Svithe: What (else) Elder Jensen said


(Metaïntroductory note: Apparently --- and I didn't know this --- but apparently it is typical, when a General Authority [innermetanote: I'm going deep with the unexplained Mormon terms again] attends a stake conference, for the General Authority to hold a special meeting the morning of the general session for a select group of invited memmbers. The last visiting authority to our stake was Bishop McMullin and he met with recently baptized members [why I wasn't invited and thus remained ignorant]. This time, Elder Jensen met with member of our stake who may have been particularly wounded or troubled by Prop 8. I'm not sure how Lady Steed and I ended up on the invite list as we doubt we were "particularly" affected, but we did and we weren't going to miss it. So we packed up our kids and let them play baseball in a room elsewhere in the building while we sat near the back of the baptistery.)

(Introductory note: The format of the meeting began with the stake president discussing the history of the stake's efforts to heal after Prop 8 [cf]), then he invited those in attendance to speak frankly, taking turns at the front. People talked primarily about their pain and confusion related to the Church's handling of Prop 8 directly or about their pain and confusion related to being gay and Mormon, gay and formerly Mormon, or being closely related to such a person. This part of the meeting went, as you might imagine, long. I ended up not standing up because the personal stories hit all my points, but if I had taken the chance to speak, there are three things I don't understand which I would've loved to have addressed: 1. I don't understand the scriptural (canonical) basis for the Church's policy against homosexuality. Few doctrines with that amount of scriptural basis do we bother adhering to. 2. Even if homosexuality is a dire sin, I don't understand how preventing suchlike from entering legally sanctioned committed relationships will result in a net moral loss for society at large. 3. I wonder where the Church will go now, because the court case was an utter debacle --- it's hard to imagine how Prop 8 proponents could have lost worse or more thoroughly. Legally, it's over. So will the Church continue to engage in a lost battle or . . . what's our plan exactly? But anyway, people's pain and tears covered those points, just not as succinctly. After these stories, Elder Jensen rose to speak.)

Trust is my stock in trade as a General Authority and I don't want to lose it but I do want to use it for those I can help in my ministry.

The Lord expects better of us. (By which he meant that members who behaved uncharitably toward the gay community during 2008 etc are not to be commended.)

The Church has learned from its Prop-8 experience and will likely handle things differently in the future, ala Argentina.

(Concluding note: I did not take many notes during this meeting. Elder Jensen made some comments that made me feel that to record a large percentage of his words would be inappropriate. So in conclusion, near the beginning of his words, he apologized directly and personally and forthrightly and emotionally for the pain that was caused to so many during the campaign. His sincerity could not be doubted and I heard many sobs from those in attendance. Clearly, Elder Jensen is not in a position to change doctrine or even apologize for it [this was not the nature of his apology], but having witnessed the meeting, I think that the real purpose of the meeting was to give the downtrodden the chance to feel heard and understood and loved, and in that respect I think the meeting was a stirring success.)

(Postconcluding note: In the general session of stake conference, our stake president spoke on the meaning of the scripture Charity Seeketh Not Her Own. I've meant to svithe* on this before but haven't yet, but the gist is that, in context, the scripture is clearly teaching us that those with charity to not cleave only unto people like unto themselves, but unto those wholly different as well. And so, as his final example of charity seeking not her own, he told of a recent dinner he had with a couple, both lapsed Mormons, who desire to return to the faith. Their daughter ran around the house as they and the stake president and his wife spoke together. Then he asked us is our stake had room for a couple of lapsed Mormons. Answer: Yes. For charity seeketh not her own. And what if this couple is unmarried. Is their room in our stake for them then? Yes. For charity seeketh not her own. And if they are of the same gender? Have we room for them then? Yes. For charity seeketh not her own.)

*I've been a lazy svither
lately, ergo this multi-
part svithe. Call it the
beginnings of my eventual
redemption. Kaybye.

yesterday's svithe

Priesthood Leadership (mostly on women)
Early Sunday Morning (mostly on Mormon/gay relations)
Sunday Morning (mostly on trees)
Sunday Evening Fireside (mostly on Church History)


  1. I don't really know what to say, other than that I am glad that these conversations are happening in appropriate ways to allow both sides to heal in a good context.

  2. To your 3 questions:
    1. There's very little canonical evidence for eternal marriage in general, not just heterosexual relationships. Eternal marriage is not even mentioned in the BofM, for example, and the only places in the D&C where it's mentioned can be read as discussing polygamy, which we've already abandoned. Requiring sufficient "canonical" evidence above and beyond the words of the living prophets could be used to cut away much of church doctrine.
    2. Firstly, Prop. 8 did not prohibit legally sanctioned relationships between gay people. It instead said those relationships had to be called something else besides marriage. Secondly, society has a vested interest in perpetuating itself. We should encourage as many people as possible to propagate our culture and way of life into the future. Societies which have encouraged homosexuality in the past have fared poorly, which explains why no historical culture the world over has flourished while promoting homosexuality. It's odd that religious conservatives should be forced to explain the implications of Darwin to the educated crowd, but it's just one of those little life paradoxes. It should also be noted that binary classifications of sexuality into hetero- and homo- varieties are simplistic and driven by ideology rather than evidence. Reserving a special place for probable productive relationships tilts the balance.
    3. Should the church's goal be acceptance and popularity? Defeat in the courts of law and public opinion is to be expected given our peculiarity, I don't see it changing much.

  3. .

    1. Good point. I think my question is not so much the way I phrased it, but curiosity as to why it remains underaddressed when it is clearly an issue on many people's minds.

    2. I don't know. The more I think about it, the less convincing these arguments become.

    3. Of course not. But once the battle's lost, it's time to make a new plan to accomplish the bedrock objectives.

  4. thanks for this writeup, and for the encouragement to incorporate "suchlike" into my recent memory and therefore, I hope, my spoken vocabulary.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this. I'm continually impressed with our stake's efforts to heal following Prop 8.

  8. ok, this is wacky but I thught it was amusing. Theric, I dreamed we were talking about this post in person with Lady Steed, and I did in fact use "suchlike" in that conversation as I was articulating my thoughts about RC's comment in a made-sense-at-the-time dreamy sort of way.

  9. @cchrissyy Don't you love how everything makes sense in dreams?

    Occasionally I have the most satisfying dreams where I rant at someone and tell them in explicit detail all the ways they're wrong and have totally missed the point. The people I'm yelling at in my dreams just stand there, mute, as my unassailable logic crashes down around their heads like ocean waves. I wake up from those dreams with a glowing sense of well-being, the world makes so much sense and I was right all along!!

    After my higher brain functions come back online, I usually feel a little sheepish at myself for being so silly. But part of me loves the feeling of being intensely, totally, completely sure and right about everything - which for me comes almost exclusively from my dreams.

  10. .

    That's the sign of a good post, I think, when it slips into people's dreams.

    One thing I meant to mention but forgot was that, in speaking of the letter from the First Presidency, Elder Jensen noted that it asked members to do all they could do to support the cause. For some, he said, that was remain silent. For some, all they could do was, when marching outside the temple, not throwing eggs. For which he thanked them.


    I have a hard time reading the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as a commentary on sexuality. Clearly they were destroyed for the sins discussed at length in the Book of Mormon: inequality, not caring for the poor, etc.

    And most Mosaic rejections of homosexuality are clearly commandments against men raping men or men having sex in women's beds. Evidence for homosexuality's inherent sinfulness is even weaker in the New Testament and absent entirely in modern scripture.

    However, as Recession Cone points out, the scriptures are pretty weak in their support of temple ordinances also, and the absence of something in the canon should never bother a Mormon. We are now and must always be most interested in what the current prophet says.

    As for your arguments and proposed symbolisms, Myke, I like them and find them compelling but I can't go so far as to say that they are clearly in the Bible. I think they are legitimate interpretations and since you first emailed them to me last year I've agreed with them, but the nature of literature generally and scripture specifically is that is can be interpreted multiple ways. This can be good as God uses the Word to speak to each of us individually, or bad as people teach the doctrines of men mingled with scripture to their own ends.

    I think Jesus's instruction to judge not that we be not judged comes to bear here. I always feel very very cautious about interpreting scriptures on a broad level. For myself, sure. For the world in general? I'm not the man for the job.

    Which is why my first question was about scriptural interpretation. I have to admit the Gay Thing isn't a topic that takes up much mental space for me (sorry, gay friends) so perhaps it already has been addressed clearly and succinctly, but if so, I've missed it. Instead, we seem to start with the assumption that Homosexuality Is a Dire Sin and move out from there. I would rather we started a few steps before that.

    Part of this is my personality. I've driven parents and bosses crazy with my dissatisfaction with "Because I Said So" but it's part of who I am.

    The debate over Prop 8 etc hasn't affected my testimony, but I would like greater light and knowledge on this topic. Given the chance to enquire therefore, I'm apt to enquire.

    Anyway. It's not an argument worth pursuing at length in my opinion, which, I suppose, explains my general ambivalency on the topic anyway.

  11. RC, It must have been that I read your comment, considered replying, but chose not to and went directly to bed, leaving my subconscious to sort it out. Love your description though, of that rare type of dream.

    Theric, I remember something in Elder Jenson's opening remarks I liked, and is not in your post. He said "'Exclusive' is the ugliest word in the world" and talked about how followers of Christ must always strive to be loving and never excluding.

    Also Theric, the quote about how "doing all you can do to support it" was brought up by the Stake Pres, not Elder Jensen. I remember clearly due to something SP to me said afterwards.

    Personally, I wasn't moderating my actions in the spirit of his interpretation - when I was silent rather than speaking, or when I spoke less rather than louder, or when I was at the temple but not throwing eggs, at no time was I choosing more moderate action because it was "all I could do" in good conscience to follow the directive. Really, when I was silent instead of speaking it up it was that I was afraid to speak up, or I was blogging anonymously while unwilling to sign my name. My willingess to go public changed as the campaign heated up. By the time I did speak, sign my name, and appear outside the temple, I was doing something I judged as right - damn the consequence - in opposition to that directive. I did not see myself as trying to "support it all I can" where "all I can" < zero . But I do appreciate the SP reading it more charitably than that. Maybe looking back later I'll even think he was right.

  12. .

    You're right. It was the stake president. Thank you for the correction. And I think he was right as well. Or, qed, it is at least a reasonable interpretation.

    In completely different news, I didn't know your sister was Mormon. Who was first?

  13. yeha, so it turns out I'm from a family of one-at-a-time adult converts

    my brother - 2002 or 2003
    me and earl - summer 2004
    my sister - 2006
    my mom - 2008

    brother just got married this month, my new SIL joined in college too, so maybe 2004?

  14. .

    Maybe so. And your mom, too! So what's the common link, do you think?

  15. I can see that my input may be unintentionally polarizing and not in the spirit of this post. I have therefore opted to remove my comments.

  16. .

    I wish you hadn't. I didn't think it was polarizing at all. This is part of the discussion, understanding the doctrine. Puzzling over the details and the hows and whats are what we are expected to do, as Saints. I hope you will repost them. I'll email them to you so you don't have to type them again.

  17. .

    That's me, by the way, in case no one recognizes that particular thidentity.

  18. I haven't find any common link that would explain more than 3 of us examples, and writing here about my family speculations would quickly overtake the capabilities of the blog format.

    probably the most interesting clue is what I already showed - that we were very individualistic about this, being adults, one at a time, and with remarkably little participation/influence from eachother. Every one has come as a surprise.

    I became fascinated with the church in 1997 when TIME magazine's cover article "Mormon America" and the book by the same name came out. I studied the church on and off ever since. (During this time Earl and I joined the Catholic church, married, and took ourselves incredibly seriously) ;) One sunday, I simply decided to take baby Eli to LDS church instead.

  19. .

    Somehow I thought you were both raised Catholic. Clearly I know nothing about you.

  20. Thank you for this recap. For some reason, it really makes me smile to think of your kids playing baseball in another room.

    I went into the meeting with absolutely no expectations. I felt like the purpose was for Elder Jensen to be able to listen to the pain of those affected - to understand what is going on in the Oakland Stake (not just read about it in the tribune ...). It would have been nice if there were more questions and answers. I like yours in particular. However, I really liked the way Elder Jensen was able to succinctly wrap everything together at the end. The apology was profound. For me, it reminded me of when I had my first conversation with our Stake President about the specific things I experienced (albeit mostly out of stake) for which he apologized and told me those things should never have happened. Hearing Elder Jensen offer the same sentiment was a second witness that I truly appreciated. I am glad to know that SLC is listening and I hope the conversation continues.

    Granted given Elder Jensen is the church historian, I would have also liked to ask him about other problematic areas of church history and ask him what he thinks of Mormon feminists ... I didn't get that opportunity.