony the rest of my life. That's not closed-mindedness, that's faith and religious conviction.

    Anonymous #2, thank you for your response. You have the right understanding of what homosexuality really is and know that is something to overcome, and I commend you for doing so. (And you're also right that suicide is a personal choice. Anyone considering suicide under any circumstances always has a better option.)

  9. I have no problem with calling President Monson a prophet.

    However, in this post you are taking a very real issue for many millions of people and reducing it to 'nothing'. If this were nothing, why would our prophets find the need to bring it up time and time again?

    The ignorance and closed-mindedness of this post doesn't come from the fact that you believe the church is true. It comes from the inability to recognize that despite the opinions of people, the issue of homosexuality is very much something.

  10. Sorry, I didn't mean the issue of homosexuality was nothing. The "nothing" is the claims that President Packer was saying something new or different. Of course same-sex marriage and related issues are a big deal, evidenced by the fact that "our prophets find the need to bring it up time and time again." I just meant the Salt Lake Tribune acting like something new has happened is "much ado about nothing."

    What I said in my blog post that maybe got overlooked or forgotten was this:

    "This is one that tries to explain that President Packer's statements are somehow contradictory to other recent action from the church in response to same-sex issues. ... Besides, how can the Tribune say that President Packer is saying something new and shaking things up, and at the same time give a subheadline that says, "Apostle declares that church will 'stay the course' in opposing gay marriage despite opposition."

    My point is that nothing new has happened, President Packer's statements fit right along with every other action of the church and always will. But homosexuality and anyone affected by it or struggling with it is all an important issue, and I don't mean to dismiss that at all.

    Sorry if I wasn't clear on that.

  11. Hey mayn. I commend you for sticking to your guns. As a person who has similar religious convictions I fully understand the concept AND THE FEELINGS associated with trusting in the Lord. There is and will be much criticism of this, but revelation and spiritual knowledge are the only way to truly know about God, his plan, and the truth.

    I am somewhat close to this issue. I read you statment that you won't be changing your feelings about this anytime soon, and really, how could you? How can I? I hope this does not mean that you aren't open to learning more about where gay folks are coming from, their feelings, and the root of their desires. I think it's very important that we don't just hold up our faith as a wall, or a statement like, "I don't have to care about you. I know you're wrong."

    It is difficult to reconcile the view of most gays that they are born that way, and that changing their sexuality is denying their nature. It's also difficult to reconcile said accounts with those of others who continue to try to change, or at least to overcome their desires. As I talk with gay people I try to listen. I think that's most important at this point. I do not intend to abandon my faith because there are angry people protesting at the temple. I do think it's important to show that we aren't hateful, are loving, etc., by listening.

  12. An update:

    So the online text of the talk is going to change the word from "tendencies" to "temptations."

    President Packer's original statement still makes sense to me, I feel like tendencies can be overcome. But I guess it depends on the definition of "tendency." If someone thinks of "tendency" as a sort of permanent personality trait, then it makes sense that maybe it will never be overcome and disappear. In that sense, then yes, people might be born with those tendencies and those tendencies might never disappear. What can be overcome is the temptation.

    I didn't think a correction was necessary. But if it helps people with various definitions of "tendencies" understand President Packer's talk better, then it works.

  13. Hey J.J.,
    My husband and I have had some discussions over the last few days along the exact same lines that you mention here. When I first saw your comic I thought "Nothing? It seems like a pretty big deal to me", but now that I've read your comments about it I have to say that I agree. The fact that there have been such inflammatory reactions to President Packer's talk really surprised me--like you said, he isn't making any kind of new statement about the beliefs of the Church.
    I have seen a number of comments to the effect of "I really loved General Conference and appreciated Elder ___'s talk, but President Packer's talk was so hurtful and I was so mad when I heard him say that!" But with the Church's position on Prop 8, the "Proclamation to the World", and other statements from the First Presidency I don't understand how they can expect anything else, or fool themselves into believing that President Packer's statements are not endorsed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the twelve.
    I won't bother discussing my own views on the general homosexual issue because, as witnessed here, that tends to turn into debate without resolution, but I do appreciate your comments on the Salt Lake Tribune's reaction to President Packer's statements.

  14. Well written J.J. I didn't even know you had this blog! I'll check it out now that I know it's here. Take care!

  15. It almost seems that the Tribune's plan in causing contention is actually giving members of the church the opportunity to explain Christian doctrines and that they are backed up by God as opposed to the common misconception that mormons don't like homosexuals. New topic: You rock J.J.!!

  16. Alright, I'm a big fan of simplicity. For the sake of understanding, I'm going to simplify this as much as I can.
    The post starts with a comic that is "poking fun", attacking, "making a satire", or whatever it is that all editorial comics do. I'll continue by choosing the word "attacking" as it seems the most harsh of all of them to for maximum effect, but I ask that it is kept in mind that the word should be still understood as a different level when the "attacker" is a cartoonist, as opposed to a rapist, murderer, or even a solider, police officer, etc. The subject that is the target of the cartoon is the Salt Lake City Tribune, a major newspaper in Salt Lake City.
    If I understand this correctly, the comic is "attacking" the SLC Tribune for taking a subject of "nothing", and creating as much controversy about it (or in other words, "much ado").
    The above was made to be as non-controversial as possible. I would hope that anybody who cares about the subject of this page despite background, religion, belief, etc. would agree with me. Once all people have a common ground, they can begin to communicate on the same level. Now then, the arguments.
    For those who side with the Salt Lake City Tribune: The argument is that Elder Packer's talk needs to be publicly known as causing the "Mormons [to be] divided on LDS apostle's speech on gays". Some things need to be considered on even just the headline of this article. True- the topic of the church's stance of homosexuality was brought up. At least, it was implied with phrases such as "ome suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural." The words "homosexual", "gay", "same" and/or "gender", "attraction", or even the prefix "homo-" don't actually show up in the text version of the talk. Alright, well, for the sake of being fair let's assume that he meant for anyone listening/reading to understand that he specifically meant "homosexual tendencies" when he talked of those who have "are inborn [with] temptations toward the impure and unnatural". What nobody should argue, however, is his specific attack on pornography (the word "pornography" shows up 5 times in the text version of the talk). The Salt Lake City Tribune, in any of their articles I have found, doesn't bring up the controversy of President Packer attacking the use of pornography. Nobody was interviewed on their feelings for being attacked on pornography use, nobody wrote their opinion on how much the church should be involved in pornographic use, and nobody suggested the feelings hurt by people told that God doesn't approve of pornographic use. That already suggests that The SLCT dug through the bulk of the talk to get the fountain of controversy spewing out of the ground.

  17. Well, even if the SLCT had to ignore the more addressed issue of pornography to get the oil of controversy- it's still true, isn't it? He DID include homosexual tendencies in his talk, and he DID say that the church will not change its stance. As he said, "A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. Do you think a vote to repeal the law of gravity would do any good?”
    Yes, that is a direct quote. And no, the church didn't change its stance on the subject. But is that really something to report in the SLCT? Most of the news lines that get my attention are about events, about things that don't happen every day, about change. So the headline is about what change? If anything, That direct quote from Elder Packer's talk shows as much of a lack of change as he could possibly state, comparing the law of God to the law of gravity. I probably wouldn't buy a newspaper with the headline broadly declaring a lack of change on even controversial subjects, such as "WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST STILL GOING ON", or "ABORTION STILL PRACTICED IN SOME PLACES". Was anyone really expecting the church to have a major announcement on their subject?
    I hope this was a fair analysis of the subject the cartoon brings up. This is what I believe the cartoon is addressing, and my thoughts on it.
    My heart goes out to those who were close to those who have taken their own lives on the subject of homosexuality and the LDS faith. I have friends that are gay (I was roommates with one not too long ago here in BYU), and if any of them are having suicidal tendencies, I ask them to stop thinking such things, and to come to me so I can do what I can to help. I testify that God DOES love you, and that the healing power of Jesus Christ can, and will heal all to give you a happy life; one certainly worth living. I would love to do what I can to help; but more even more so than I can help, your bishop can, and most of all Jesus Christ is there. My prayers go out to you for strength, understanding, and above all, your happiness.


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