Monday, April 30, 2007

a bitter cup

An especially gullible NY Times reviewer discusses a PBS special on the LDS church:

There is a split personality at work here: Mormonism has clearly evolved — denouncing the polygamy it once sanctioned, for instance — but today seems determined to stand fast on issues like homosexuality. Marlin K. Jensen, a historian of the church, provides one of the program’s most compelling moments when he speaks to that subject head-on.

“If you’re going to live your life within the framework of the gospel and within the framework of our doctrine,” he says, “then you’ve got to choose to marry someone of the opposite sex, and if you can’t do that honestly, then your choice has to be to live a celibate life. And that is a very difficult choice.” Of those who have to make it, he says, “My heart goes out to them.” And you believe him.

If you believe him, then you’re a fool. Brother Jensen, unless he is gay himself, doesn’t know anything about what that choice entails. Words are cheap. Bigotry is real. Again, if you believe this man has seriously grappled with the issues a gay person growing up in the Church deals with without being gay himself, you are deluding yourself. Members of the Church should get no credit for being especially steadfast in their prejudice.

And as the reviewer alludes, the Church’s seeming resolution on this issue is as superficial as the intractability with which it fought pressure to concede on polygamy and granting blacks the priesthood. Once the costs of stigmatizing gay people outweigh the benefits, the Church will change its position, as it has so often before. To the rank and file who take direction from the Church leadership, these abrupt about-faces on what were previously matters of core doctrine are as inscrutable as the mind of God, and ultimately serve as simply another test of faith. There's nothing like the certainty and comfort that comes with leaving difficult moral decisions in the hands of others.

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