Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time ran out

I didn't mean to publish that previous post yet. I had published it with a future date intending to add some more to the post before it was posted on the blog. But I couldn't get back to it in time so I kept delaying the posting by a few more days to allow myself some imaginary open window of time to get back to the post and finish it. Well, I finally forgot to extend the deadline and so the post was published prematurely. After finishing my initial pass on the post I was nagged by the fact that it was incomplete. I had only hit the periphery, but the heart of the issue was missing.

I unknowingly avoided the core issue because I was afraid of being perceived by those who didn't agree as harsh, intolerant and ignorant. But, as I mulled over the post I realized that the obvious elephant in the room that wasn't being directly addressed was homosexual sex. Namely, is it a correct/good/moral behavior?

The problem with discussing this question in isolation is that it targets a single behavior and elicits harsh accusations from its antagonists and defensive anger from its supporters. So the discussion quickly devolves into a squabble of hyperbole and exaggeration. It paints those who partake in the behavior as bad if the answer is affirmative and good if the answer is negative. What is omitted is the glaring fact that we all struggle with maintaining morality regardless of our position on this single issue.

We all have strengths and we all have struggles. Yet oddly, they don't seem to be measured out uniformly. Some are gifted athletes, while others struggle for mediocrity and still others are missing limbs or vital organs. Likewise some struggle with depression while others seem to be predisposed to an eternally rosy disposition. It doesn't matter who we are or what we may seem to everyone else, we all have our own areas where we shine and where we stumble. What makes life even more complex is that our areas of strength and weakness are checkered and patchy and wonderfully mixed up.

My personal positions on what is and is not moral are derived from an amalgam of personal experience and the Christian doctrines to which I ascribe. I believe homosexual sex is immoral. It is immoral like lying and fornication and covetousness and ingratitude and addiction and lust are all immoral. Oh the list of possible immoralities is too vast to capture. My own list of favorites is too long to capture as well and frankly too personal to share with the World Wide Web.

So the fact that someone seems predisposed towards homosexuality does not disqualify it as an "immorality" to me. Nothing would be immoral if the litmus test was whether or not there was a natural inclination towards it. I am naturally inclined to a myriad of things that I have learned through sad experiences are not good. The fact that some people are genetically inclined to become alcoholics does not mean that alcoholism is correct/good/moral.

This is a difficult pill to swallow because abiding by its precepts necessitates discomfort and suffering by those inclined towards it. Is this fair? No, it isn't fair. I feel deep sympathy for those who struggle with this. I am genuinely sorry for their plight. I have read about real people whose bodies can't tolerate sunlight and are forced to live their entire lives outcast from the sun. I know children who suffer from severe physical disorders like cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome. My heart aches for their suffering in much the same way.

I can not argue that we all suffer equally in life. This has not been my experience. However, we all do suffer from our own maladies and predispositions and discomforts. One benefit of our suffering is that it can breed a greater capacity for empathy for others that suffer along side us.

My position on the morality of homosexual sex informs my position on the morality of gay marriage. I understand that my views are not shared with everyone. There are those who choose a different set of morals. I respect their opinions even if I cannot embrace them. I would not vote to change the laws to legalize today’s illicit drugs even though it would alleviate the suffering of some segments of the population at the expense of other segments. It would expand their freedom to practice their own set of morals. I would oppose it. As a citizen, I have my 1 vote on what I think is moral and what I think is not.

Likewise, I would choose to cast my 1 vote in favor of not changing our traditional views of marriage to incorporate gay marriage. I do not understand why civil unions cannot be constructed to afford those who enter into long term homosexual relationships the same protections and benefits that traditional marriage offers. I want to keep the lines between my morality on this issue clear and precise. Some argue that this makes the issue one of mere semantics and ideals, and I guess for me that is precisely what this issue is about.


Kenny and Linsey said...

Ultimately everything is an issue of semantics. This and the other post are well-presented and I applaud your candor.

Kara Jayne said...

Once again Ryan, I am impressed at your eloquence. I have often used the same examples (alcoholism, fornication, etc.) in similar discussions. I do not have the gift of words as you do, but may direct others to these two posts. Thank you for being willing to speak out on this issue.

shauna said...

Beautifully said. Thank you.

Lauren in GA said...

Perfect. This was so, so, so, well said. I appreciated this follow up post, too. How can I say this?...I guess the inclination toward homosexual behaviors has been something I have always felt a lot of empathy for. What I mean by that is...What a trial for someone to have to endure and fight against. I feel genuine sorrow and compassion for those who struggle with it. In fact, it used to be a stumbling block for my testimony. I just couldn't fathom someone being expected to overcome that trial. (I hope I don't cause negative commenters who think I am being patronizing)This post said it so perfectly...we all have trials or temptations that we must "put off and become conqueror" over. The comparison to alcoholism, etc. was very powerful. I am going to use that to help other people understand what we as a church feel.

Erika said...

okay... not your usually breezy easy fun Sunday summary... but, way to tackle a tough topic. forward this on to the NY Times... it's just that well written and logical. So when will you be running for office... you've got the last name you know. ps: tell Jessica my blog is not private and to link away.

Celia Fae said...

Ryan, when I read the first post followed by this one, I was so happy that you were joining the fray. I have found that writing about this issue helps me solidify my beliefs.

The other day my husband read me that Maxwell talk while he was sitting next to me in the office. I chimed in with my own version someone had sent me.

Please move back to California and be on the committe. They need you.

Ilene said...

Well-written and clearly explained. This is such a difficult topic to write upon without someone finding offense (even if there was no aim to offend in the first place). I appreciate your thoughts and sympathy for others while not apologizing for your beliefs.

Laurie said...

Good job Ryan.

Kirbell said...

I've heard A LOT of rhetoric on this subject lately, and you express these points so well! California needs you back, Ryan.

Carie said...

DO you remember Elder Ballard's conference talk 4 or 5 years ago: Let Your Voice Be Heard?

I love that you are letting your voice be heard. Please allow me to add my voice to yours: you are right on.

Jake said...

Good posts Ryan. For an interesting legal perspective on Prop 8 and similar issues you should check out Robert P. George's talk "On the Moral Purposes of Government" at He makes some strong arguments about how legalizing Gay marriage is harmful to Religion Institutions. He cites a Catholic Orphanage in Massachusetts that was given an ultimatum by the state to either put children in homes of Gay couples or relinquish their license. They chose to stick with their principles and their Orphanage was shut down. It is easy to see how such rulings could quickly spread to affect our Church and communities.