It has ever been that people hate what prophets say. They stone them, they burn them, they cast them into pits. In Peter’s case, they crucified him upside down. Lehi had to flee from Jerusalem to preserve his life. Alma was run out of Ammonihah, having been reviled and spit upon. Paul said, “five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned.” He described his life as “in stripes above measure, in prisons oft” (2 Corinthians 11:23-25).
So in one sense, it is in keeping with what prophets have always faced when President Boyd K. Packer saw his own version of this, following General Conference, when his remarks were mischaracterized, his person caricatured and belittled, and blame heaped upon him with derisive charges. Some two or three thousand gay activists laid down in black and formed a human chain around the block where the Church office building stands, and the Human Rights Campaign instigated a letter-writing campaign that delivered 150,000 letters of protest to the Church.
What’s more some Church members joined in the chorus stating on blogs and other places that President Packer was wrong or that his views reflect the bias of an old (and therefore out-of-touch) man.
What has also been consistent over the scriptural record is the sort of justifications people use for their ill treatment of a prophet who comes with a warning meant for their well-being. Even as they treat him scandalously, those who oppose the prophet and his message claim they do it from the high ground. They despise his message, they say, because they are more advanced in their thinking. They are more compassionate. They are more righteous. They have read the times with more acute eyes. They know better.
The priests who burned Abinadi were busy quoting scripture to him from places that appeared to be quite lofty.
What is, in fact, the case is capsulized by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. “The New Testament affirms that God has given us commandments that are difficult to keep.” Among the ways people respond to that difficulty is by stoning the messenger or reforming their idea of God and what he expects to something more palatable for them.
But petition God as we might, he doesn’t change the nature of the universe for us, nor the eternal, moral laws on which it rests. Some might suppose it is more compassionate for God’s laws to be amendable to our weakest inclinations—whatever they may be—but it is from his love and his infinite justice and mercy that he is clear with us. Some choices and behaviors will ultimately bring us pain and hamper our eternal destiny.
The Church cannot surrender to any demand that would have it reject biblical truth and revelation given by modern prophets. It cannot lie to sinners about their sin, no matter how strong the insistence is.
We know that God cannot lie to us. It is against his nature. One comment on the Internet was especially telling, “The homosexual community insists that to love someone is to love their sexual orientation. We know this to be a lie. No one who loves me should love nor rationalize my sin. The church must be the people who speak honestly about sin because we have first learned by God’s grace to speak honestly of our own.”
In her book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, Kenda Creasy Dean, a Methodist minister at Princeton Theological Seminary analyzed the religiousity of American teens based on an extensive study. She wrote, “Teenagers tend to view God as either a butler or a therapist,” she explains, “someone who meets their needs when summoned (‘a cosmic lifeguard,’ as one youth minister put it) or who listens nonjudgmentally and helps youth feel good about themselves (‘kind of like my guidance counselor,’ a ninth grader told me).”
“The problem,” Dean writes, “does not seem to be that churches are teaching young people badly but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth what we really believe: namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little. … What if the blasé religiosity of most American teenagers is not the result of poor communication but the result of excellent communication of a watered-down gospel so devoid of God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ, so immune to the sending love of the Holy Spirit that it might not be Christianity at all?”
We cannot know God and teach that he requires little.
The Danger Facing Us
President Packer began his address, “This General Conference was convened at a time when there is much confusion and much danger that our young people wonder which way they are to walk. Having been warned in revelations that it would be this way, the prophets and apostles have always been shown what to do.”
Here are two important acknowledgements. First it is a time of confusion and danger. Confusion means that loud, passionate voices are claiming to have the way and they are leading the young and the vulnerable to choices that will make them miserable. Is it kind to allow them to be put in such danger without giving them clear warnings? As an apostle, that is his calling and obligation. Vagueness will not do.
The second acknowledgement is significant because it is unequivocal that prophets and apostles have been given revelations and shown specifically what to do for this very time, thus the clear warning about the sexual messages that soak our society.
How important is this message? If they are seers, as we claim, their word and warnings about ourselves and the future of our society, must be taken with soberness, not complaint. And it is sober.
President Packer reminded us that The Family: A Proclamation is to be taken as scripture and it says without hesitation, “we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”
If he anticipated the response to his message, he couldn’t have said it clearer. “Regardless of the opposition we are determined to stay the course. We will hold to the principles and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it. We cannot change; we will not change. We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilizations and our liberties must perish.
We ignore what he is telling us at great peril.
These warnings are not intended to ostracize or marginalize anyone, since none can be saved without fully partaking of the atonement. As one spiritually progresses, it becomes all the more clear how much each needs grace, and how each is wholly dependent on this gift without price. None of us are invited to walk “in our own way.”
When Christ told his followers, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee…if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee,” he was not talking about casting people from us because they sin, but in casting sin from ourselves. Unkindness to another can not be justified.
The prophets tell us, however, without apology that the rampant sexual expression that marks our time—either homosexual or heterosexual–outside of a marriage between a man and a woman will create a culture that destroys families and individuals.
We are already partaking of the bitterness and shamelessness of our times.
Some might say, President Packer is just mistaken, but the Lord is quite clear about this. He tells us that “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).
Attempting to Silence and Punish
Why would an activist organization like the Human Rights Campaign think it has a right to interfere in what a leader of a church preaches to his own congregation? It assumes that the practice of someone else’s religion is HRC’s business and that they, can, in fact, put pressure on a religion to alter its message to please them, can demonize religious leaders as hateful and publicly assail them for following biblical injunctions.
They would have all faiths, who follow the Bible in the issue of homosexuality, characterized as homophobes and bigots, not only in the culture, but in the law. For years, they have felt put in the closet by religion, and now they hope to reverse the tables, putting religion in the closet.
At the demonstration at the Church office building, some activists had tape over their mouths. This was an attempt to express the idea that people with homosexual tendencies had been marginalized. Where they have been ostracized or bullied, the Church has long ago condemned such actions and reaffirmed it this week, deploring the circumstances that led to the tragic suicides of some youths.
What is ironic about that symbol of the taped mouth, is that, they in turn have a clear intent to silence those who believe—based on their religion—that the expression of homosexuality is immoral. Their goal is to make this something you cannot say, cannot even believe, without being punished or marginalized.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like ‘homophobic.’
According to the homosexual agenda, you don’t have to physically harass someone or fling an epithet at them to be considered a homophobe. Being friendly or tolerant isn’t enough to escape this label. If you believe that homosexuality is immoral, you are by their definition hateful. If you are a member of a church that stands by the long-held Christian tradition, you are hateful. You are a homophobe.
This certainly stands as a major threat to the exercise of our personal religious freedom.
For some time activists have been seeking to forward their agenda for society to embrace and advocate homosexuality under several guises—one of which is teaching this to our school children under the umbrella of anti-bullying policies. These policies, which sound good, (for who can be against a policy which prohibits bullying?) actually are filled with programs and curricula that make no distinction between bullying and the expression of the belief that homosexual practice is immoral.
Laurie Higgins, the president of Illinois Family Council said, “I asked a prominent homosexual activist and blogger if he would accept enumerated anti-bullying resources that made clear the distinction between moral disapproval and bullying. In other words, would he accept anti-bullying resources that explicitly stated that bullying refers to homosexual epithets and physical harassment, and that bullying does not refer to the belief or the expression of the belief that homosexual practice is immoral? He adamantly rejected such resources.
Higgins notes, “Ellen Degeneres comments on a recent show reveal common homosexualist views: ‘There are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting and we have to make it stop.’
“Someone should ask her what kinds of ubiquitous messages validate bullying and taunting. I suspect she would include orthodox Christian messages about homosexuality as the kind of message that validates bullying.
“And [referring to a recent teen suicide] here’s what Dr. Cindi Love writes on the Huffington Post:”
“The parents of these boys could not get school officials to do anything to protect them. This makes sense when you look at the community climate that is pervasive in much of our nation, where intolerance and exclusion and rejection are status quo for young people (and most adults) who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. These climates are fed most often on Sunday mornings in local pulpits where fundamentalists serve parishioners a steady diet of homophobia and bigotry that is sanctioned by the some of the largest churches in the world, notably Mormon, Catholics and Evangelical mega-churches that fund anti-gay programs….
“That’s where we are in our country right now — schools and churches full of unbridled bullying and homophobic rhetoric leading to violence. The outcomes are actually very predictable. Children and teenagers are going to die. Grownups are going to die. Some will take their own lives in despair. Others will be killed by people who identify as Christians who believe the Bible tells them it is ok to rid the world of homosexuals and abortionists.”
Higgins continues, “Dr. Love provides no quotes from Mormon, Catholic, and Evangelical mega-church leaders as evidence for her scurrilous claims.” Apparently it is enough to merely believe in a God who condemns homosexual practice to be lumped as the cause of bullying and therefore hateful. In this new climate being created by activists for homosexualism, religious people will be condemned for speaking what they believe, just as President Packer was last week, and their children will be taught the same at school—that they and their parents are worthy of condemnation.
Religion isn’t the only voice muffled in this brave new world; it is the same with any voice, even those that give factual information, that could be construed to reflect negatively on homosexuality. Ruth Jacobs, an MD from Maryland, who specializes in infectious diseases, has found it is considered homophobic to cite statistics from the Center for Disease Control about the prevalence of disease in homosexual populations vs. heterosexual populations.
The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a professional, scientific organization has found they are labeled homophobic for being willing to help clients who struggle with unwanted homosexuality—though overcoming this tendency is their client’s express choice. Their leadership includes a former president and board members of the American Psychological Association. They are also hateful for objectively reviewing the studies on homosexuality and being unable to say that “people are just born that way.”
Dr. Francis Collins, former Director of the Genome Project, could also be held with suspicion by the activists because he has stated that while homosexuality may be genetically influenced, it is “… not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.
” He also states [that] “…the prominent role[s] of individual free will choices [has] a profound effect on us.”
That sounds surprisingly like what President Packer said—the latter coming with the authority of having been called to speak in behalf of the Lord.
Joseph F. Smith said, I never want to see the day come when these men, to whom you have entrusted the right and power to preside, shall have their mouths closed so that they dare not reprove sin or rebuke iniquity. … It is our duty to do it. We are here for that purpose. We are watchmen upon the towers of Zion [see Ezekiel 3:17–19]. It is our business and duty to point out errors and follies among men; and if men will not receive it, they must go their own way and abide the consequences. Those who will not obey righteous counsels will be the sufferers, and not those who rebuke iniquity.”
It is encouraging that our inclinations do not have to determine our destiny—and everyone of us in this fallen world, where we are too often the natural man—can be grateful for the atonement—for in his strength we can do all things.
We rue a dangerous climate where any vulnerable youth is harassed and bullied by others for any reason. We also tremble before this new climate where certain kinds of speech—whether religious or scientific, are stifled by intimidation or threat.
We and our children may know both kinds of challenges.
Resources on Homosexuality
What Research Shows from NARTH