"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
August 22, 2014
Two Highlights from the FAIR Conference
by Jeff Lindsay

The recent 2014 FairMormon Conference, held Aug. 7-8, 2014 in Provo, offers a great selection of faith-strengthening perspectives from a broad mix of speakers. Topics range from same-sex attraction to the Book of Mormon.

I'll mention a couple of highlights.

Ty Mansfield

For those wishing to better understand the challenges of being LDS and facing same-sex attraction, Ty Mansfield's experience and faithful insights may be helpful. His talk, "'Mormons can be gay, they just can't do gay'? Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective" discusses the complexity of sexual attraction and reminds us to be careful about thinking we know things that still puzzle the experts:

So much of the controversy happens around unexamined premises and conclusions drawn, often simply accepted without any real critical thought at all. Once we can understand how these have harmed our understanding, we can then move to a better place to articulate a reasonable response to those who question or criticize the Church's teachings….

The popular cultural myths that either people are "born gay" or that they chose to be homosexual or that their homosexuality is caused by parental nurturing (or lack thereof) are all reductionistic and cannot explain much, if anything, about the development of sexuality and sexual desire.

It's interesting to me that our popular and media culture seems to be so sure about something that science and the academy are not. The American Psychological Association's official pamphlet addressing sexual orientation concedes this point, noting that ultimately, "There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles."Some researchers have postured that there is no such thing as "homosexuality," but rather "homosexualities"--that there are multiple sub-populations with different etiologies making for qualitatively different experiences of sexuality that all lay within a broad and diverse umbrella we call "homosexuality" or "same-sex attraction."

He also addresses issues of identity and the shackles (my term) that we can impose on ourselves or others with terminology that pigeonholes people into an "identity" based on the attractions they feel.

In an LDS context, people often express concern about words that are used--whether they be "same-sex attraction," which some feel denies the realities of the gay experience, or "gay," "lesbian," or "LGBT," which some feel speaks more to specific lifestyle choices. What's important to understand, however, is that identity isn't just about the words we use but the paradigms and worldviews and perceptions of or beliefs about the "self" and "self-hood" through which we interpret and integrate our various experiences into a sense of personal identity, sexual or otherwise. And identity is highly fluid and subject to modification with change in personal values or socio-cultural context. The terms "gay," "lesbian," and "bisexual" aren't uniformly understood or experienced in the same way by everyone who may use or adopt those terms, so it's the way those terms or labels are incorporated into self-hood that accounts for identity. One person might identify as "gay" simply as shorthand for the mouthful "son or daughter of God who happens to experience romantic, sexual or other desire for persons of the same sex for causes unknown and for the short duration of mortality," while another person experiences themselves as "gay" as a sort of eternal identity and state of being….

As a final note here, however one chooses to self-identify here in a fallen, temporal world limited by human culture and human language, I firmly believe that, like Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in which all social and political constructs were swallowed up in the gospel stone that rolled forth to consume the nations, so will the spiritual ideals and identities of the kingdom of God and the Celestial nature swallow up all of our social identity constructs that blur eternal identity (see Daniel 2:31-45).

While I identified as gay for a time, at one point I had a very strong spiritual prompting that if I continued to identify as gay, it would limit my progression. I believe that the more deeply we understand and feel spiritually connected to eternal realities and our eternal identity, the less meaningful any proximate, mortal identities feel to us. If others refer to me as gay, I typically tolerate it for practical purposes, but it's not how I see myself, and occasionally it can feel particularly oppressive when others seem to insist on projecting and LGBT identity construct on me even after I've specified that that is not how I see myself. It's not a construct that adequately captures who I am, what I believe, or how I feel.

He then explores the issues of chastity and consecration, and the speculation of others that the Church will change regarding its stance on same-sex issues.

Sharon Eubank

A rare standing ovation was given for Sharon Eubank, Director of LDS Charities, who gave a bold talk on women in the Church. The title itself is bold, but appropriate to her message and personal experience: "This Is a Woman's Church." The transcript of the talk is available, and you might be able to watch the video also.

She brings several important thoughts together and reminds us of some of the basic elements of the LDS experience. This is a valuable presentation for both women and men.

There's a lot of meat in her presentation, so please don't stop with one of many quotable passages I'll share. But one of the many points she made that I especially liked was the value of LDS doctrine regarding morality in liberating rather than oppressing women. She makes this point after addressing some of the harms of promiscuity and pornography in our society.

I find it a little bit ironic that the world is trying to instruct the "poor LDS women", who are so oppressed, and in the backwater, and if they could only come out into "enlightenment"… Because I just don't see where that enlightenment is.

I recently spoke at the United Nations and it was interesting because we are faith-based, I represented a faith-based organization. Because we are conservative morally, a lot of people thought that our doctrine about women and men was conservative. Far from being restrictive and conservative, and we sometimes get labeled that way, my contention is that the Church's doctrine about the roles of women in the family, and the church, and the community, and the nation, and the temple and how men and women relate to each other and interplay and support each other and work together is the most moderate, and powerful, and enlightening and energizing doctrines that I know about. And if people truly understood it, it would blow their mind. And even being in this church all my life, I'm just scratching the surface of what this doctrine means for me.

There is one thing I'm going to personally reject, and that is the mistake of labeling promiscuity as somehow "freedom." That that is a freedom. Fourth Nephi has a little scripture and it is right after what happens to the people there after Jesus Christ has visited the Americas and then ascended back into heaven. So this is Fourth Nephi 1:16. And it says:

And there were no envyings, no strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

And as I studied that scripture, I started asking myself, what would it be like if there were no whoredoms? What would that society be like? So here's my list:

  • Teenage couples don't get pregnant and have to get married to the wrong person.
  • Lives don't get warped and stalled by sexual abuse.
  • There is no fear of rape or violence.
  • There is great security on the streets, there's no serial killers, there's no kidnappings.
  • There is no market for prostitutes.
  • There is no sex trade or there is no sexual slavery.
  • Spouses don't have affairs or commit adultery.
  • Marriages stay intact and children aren't raised in the insecurity and divided loyalty of divorce.
  • Cities don't have seedy, creepy neighborhoods that are filled with adult theatres and deviant bookstores.
  • There is no appetite for pornography - it doesn't degrade the people who make it or who watch it. It doesn't warp the sexual development of young people and rot the relationship between a husband and a wife.
  • There are no children being raised by a generation of women and painfully wondering where there fathers are.
  • All of the energy and the money that goes into all of those activities above, is available for something else.

How is that not more free and not more desirable for women, for men, for children, how is that not?

The Book of Mormon gives this very powerful example that we hardly ever talk about, about people who actually, in that time period, fought to eradicate a culture of vice that hurt women. And it makes their position in society precarious and vulnerable. And they succeeded! They got rid of it. They lived in a time where there were no whoredoms. . .

Now we live in a world that says "It is not possible. You cannot expect those kinds of things from people. People will not react in those ways. This is just natural, who we are. We can't make those expectations." And yet our God has said, "I expect these things."

Sister Eubank offers a solid perspective that we would do well to ponder and explore.

Kudos to FAIR for a great 2014 conference. Wish I could have been there!

For more from Jeff Lindsay, see Mormanity at http://mormanity.blogspot.com and his Mormon Answers section at http://jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/.

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About Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra. He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.

He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.

Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications. Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.

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