Some things are simply true. The arbiter of truth is God—not your favorite social media news feed, not Google, and certainly not those who are disaffected from the Church.
– President Russell m. Nelson
In a talk delivered on September 17, 2019, President Russell M. Nelson said the following, to set the stage for a detailed explanation of the recent policy reversal respecting the children of married homosexual couples:
Sometimes we as leaders of the Church are criticized for holding firm to the laws of God, defending the Savior’s doctrine, and resisting the social pressures of our day. But our commission as ordained Apostles is “to go into all the world to preach [His] gospel unto every creature. That means we are commanded to teach truth.
In doing so, sometimes we are accused of being uncaring as we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed?
The railing accusation long brought against the church vis-a-vis its traditional and unchanging teachings regarding homosexuality and all forms of sexual practice inconsistent with the principles, laws and conditions governing the plan of salvation and the requirements of exaltation, that it is cruel, insensitive, traumatizing, psychologically assaultive and productive of deep psychological and emotional scarring, to the point of inducing suicidal thoughts and ideation, has gestated and matured for many years now within the broadly progressive LDS subculture or, more properly, counterculture (freely borrowed from the term as used to denote the varied factions of the New Left of the late sixties and early seventies that transferred their values and beliefs to later generations, among whom are some among the saints whose members came to hold virtually identical views over time, albeit with LDS frosting and powdered sugar overlaying the the underlying progressive cake itself) otherwise known as the “NOM” or “New Order Mormon” mutation of LDS theology and moral/social philosophy.
NOMism is progressive; it is, deeply and, for all intents, uniformly of the Left and partakes of pretty much the entire smorgasbord of leftist concerns, values, interests, activist causes and philosophical assumptions, though (as has also happened within mainline Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and parts of evangelical Protestantism) embedded within the social, cultural and religious environment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in that capacity, it functions, as all forms of Leftism or “progressive” political/social movements have functioned throughout its roughly two century presence as a major feature of the human experience, as a subversive, insurgent element within any traditional, established institution, sociocultural or sociopolitical system, including in our case, the church. Its purpose, in whatever era or form it takes, is always radial; it aims always to overturn and at some form or manifestation of the idea of revolution (or emancipation or liberation) from and in reference to some established body of claimed truths, principles and settled assumptions about things.
Progressive philosophies always make claims to the possession of higher truths (and higher forms of morality or consciousness) than those possessed, if possessed at all, by whatever established tradition or edifice those within the realm of higher gnosis
(known today by the present generation as being “woke” and by the baby boomers as having achieved a “raised consciousness”) seek to purify, redeem and lead to a variety of promised lands, depending upon the sectarian focus of the particular ideological foundation upon which any specific progressive movement has erected in liberational project (which itself is not always bad or inappropriate. That depends upon the nature of that which is overturned as well as the nature of that which seeks to overturn).
For many of the Millennial generation, a least for those who, in their youth, find meaning and self-concept in progressive cause activism and in the heady, and often intoxicating savior psychology in which oneself and one’s specific generation come to be understood as chosen and called to perform world-historical feats of human salvation (and always, there are only “ten years left” to “save” this and that and make right that which past generations had, in their paleozoic ignorance, bigotry and mindless hatred of “the other,” turned from gold to lead. The mission of the NOM counterculture is to undo all the myriad “mistakes” of the apostles and prophets of the past since Joseph Smith, and these mistakes range from the statements and opinions of individual church leaders, to church policy, to fundamental church behavioral, social, and cultural standards, to core doctrinal propositions), the Book of Mormon prophesy about some in the latter days teaching that “God has given his power unto men” is a point of departure less a prophetic warning of latter-day hubris.
For me it is important – critically important – to understand that when Jaxon says to his mission President that “I presently cannot accept the various reasons and justifications for the inherent sinfulness of non-heterosexual relationships, for the complicated and undefined space they take part in within the Latter-day Saint Plan of Salvation, or for the current and past rhetoric, policies, and doctrinal positions espoused by the Church and its leadership whom I sustain,” he is not just walking doctrinally, intellectually and psychologically away from a distinct, fundamental and express particular of the law of chastity in relation to homosexuality and other distortions or perversions (known to Miriam-Webster as “to cause to turn aside or away from what is good or true or morally right”; (to corrupt or disrupt the normative, known today as the “queering” of things, particularly in modern academia); “to cause to turn aside or away from what is generally done or accepted”; and “to divert to a wrong end or purpose.”) of human sexual relations, but from the law of chastity in its entirety as a central and inextricably interconnected aspect of the plan of salvation.
Why do I say this? Because, as is the case with all truths, the core truths of the law of chastity are one, just as all truth is one. All truths are connected systemically, logically and in interconnected ontological unity to each other, not only in the sense that one truth presupposes and lends structural integrity to all other truths, but because any particular truth, having the property of being true, partakes of what one might call truthness, or what I will call an underlying ontological state of actuality. That which is true exists (that which is, was and will be) and is embedded within a vast, logically and conceptually interconnected cosmic matrix of all that which is true, or truthness as a property of anything which is, was and will be. This is truth in a deep, interpenetrative metaphsical or metaperceptual sense, a sense in which all other discreet phenomena and/or principles in the cosmos are phenomena manifestations, or, in other words, anything that is true, representing, in gospel terms, things which are, which were, and which will be, is representative or a manifestation of a deeper substrate of that which is, or, in other words, a representation or instantiation of Reality qua reality. Truth, being the actuality or non-actuality of all phenomena, conditions, laws, principles and states of existence at all times and in all places in the universe, is in unity with all other truth.
It is the same with the law of chastity, as with all other gospel principles. To extract or separate one core principle from the entire systemic whole destroys the whole by negating a critical aspect, necessary condition, consequence or unavoidable implication of the whole, in our case the gospel itself, of which a particular gospel principle is a fundamental component part. In this sense we can see that terming homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and other forms of “queer” sexual predilection “perversion” is not isolating and attaching special opprobrium to non-heterosexual forms of sexual deviation from eternal law if we understand that heterosexual transgressions of the law of chastity, including pre-marital sexual relations and adultery, are also very much perversions of the proper purpose and role of human sexual powers and relations in mortality. In a heterosexual sense, the perversion lies in the twisting and misuse of sexual relations under conditions in which such relations are morally and spiritually impermissible; or, in other words, legitimate sexual feelings and actions are diverted and channeled into illegitimate sexual behavior, meaning and purpose. Outside the heterosexual arena, the perversion of gender roles, gender identity and psycho-sexual self-perception is fused with sexual relations outside the boundaries of the conditions and purposes established within the restored gospel, and while we may certainly say that this is not worse, in some absolute sense, than heterosexual transgression, there is yet a strange and haunting alienness about homosexuality, varied forms of gender confusion and many of the gay personae and sub-personae cultivated within gay culture (which many saints have, doubtless, as I have, palpably felt when encountering (especially for the first time) members of or places and environments related to the various forms and sub-forms of “queer” sexuality (which is the Holy Spirit witnessing and impressing upon one’s mind and spirit that this is not of God, and radically so).
Heterosexual sexual transgression perverts the appropriate use and purpose of human sexuality. Homo/bi/transsexual behavior and culture perverts and deforms this as well but under conditions in which a perversion/distortion of one’s sense of gender identity and/or a cloud or fog of gender confusion or pathological fixation is appended to the misuse of human sexuality, or becomes a feature of that very gender distortion/confusion.
We cannot, then, as Latter-day Saints, say that we reject the component part of the law of chastity that teaches the “inherent sinfulness of non-heterosexual relationships” without, as a matter of logical consistency and conceptual coherence, essentially rejecting the entire law of chastity as a fundamental gospel axiom. This is the case for the elemental reason that all forms of human sexual expression outside of and inconsistent with the divinely ordained rules and laws governing human sexual relations whatever fall under the same umbrella of sexual sin, or transgression of the Lord’s laws of human sexual relations. It may be hetero, it may be homo, or it may be trans (or whatever form of “queer” sexuality is in view), but if it lies beyond the bounds, conditions and parameters of eternal law and the conditions and requirements of salvation, it is serious sin by any gospel measure.
Singling out homosexuality, or any other form of sexual orientation or philia, for an exacting, surgical removal from the law of chastity and from one’s own sustaining acceptance as a legitimate, core gospel truth claim, and casting it aside as a “mistake” of the church is not possible because the entire law of chastity must logically follow such careful picking and choosing into the same cosmic waste basket. This can easily be observed and studied by taking note of the trajectory of the sexual revolution, from the middle sixties (really, since the early fifties) to the present time, in the surrounding secular world as well as the same trajectory followed by progressive NOM critics who either still remain in the church or who have moved to its periphery or left it entirely.
What began as heterosexual “liberation” from the suffocating bondage of traditional Judeo-Christian sexual mores and norms morphed quickly into a general interest in and movement of the promoting of the acceptance, embracing and sociocultural hallowing of ever more outre forms of heterosexual practice (threesomes, group sex, “swinging,” and festishism, all making a rapid comeback in the mainstream popular culture, including among certain LDS and ex-LDS psychologists and social activists) and then to “gay liberation” which then became, after the seventies, “gay rights,” and then, from about the middle nineties, became the gay marriage or “marriage equality” movement, who’s final triumph in Obergfell then opened what one can only understand as the proverbial floodgates to the present trans/gender ideology movement that now preoccupies much of the Left, the academic environment, and popular media (what may with propriety be termed an ideology of pansexual gender solipsism fused with an ever-escalating militant moral relativism and a shrill, strident, volcanically intolerant anti-democratic ideological dogmatism), and the natural logical and ideological extension and maturation of the formative sexual revolution of the sixties) and which has, in recent years, bled into and affected a number of church members and infected them, to one degree or another with the “failure to follow Christ” that is “political correctness.”
What we then often see is an odd combination of “railing accusation,” name-calling and the easy flinging of virulently toxic moral and characterological slanders at faithful members of the Church – and the Brethren themselves – by the “woke” (or, as Dr. Thomas Sowell has long termed them, “the Anointed”) by some among us who consider themselves more Christlike than thou (and this term “Christlike” is deployed, quite often, in tandem with a wagging finger of moral scorn against church members who “hold fast” to the core teachings and doctrines of the kingdom and who disdain political correctness and generational ideological and political fads of any kind for what they are and who will not waver in their support and defense of those teachings and doctrines, even at the expense of being cast by the “woke” within their own faith as moral derelicts riddled with every species of character defect and, equally often, personality disorder or mental illness (various “phobias” or, in other words, the pathologization of principled dissent from certain present ideological vogues centered in acceptance, support and uncritical celebration of certain behaviors and modes of life).
The manifestation of such attitudes and ideological totemism within the church is virtually, as I have observed and interacted with those given to it, over several decades, identical with its manifestation among those outside the Church in the surrounding secular/pagan world with which the church contends during the mortal phase of earth life, albeit it manifests itself in a particular Mormonesque way as a “progressive” refining, purifying, cleansing influence and call for the church membership in general and the Brethren in particular to “catch up” with the woke among that membership, the “woke” understood, indeed, as the same way as many among my generation were understood to be the “hip” or “enlightened” among us) as a kind of vanguard or harbinger within the church – often, as in the World, associated acutely with LDS intellectuals, scholars, academics and those with advanced formal education – of a future church that has divested itself of its shibboleths (as Stephen Smoot would have it), bigotries, and lingering philistine nostrums about much in the world (and the World) that it has long claimed to be of doctrinal import, including doctrines from which church standards are derived. This vanguard (of an LDS proletariat that is not economic in nature (although this is never far behind, because, we must remember, the Left within the Church is, in all essential ways, the same, if Mormonistically particular, as to some core philosophical notions we encounter and can study in the surrounding secular world, but based in identity collectivism and a boundlessly expanding notion of “equality”) is now understood by many to be centered in the rising Millennial generation (just as my generation, the baby boomers, were understood by a substantial subset of that generation to be a called and chosen vanguard that was to “liberate” America and the world – to “change the world” – from thousands of years of fallen human nature, weakness, foible and “sin” (a notion rejected by many of that same generation) due to some indelible, ineffable, and yet concrete anointing this generation had received due to little more than having been born at a particular period of human history (the rest of the “anointing” is and continues to be understood, for all intents, as an ordination that comes with advanced education and the bestowal of academic degrees, which education brings the “enlightenment” that characterizes “progressive” or “woke” individuals and is alleged to explain most of the social, political and philosophical views to which they adhere).
Political correctness, it must be remembered, is not a philosophy per se, but a tactical and strategic mode of cultural warfare, struggle and contest for hearts and minds in which, in our modern context dominated by identity politics has taken the place of the old traditional class struggle (but is never wholly divorced from it) as the locus of the battle for social justice which is itself in fundamental ways a placeholder for identity politics as well as for a redacted, expanded and diversified concept of class struggle or “economic justice.”
The gender ideology movement is both an expansion of the sexual revolution and a highly focused instantiation of the doctrines of multiculturalist cultural relativism and identity politics centered in that area of the human condition in the last days in which the Adversary has spent an inordinate quantity of time in his project of corruption, dissolution and destruction, the family.
The problem with the LDS Left mirrors the same dynamics found in the Left outside the Church: the Left asserts as a core principle that no one’s behavior, conduct or manner of life can be judged, and most of its members do not want to be and will not tolerate being judged (their ideas, beliefs, values, feelings, assumptions, lifestyles and behavior subject to inspection, analysis, critique and scrutiny); it is rooted in a relativistic ideology of nonjudgementalism (from which perch it often hurls scathing, blistering judgments of others with whom it disagrees). Often, a few New Testament verses regarding human judgement are wrenched out of context (like money being the root of all evil) and used as a club to beat those who understand that, if human beings cannot make judgments, not only of other’s behavior and character but of the propriety of entering into relationships with certain people, then productive – not to mention spiritually, psychologically and even physically safe – human life and relationships would be impossible, not to mention its implications for civil society itself. I won’t belabor that old dog ear here, but it is the idea, culled from the secular progressive Left and absorbed by the NOM counterculture, of unconditional and indiscriminate tolerance (not love, which involves the telling of even the hardest truths to those we love) which, in the hands of the Left becomes a kind of universal ideological solvent that dissolves everything, including the most critical, elemental concepts and doctrines of the restored gospel into the stomach-knotting soupy mass known as inclusion and, in its most perverse manifestation, love, a mallable concept that functions, with the idea of inclusion and tolerance, in actual individual and ideological application as ideas essentially interchangeable with what is at its core a rigorous moral neutrality and diffidence that supports the acceptance of an indeterminate number of human behaviors and the extent to which they can be pursued, which is then transformed, in short order, into the concept of celebration. Soon after this development, celebration of “diversity” begins to close its fist and become mandatory, first in a sociocultural sense, as found in progressive moral shame culture, and then, when inevitably politicized, enforced by state coercion.
Jaxon’s near obsessive preoccupation with the LGBTQ issue, a preoccupation of longstanding but not at all different than the same preoccupation found suffusing the psyches and lives of many progressives, both within and without the church, as well as within the critical institutions under, for all intents and purposes, the complete domination of the progressive Left – the mainstream media, K-12 education, academia, the foundations, and the entertainment world – still seems, to many faithful members of the church, including specifically much older and more spiritually and psychologically mature and experienced (in life as well as in living and experiencing the gospel) members, both unnecessarily self-tormenting and more of a solution looking for a problem than a door for which the church holds the key (and it is that too).
What I mean here is that Jaxon has been clear, most starkly since his return from his mission, that he has already decided upon the solution: a future “inclusive” church in which open, practicing (and married) homosexuals are accepted into and wholly integrated with the church and its blessings, promises, covenants and privileges of membership on an equal basis with faithful, covenant-keeping heterosexual members, including a future church in which male and female homosexuals are sealed for time and all eternity in the temple. That this would require the radical deracination, dissolving, reconceptualizing and reconstruction of the entire doctrinal foundation of the plan of salvation and the core religious truth claims of the church, from the ground up, Jaxon, as recently as just prior to his mission, seemed to have understood and which understanding seems to have provided him with some internal brake or sense of caution when fielding his perspectives on the matter. His immediate post-mission statements, however, made on his own Facebook wall, indicate a substantial radicalization and hardening of his underlying position during his mission in which such caution was thrown, and let us not indulge in cliches beyond necessity, but “to the winds” in the proverbial sense.
It no longer appears to be the case that Jaxon cares, or is cognizant of, the sheer extent of the doctrinal and philosophical razing of the church to the equally proverbial ground such measures would entail, and the depth of the doctrinal and logical contortions it would be necessary to impose on the church and its membership to achieve this lycanthropic metamorphosis. What seems to be most important now is Jaxon’s status as one of the woke, and the peer accolades that come to those who can stand on the Rameumptum of the Woke and cry: “we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children…O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief that church doctrine never changes, that the laws of God are eternal and that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God…And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a woke and progressive people. Amen.” (paraphrasing mine, of course)
Now, let me just respond to a few points Jaxon made in the course of his essay.
Just like that, a policy that had been the source of so much heartache was reversed. Gone. As if nothing had happened. 1,247 days was the shelf-life.
The idea that this policy created vast and tear-streaming “heartache” among huge numbers of “LGBTQ” members and/or youth, is a claim, like so many that have emerged from the NOM activist social media world, really little more than assumption masquerading as fact spread by endless repetition to become a settled social media trope among true ideological believers, no longer open to serious intellectual inspection. No empirical evidence of which I am aware supports this contention, and empirics aside, the idea that homosexual members who have married a member of the same sex, an act and a relationship in such extreme conflict with the core doctrines and standards of the gospel and church as to be spiritually suicidal on its face and indicative of a depth of unconcern for membership in the church or serious interest in its teachings that would be difficult to overstate, requires a suspension of disbelief that neither I nor many other members of the Church who do take those teachings seriously are willing to countenance.
Like others, I found myself asking in the aftermath, “Which policy was inspired?”
Both, and for reasons I will not go into here at the moment (no reason to scare the horses at this time)
“How could they both be inspired as President Nelson claims?”,
Because the policy, and its alteration, were as as much about the responses and reactions of the membership to it as it was about married homosexual couples and their children.
“What does this say for those who spoke out against it and those who sought to justify, defend, and silence them?”
- At a bare minimum, it says that those of us who supported both policies were not in thrall to a deep internal need to be popular with and friends (allies) of the World, or to “virtue signal” to the world that we were more than willing – because we are “Christlike” and because something we call “love” trumps all other principles and eternal verities – to be “Mormons building bridges” across the gulf of filthy water to the Great and Spacious Building. Other things could be said, but this is fundamental.
2. No one was “silenced.” This is standard NOM boilerplate promulgated in a nation and time in which free, open, unlimited discourse and expression exists to a greater and more expansive degree than any time in history. Excommunication “silences” no one, nor is that its purpose.
“Is there a place for me to represent the Church as a missionary on almost everything except their stance on LGBTQ issues?”
“Almost everything?” You see, the LGBTQ subject isn’t the only doctrinal space in which Jaxon finds he cannot stand, but the LGBTQ issue, due to its fundamental relation to and inextricable link with the entire law of chastity and plan of salvation, and the complete unraveling of that law and plan if “LGBTQ” conduct, behavior, practices and lifestyles were to be extracted and separated from the law of chastity and given a special dispensation independent of it, allowing it acceptance by and integration with the church and its people, is far to central to the gospel and church and the fundamental mission and purpose of the church – to exalt families in the celestial kingdom – to be placed aside by a missionary with the special mantel and ordination of a missionary, let alone the average members, in whatever capacity her or she serves.
The answer to Jaxon’s question then, is no (and his early release is indicative of the fact that this answer was known to Jaxon long before I penned this essay).
Likewise, while acting on homosexual feelings is still defined as a “serious transgression”,
Note here how Jaxon leaves open, by passing implication, that acting on homosexual feelings – engaging in homosexual relations/relationships – may some day not be defined as serious transgression.
in that process of research, contemplation, and interacting and befriending dozens of LGBT persons whose lives are directly impacted by the Church, I presently cannot accept the various reasons and justifications for the inherent sinfulness of non-heterosexual relationships, for the complicated and undefined space they take part in within the Latter-day Saint Plan of Salvation, or for the current and past rhetoric, policies, and doctrinal positions espoused by the Church and its leadership whom I sustain.
This, for me, and I will make no bones, tendons or ligaments about it, crosses the Rubicon of heresy well into the territory of apostasy. The doctrinal depth, foundational importance and implications of such as statement for the entire law of chastity, exclusive of LGBTQ considerations (really not possible, as I argued above, but for the sake of argument), due to its inextricable linkage with the very core and meaning of the plan of salvation, makes this a radical departure from the tree of life to the GASB. Jaxon has here attempted an Olympic pole vault across the river of filthy water, not a mere long and laborious building of a bridge.
I struggle to accept such on moral, scientific, scriptural, and theological grounds, which is a current position I have reached by undergoing all the advised components of seeking answers to questions and revelation from God.
No, I don’t think so, and I will stand on that perception of things until either the fat lady sings (sorry for the political incorrectness here) or Jaxon enters a new phase of his life in which this kind of statement can be taken without the many grains of salt necessary at present. This is just to say that, despite Jaxon’s plea here, something is missing; something critical and pivotal. Something “just doesn’t add up” (and there is no “scientific” basis on which Jaxon can make such a value judgement such as that homosexuality is either “normal” or, reaches far beyond that, acceptable in a metaphysical sense).
Further, insinuating, if not claiming by direct logical implication that the church’s core teachings on LGBTQ behavior and manners of life as a fundamental component of the law of chastity is immoral is, well, a good bit over the top.
And over that top lies a yawning, bottomless abyss.
Jaxon is still quite young, and I hope and pray he never finds it.
This has gone long, and some other of Jaxon’s statements here deserve analysis and critique, which I will attend to in another post.