Opening the Forbidden Book - Part 1

For members and nonmembers alike, "The Miracle of Forgiveness" by President Spencer W. Kimball (an apostle when he wrote it) has always drawn differing amounts of amusement, attention, contempt, and the like.  Most know why.  Throughout this entire book, it seems as though President Kimball enumerates just about every kind of sin mankind commits, using bold, strong language to condemn all of it and outline in plain terms why repentance for all sin is completely essential for everyone.  It leaves no doubts in the reader's mind as to what is right and wrong, at least from an LDS perspective anyway.  Church members such as me commonly express its uncanny ability to incite guilt, no matter how well we think we are living the principles of our religion.  Human imperfection will always leave gaps between what God has commanded us to do, and what we are currently doing.  Personally, I love this book because it ends on a very profound note of love, hope, and mercy promised through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  It also causes me to look deep within my spirit, and find the darkness there  I had not previously seen.  Thus, I can improve upon my sins and weaknesses, drawing closer to Jesus Christ and creating a purer relationship with Him.  But, like many LGBT Mormons, I struggled with one chapter in particular, a chapter that I know many have come to purposefully ignore/forget about, or even fiercely hate.  Understandably, this chapter from "The Miracle of Forgiveness" would provoke such a reaction, if interpreted from a different perspective.  My purpose today, though, is to tame this literary lion, by offering a new perspective on what President Kimball truly meant when he wrote this, based on verbatim quotes and context clues, not speculation.

For a moment, I am going to take the standpoint of those offended by these words, and consider why they could be so very upsetting to many.  Verbally playing on the "opposite team" here, I feel, will better illustrate the overall picture.  Essentially, I'm being the devil's advocate.  To start, this chapter is entitled, "Crime Against Nature".  Really? What  kind of person calls being gay a "crime against nature"?  After all, it's not like gay people can help being gay, any more than a straight person can help being straight!  Plus, what "crime" is there in being gay?  It's not like it's some extreme violation against the laws of nature to be gay or anything.  Nature continues on in its course, and all is well with the world still, I think.  To me, it seems like the word "nature" also could mean not just Mother Nature, but also the nature of humanity, meaning that heterosexuality is what is "normal", and so gay people are in the wrong for being who they are!  What a sad existence for gay people, then, if we cannot simply be who we are without being some kind of abomination or violation in the balance of society.  Sure, we cannot have children, but we can adopt and raise kids just like straight couples can. We're not exactly creepy either (for the most part), so why the attitude of rejection and ostracizing in American society?  But it gets even better throughout this whole chapter.  Here's a few quotes that just make my skin crawl with disgust:

"Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders who are seeking a way out of its clutches."

And, with a subtitle of "Curable and Forgivable - With Effort" (shudder), he says,

"After consideration of the evil aspects, the ugliness and prevalence of the evil of homosexuality, the glorious thing to remember is that it is curable and forgivable."  Wow.  That is revolting.

And another..."Next in seriousness to nonrecognition of the sin is the attempt to justify oneself in this perversion. Many have been misinformed that they are powerless in the matter, not responsible for the tendency, and that "God made them that way." This is as untrue as any other of the diabolical lies Satan has concocted. It is blasphemy. Man is made in the image of God. Does the pervert think God to be 'that way'?"

Plus, my favorite: "...let this individual repent of his perversion, force himself to return to normal pursuits and interests and actions and friendships with the opposite sex, and this normal pattern can become natural again."

Now, returning to my normal tone of writing... The key to understanding the context of this is simple. The writer, President Spencer W. Kimball, was either speaking of homosexuality as a one-package deal - attractions, romantic involvement, sex, etc - or he was speaking of the practice of homosexuality, separating it from the attractions that lead to the practice.  But how does one tell? Context clues.  And these quotes, my dear readers, are rife with those.  First, we have homosexuality being called "an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it."  This is an introductory quote, taken from the beginning of only the 2nd paragraph.  In writing a book such as this, the author will almost always introduce their main ideas in the first two paragraphs. Here is one, defining homosexuality as a sin and a temptation, separate from one other.  It outlines those who practice it, and those who do not because they find no temptation in it.  Now, would it not be possible for someone tempted by something to not do it?  Of course!  People do it all the time, even non-religious people, like people giving up drugs or ceasing to drink alcohol.  So, homosexuality could be defined as either a practice or a temptation?  Interesting how President Kimball makes that distinction in his opening remarks of this chapter.  Such is the first key to understanding the context of these writings on homosexuality by President Kimball.  Moving on...

Second, homosexuality is described as "curable and forgivable - with effort"  From an all-in-one package view, I would be just as angry, sarcastic, and belligerent as the man I was pretending to be as the "devil's advocate" earlier.  I do not blame people in the least who are viewing it from that perspective, because I would feel exactly the same way and probably with even more intensity.  But, I have chosen to view it as a split-up package, where it here means attractions, and where LGBT Mormons are choosing to go with them.  Back to our description, then.  The word, "curable", according to merriamwebster.com, means, "possible to bring about recovery from".  Since any sin is viewed as spiritual sickness in the LDS Church, to some degree or another, it is an apt definition to call the practice of homosexuality curable.  Some would take this word, run with it, and cry out, "President Kimball taught Mormons that being gay is changeable!  He said they can become straight if they want to!!"  Naturally, viewed from this perspective, of course it looks that way, because typically this word means to get rid of an undesirable condition.  However, when homosexuality is viewed here as a practice, I see it under LDS belief as being a sickness of the spirit because of spiritual bondage from sin.  Not an advocacy for changing sexual orientation.  This leads perfectly into the next part of the phrase, "and forgivable -with effort".  Since LDS people believe repentance (seeking forgiveness from God) is a process, it does take considerable effort sometimes, especially if the sin is sexual in nature.  Unfortunately, because of suppressed passions and the like, homosexuality in practice often creates much sexual sin to be repented of, and it takes a lot of effort as a result to reverse that spiritual damage sin creates.  LDS people are not strangers to work when it comes to obtaining forgiveness from Heavenly Father.  We believe it is necessary, so we can come to a better place of spiritual purity and understanding.  More on this subject in my next post... love you guys!!! :)

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