The Following is a copy of a letter that I intend to send to the First Presidency in about 48 hours. Please review it and tell me what you think. The formatting didn't transfer so well so ignore that but the text and the content, please tell me what you think so I can incorporate any changes to it in the next 2 days.
My name is David Berrett Baker. I am a member of the 17th Ward, Monument Park North Stake in Salt Lake City.
I know the burdens and the responsibilities you bear, and I pray that you will be sustained and inspired in your callings. I also know that you want Church members to seek counsel from local leaders whenever possible. I have followed this counsel, and write about a matter which I have already discussed with my bishop, Jeffery Wetzel, my Stake President S. Craig Omer, and Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy. All are good and faithful and have been able to give me no clear answers, but only increase my uncertainty, doubt and internal contention. I've therefore concluded that my questions can't be resolved by anyone but you.
You see, I am not like most members of the Church. I am gay. I accept that fact about me and my dilemma is not in coming to grips with that, but is how to resolve the conflicts between my sexuality and current teachings of the Church. I have tried for a long time as best I can to petition and listen for the Spirit to help guide my choices. I've received no answers. I've been taught that when I'm not given either a “burning in the bosom” or a “stupor of thought” that I should follow my own best, studied, reasoned judgment and conclusions, using the gifts of reasoning and discernment that God has given me. That is my situation. In pondering my dilemma, I've turned to the Scriptures and the words of the prophets of the Restoration.
I hope you won't think me presumptuous if, before asking for your advice, I tell you briefly what I've learned and concluded so far. I'd like to show you that I have made every good faith effort that I can to "study it out in my mind" as the Doctrine & Covenants advises.
I. The Scriptures
Leviticus 18 says “thou shall not lie down with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination. ” The original Hebrew term for "abomination" is תֹּועֵבָה or “to’eba”, consistently translated elsewhere as simply “unclean.” This was a ritualistic description, not a token of inherent sinfulness; if it were otherwise, the same animals, which were “to’eba” before the Savior’s time, would have remained so afterward, and Peter would not have been commanded by the Lord in Acts 10 to partake of them. We no longer observe any of the other "to'eba" restrictions in the Law of Moses, since that law was fulfilled in Christ. Why would this one "to'eba" item be different from any others in that respect?
Leviticus 18:3 says, that these provisions were intended to prevent the Children of Israel from adopting certain practices commonplace in both Egypt and Canaan. Homosexual prostitution and sex are known to have been part of some Egyptian and Canaanite religious practices. This suggests that what was "to'eba" in this setting was the kind of promiscuity and prostitution found in the polytheistic, pagan cultures surrounding the Israelites, not homosexuality itself, and particularly not a monogamous homosexual relationship focused on being a family (which as far as I know was unheard of in that day). I have given this scripture thorough analysis and study and believe it is talking about something completely different than simple homosexuality or sexual expression within a committed monogamous relationship.
The Church's Topical Guide says the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. However, Ezekiel 16:49 says the "iniquity" of Sodom was "pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness " and a failure to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy , and Joseph Smith said Sodom was destroyed not for homosexuality but for "rejecting the Prophets. ”
3. New Testament References
The only New Testament references to homosexuality are in Paul's letters to the Romans, to the Corinthians and to Timothy. Corinthians and Timothy use the same language so I will treat them together.
Romans spoke to both Gentile and Jewish Christians about how the grace of Christ operates to raise us above human imperfections, and about how those who sin against greater knowledge receive greater punishment.
Romans 1:27 criticizes men who lust "one toward another. ” "Lust" is used throughout the scriptures to describe sexual desire for someone, regardless of sexual orientation. This tells me that what was "unseemly" in Paul's preaching was the lust itself, not the gender of its object. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, speaks of his personal sentiment of marriage in general, that it should only be used if you cannot control your lusts, “for it is better to marry than to burn. ” To me this is an example of Paul’s personal emphasis on the dangers of lust rather than homosexual sex. Paul rightly condemns promiscuity that, in this case, is associated with homosexuality. But he does not mention or consider the possibility of a monogamous homosexual relationship created in chastity and abstinence until a marital commitment is made.
In both Corinthians and Timothy, Paul says that the "effeminate" (apparently meaning men) and "abusers of themselves with mankind ” will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Paul's own Greek words for “abusers of mankind” and “effeminate” were ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoitēs) and μαλακός (malakos), respectively. Since he could have used many words to describe homosexuals, we must conclude that he had reasons for choosing these two.
Paul most likely coined the term "arsenokoitēs" himself; we have no proof of its existence prior to his use of it. Homosexuality as a characteristic and a practice was obviously well known in Paul's time (particularly in Greece in the form of pederasty as part of a mentoring relationship) and he could have chosen an existing Greek word to describe it if he'd meant the generic characteristic or practice. Why didn't he? He must have wanted to convey a connotation different from what existing terminology would cover. It appears he may have derived his new word from the Greek version of Leviticus 18:22 that would have been available to him, combining ἄρσενος (arsenos), meaning male, and κοίτην (koitēn), meaning sexual intercourse, which, considering their roots, could mean sex with men. After describing the other word used I will offer what conclusions concerning Paul’s word choice.
Malakos, meaning "soft," was not commonly used by Greek speakers of Paul's time in sexual contexts, nor is it today. Paul's usage suggests some kind of effeminacy or weakness, but no other speakers or writers of Greek seem to have used it to refer to homosexual behavior or practitioners. In fact, "malakos" is used several times elsewhere in the New Testament in ways that have nothing to do with sex (e.g., Matt. 11:8 and Luke 7:25). When other Greek speakers and writers use malakos or similar words, they are never using it as an ambiguous references to sex between males. There were plenty of other words in ancient Greek language -- "erastes," "eromenos," "paedika," "paederastes" and others -- which Paul could have chosen. If he intended unequivocally to condemn all manner of sex between males, it is extremely puzzling that he didn't use words which his Greek-speaking audience would find familiar and unambiguous on the point.
While I do not know Paul's full intent, his word choices are undeniably ambiguous and subject to multiple meanings. He was fluent in multiple languages yet he used one word that may have been an innuendo for homosexuality and coined a new one that reflects back to Leviticus 18. While he may have intended to say that all male to male sex would prevent entrance into the kingdom of God, he may also have been alluding back to Leviticus 18 for the express purpose of drawing a connection between his views and those of Moses, which as I pointed out above seem to condemn the promiscuity and prostitution that was common in Egypt and Canaan.
It is of course well known that the specifically LDS scriptural canon never mentions homosexuality. This adds to my confusion for two reasons. First, these are the scriptures that were specifically provided for our day, yet they say nothing about this topic. Second, it means the entire scriptural basis for condemning homosexuality appears to come from Moses, (either directly, or through Paul and his allusion to Moses) who, as I noted above, is highly ambiguous due to either the avoidance of practices of Egypt and Canaan, or the use of a word, “to’eba” that is used to describe many facets for the Levitical code in the Mosaic Law, yet we no longer observe any of the other restrictions for which this word was used. This disturbs me because the Church's justification for existence rests on its claim of continuing revelation, restoration of the true priesthood, and an open scriptural canon.
II Early Church
Chapter 10 of the Joseph Smith manual, “Prayer and Personal Revelation," contains the Prophet's letter to his uncle Silas Smith, which states “Seeing that the Lord has never given the world to understand by anything heretofore revealed that he had ceased forever to speak to his creatures when sought unto in a proper manner, why should it be thought a thing incredible that he should be pleased to speak again in these last days for their salvation? Perhaps you may be surprised at this assertion that I should say for the salvation of his creatures in these last days, since we have already in our possession a vast volume of his word, which he has previously given. ”
Joseph goes on essentially to say that in some respects revelation for a prior day may not always be sufficient for a later time, e.g. “it was not required of Abraham to leave the land of his nativity and seek an inheritance in a strange country upon the word spoken to Noah, but for himself he obtained promises at the hand of the Lord” . Joseph then asked why it was necessary for the Lord to repeat to Isaac the promises made to Abraham, and then again to Jacob, and why could Isaac and Jacob not "rest contented upon the word spoken to" their father Abraham?
This tells me that Joseph Smith recognized the need for revelation specific to the time & place of the people for whom it was given, even if the words of revelation given to a father were completely sufficient for their children, the revelation still needs to be given.
Yet despite this principle taught by the chief prophet of the Restoration, every scriptural reference underlying the Church's teaching on homosexuality, and every statement by presidents of the restored Church, seems to rest ultimately on the Old Testament. This causes great concern within my soul. We have a living prophet who is not only empowered, but also obligated to seek truth and greater knowledge through revelation for the benefit of the Church. Don't we need some new revelation concerning this issue, which the Church itself has changed position on and admits incomplete knowledge about?
Why is it that we are resting the policies of the Church on sparse, ambiguous notations given millennia ago when even the same revelation needs to be given from father to son? We do not live in the same time as Moses or Paul. The world is a completely different place. People have learned much since their time and have been graced with many great gifts of knowledge and the spirit and yet the policy that informs the restored Church on this issue, still relies only on the lower law that governed the children of Israel thousands of years ago. Since then, the Savior came and fulfilled that law. They did not have the same light and knowledge that we have yet we are still required by the Church to live according to their lower standard. This makes no sense to me. Joseph Smith said that his belief that Enoch and Abraham walked with God, etc. would not be sufficient, that he must obtain for himself by his own faith, diligence, and keeping the commandments, "an assurance of salvation for [himself]." He asserted this was his privilege just like the ancient saints and if he approached the Lord as they did, the Lord would hear his prayers as well.
Knowledge, understanding and perspectives change as people change and grow. I'm sure this is why we should constantly re-read the scriptures, because each time we should discover new insight and inspiration there. Just like Joseph Smith, C.S. Lewis recognized this wisdom and hit upon this principle in his classic Narnian tale Prince Caspian, during an exchange between Lucy, the faithful child and Aslan the symbol of Christ.
Lucy: “You’re bigger, Aslan.”
Aslan: “That’s because you are older, little one.”
Lucy: “Not because you are?”
Aslan: “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
As we grow, our experiences and shape our understanding of the Truth and of Christ. As a people we have come a long way since Moses, since Paul, since Joseph Smith even. We have grown, so too shouldn’t our understanding of the scriptures and of truth grow as well? And yet we are still relying upon Mosaic Law for its teaching on homosexuality. Doesn’t it make sense for the Church to exercise its privilege, right, and responsibility to receive new revelation and ask the Lord for some clarification on the issue, rather than continuing with silence & ambiguity?
I plead with you, brethren, to exercise your power as seers and revelators to ask for more light and knowledge concerning this issue, which is so prominent in my life and in the lives of thousands of others.
III. Modern Church
Every statement I've ever seen from a president or apostle of the restored Church about homosexuality has simply cited either another apostle or president of the Church or the scriptures I've already mentioned. The pattern seems to be a closed loop of cross-quotes and teaching from the intellect and personal opinions rather than the voice of specific revelation for our time and circumstances. Elder McConkie said that even if someone taught truth, if they taught it by some way other than the Spirit, it would not be of God, and the only other way to teach was by the power of the intellect.
With respect, brethren, it appears to me that the First Presidency's letter regarding Proposition 8 was of this type, a policy given not from the spirit but from intellect and granted it might not be wrong but if it is from intellect than it is not from the spirit. The only exception, concerning homosexuality, I can see to the principle Elder McConkie taught was the Proclamation on the Family.
1. Proposition 8
On 29 June 2008 you sent a letter to the Saints in California urging them to do all they could do to support the passage of Proposition 8. You stated, “The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage. ”
This campaign tore a divide between members who followed what they thought was right in opposing Proposition 8 and those who believed they were bound to comply with your letter no matter what. This rift amongst members might have been averted had this letter not simply re-stated current policy (as in the Proclamation on the Family) but had instead been actual new revelation, not seemingly a reflection of the First Presidency's personal feelings. I apologize if my conclusion is incorrect, but it seems to be bolstered by Elder L. Whitney Clayton's statement that “Latter-day Saints are free to disagree with their church on the issue without facing any sanction. We love them and bear them no ill will. ’”
With respect, brethren, to others and me it appears that intellect and not revelation spurred your letter to the California Saints. If it had been a revelation then it would have been presented in a different way as revelatory guidance potentially binding on the Church has always been in the past. If this is wrong and it was divine revelation that was guiding your hand I apologize. It would have been nice to hear that it was such, and not merely a continuation of older church policies and the Church's 20-year campaign to prevent any change to marriage laws.
2. Proclamation on the Family
The Proclamation on the Family is the only thing I can find from Church leadership that may arguably rest on revelation rather than reiteration of previous policies, talks, and ancient scripture that discusses homosexuality, albeit only tangentially. Church members often use it as a proclamation against homosexuality. However, I believe even this proclamation is very ambiguous on the issue of homosexuality within the gospel. To me these continued ambiguities that I have discovered in my studies suggest that, rather than directly condemning homosexuality, the Lord has some other plan because every word concerning homosexuality can easily, without much effort, be used, not as an attack of homosexuality, but simply a support of abstinence before marriage, chastity within, and the supremacy of the family, even if it is not the “traditional” family model.
The opening line that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children ” is often cited as reason to reject any form of homosexual relationship no matter what it's called. However, this is a logical fallacy. Marriage between "A man and A woman" as "ordained of God" is not the same as “only marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” (emphasis added), yet that is often the conclusion drawn by members of the Church. The subtle difference is enough to continue the ambiguity because plural marriage was once ordained of God, and continues to be even if the practice has been suspended for now. So we know that the misreading of the opening line is incorrect, yet so often, as in the letter issued in June, such a misreading is used to continue the previous policies.
Second is the line “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. ” "Procreation" means the act of creating life. Critics of homosexuality often assert that the practice is wrong because a homosexual couple cannot have children. I can’t avoid seeing the disconnect here: one says homosexual relationships are wrong because they can't produce children, the other saying only that the power to procreate (which by definition a homosexual couple does not have) is only to be used within the bonds of legal marriage. Perhaps you were simply using a euphemism for the word "sex"?
Last is a "catch-all" clause that says, "disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” To me, this acknowledges that special cases can change traditional family roles. I think homosexuality, a factor beyond my control, is a circumstance that necessitates individual adaptation and that this clause can provide a basis for a change to current Church policy. However, because this is such a large issue concerning my eternal life or death I cannot solve this dilemma with logic, or by studying things out in my mind. I have learned that in order to answer a question with eternal implications you need divine help not just temporal aid.
Dear brethren, I write this letter to you not as an attack but as a plea. A plea for a clearer answer beyond the ambiguities in the history of the Church's treatment of this subject. These ambiguities haunt many others and me weekly, daily, hourly, and for myself almost every moment.
At one point I was convinced my positions in this letter were unassailable, and I even considered leaving the Church as a result. I have since tempered those views and now seek not what I see as what would bring me the most personal happiness (following my desires, marrying a husband and having a family with him) but simply to find and do what is right. I want to practice the Indian principle of "satyagraha," the willingness to endure great personal suffering, in order to do what's right.
The problem, brethren, is that for all the reasons cited above, I simply can't find any confidence in the Church's positions on homosexuality over time as "right." These positions have changed dramatically. Were all of them "right" at the time? In trying to study things out in my mind as the Doctrine & Covenants advises, I have reached the conclusions stated above and find only incongruity and ambiguity when I think through this issue.
That is why I am writing to you with a request that you and the Quorum of the Twelve will approach the Lord as President Kimball did when seeking revelation on whether to extend the priesthood to all worthy males. I implore you to approach the Lord with no preconceived notions, to be open to whatever the Lord sees fit to give, and to petition Him relentlessly for guidance until you receive it. There are so many of us who suffer as a result of the Church's position and actions regarding homosexuality and how its members manifest these positions in our lives.
I will not conceal the fact that I would love for such a revelation to instruct that eternal marriage between members of the same sex is possible. I honestly believe there is room within the gospel, as I understand it, for this to occur. However, I have tempered my passions and am willing to submit to what is right, not what I want but what the Lord wants. I am willing to partake of the bitter cup that I feel is before me but beforehand I ask you to utilize your priesthood powers and offer an intercessory prayer on behalf of me and my brethren who are in agony.
In any case, however I pray that we will no longer cast this topic of homosexuality into the category of "For Young Men Only" and discuss it with shame and scorn, but rather bring it out in the open because there are many members who constantly battle with this. And rather than deal with this immensely difficult trial in isolation, fearing the judgment of others should their secret get out, which all too often leads to suicide, we, as a church and as members, need to freely discuss this topic in an open way so that we can stop the pain and depression that continues to plague so many because of the absent counsel or additional instruction from the Lord about it.
I pray that you might be open hearted enough not to reject beforehand the possibility of revelation authorizing chaste monogamous homosexual relationships, even if it would shake the faith of many members. I also pray that I might be able to hear and follow your counsel even if it is what I perceive as the destruction of my temporal happiness for I know that when you are guided by the Spirit you speak his words and who am I a mere mortal to challenge my Father in heaven.
So far Pres. Hinckley's declaration of love and tolerance isn't working well in many places. I have seen all to often, both in my own life and in the lives of others whom I have made connections with, the persecution of God's gay children that continues in the Church. So in closing, I plead with you not only to petition the Lord for new instruction and not let up until you receive it (regardless of what direction it is), but also pray for you to urge the membership of the Church in even stronger tones to no longer talk about this subject in the pejorative ways that cause so many so much doubt and shame and fear each week at church where they should feel loved and accepted. Please let's bring this subject out into the light because as Justice Brandeis said "sunshine is the greatest of all disinfectants." Let us do all we can to resolve the current conflicts between the ambiguities of homosexuality and the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
David Berrett Baker
History of the Church, 5:256–57; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Jan. 22, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff. As presented in “Chapter 16: Revelation and the Living Prophet,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 192–205
1 Corinthians 7:9
1 Corinthians 6:9
A professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, who is also fluent in many languages including Greek and Hebrew, independently verified all Greek and Hebrew translations.
“Chapter 10: Prayer and Personal Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 125–34
Adapted from Lewis, CS. Prince Caspian. New York: Harper Collins, 1951. pg 148
Dallin H. Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign, Mar 1997, 7
Letter to Church leaders in California to be read to all congregations on 29 June 2008, http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/california-and-same-sex-marriage
Comment from Elder L. Whitney Clayton to the SL Tribune retrieved from http://mormonsformarriage.com/?p=28, comment 59.
For more information on this campaign, visit http://www.mormonsocialscience.org/?q=node/59
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, Family Guidebook, iv