More like the Rainbow Sheep!

Was Nephi Gay?


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This image came up when I googled Nephi and Sam.  (That pink robe looks gay!)

So I’m rereading the Book of Mormon as part of a challenge being hosted by affirmation. This week there has been quite a bit of discussion about the sibling relationships between Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi. Were Laman and Lemuel bullies? Was Nephi a bit too self righteous and annoying?

But what if their differences started in the womb?

A few years ago there was a study about birth order as a factor in male homosexuality. According to the study, as reported by the Huffington Post, a boy is more likely to be gay if he has older brothers. They even quantified the probability. For each older brother a boy is a third more likely to be gay.

So, hypothetically, if the probability that Laman was gay is 6%. The probability that Lemuel was gay is 8% which is a third higher than 6%. (One third of 6 is 2 and 6 + 2 is…). So using the same calculations the probability that Sam was gay is 10% and Nephi, 12%.

(And the probability Jacob was gay, 14% and Joseph, 16%.)

It’s interesting that the probability that Nephi was gay is double the probability that Laman was.

I’m not saying he was gay. But his chances were better than average. And reading the entire story thinking of that possibility might be interesting.


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Nephi was BUFF!

Affirmation is hosting a challenge to read a chapter a day in the Book of Mormon. The biggest challenge for me will be not getting into arguments about the historicity of the BoM.

Spoiler alert: It’s not historical.

In other words the events depicted in the Book of Mormon didn’t happen. Ancient Hebrews did not migrate to the Americas. They were not the founders of two great civilizations. One of them did not completely exterminate the other and become the ancestors of today’s Native Americans, etc.

The leadership at affirmation doesn’t want this challenge to become a debate about the historicity. I understand that. They don’t want discussions becoming arguments. That’s okay with me. For me the debate is settled. It’s not historical.

Believing Mormons will typically say something like: There are good aspects about the Book of Mormon. It still teaches universal truths. It still shows that you can have a personal relationship with God. That’s true and I can read it and take away the good aspects. My difficulty is actually discussing topics with someone who believes it literally happened.

How can you discuss something without mentioning the historicity? How does someone who doesn’t believe have a meaningful conversation about the themes with someone that does believe?

Thomas Jefferson went and cut out the parts of the New Testament which he didn’t believe. I could do the same thing with the Book of Mormon. But I would focus on the universal truths that are in the Book of Mormon.

So that is my plan, to focus on the universal truths found in the Book of Mormon, and to discuss these in the facebook group. And I’ll try to avoid getting into arguments about the historicity. I’ll post my thoughts on those here.


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If I’ve never actually had the following conversation with my Christian friend Josh, could it still contain truth?

————————————————————-

Damon: I been reading in the Bible for Sunday School and it has some truly horrible things in it. The Old Testament is full of violence, sex, and violent sex…

Josh: You have to look at it as a whole to really understand its message.

Damon: I mean God sent a bear to maul 42 children who were making fun of a prophet’s bald head.

Josh: That is a lesson to be respectful of the priesthood leaders.

Damon: Is it a lesson or did it really happen?

Josh: Well, we believe the Bible to be the Word of God.

Damon: So it really happened?

Josh: As far as it is translated correctly.

Damon: So the examples of God causing the death of thousands of innocent Egyptian firstborn might not be translated correctly.

Josh: We just need to understand it in the context…

Damon: What about….

Josh: Yes, yes, I’m sure you could come up with a few other examples. But if you look at the general theme of the Bible.

Damon: But it’s not just a few examples. It IS the general theme of the Old Testament.

Josh: Think of them as examples of how obedience to the commandments leads to blessings.

Damon: They seem to be more like lessons of how disobedience leads to punishment from a homicidal, vengeful God.

Josh: Okay, what about the New Testament…

Damon: Oh yeah, the happy half!

Josh: …where we learn that Jesus came to fulfill the law and show us a higher way. The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of this higher law.

Damon: But even Jesus said some questionable things.

Josh: What are you talking about? Give me one example!

Damon: In Matthew Jesus said:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

Josh: You have to understand the context.

Damon: What do I do to understand the context?

Josh: You have to read it with the spirit to discern the truths…

Damon: So some of it is true?

Josh: Yes, the spirit will guide you.

Damon: Can the spirit also help me find truths in other religious texts?

Josh: Of course.

Damon: Like the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita?

Josh:  I’m sure it contains many universal truths.

Damon:  Check this one out:

“He alone sees truly who sees the Lord the same in every creature…seeing the same Lord everywhere, he does not harm himself or others.”

Damon: That’s as Christian as anything Christ said!

Josh:  Now don’t be sacrilegious!  That just confirms the truthfulness of the Bible and Jesus’s message.

Damon:  Could it be the Bible confirms the truthfulness of the Bhagavad Gita?

Josh:  mmmm

Damon: So could the Buddhist scripture, the Dhammapada, contain universal truths?

Josh: Sure.

Damon: What about the Taoist book, the Tao Te Ching?

Josh: I suppose…

Damon: What about Harry Potter?

Josh: Wait, what?

Damon: If I am relying on the Spirit to reveal the truths, I can find truth anywhere, right?

Josh: Um, I guess.

Damon: So I can find truths in Harry Potter?

Josh: I don’t think there are any universal truths in Harry Potter.

Damon: Of course there are. Here are some quotes.

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”

and

“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Damon:  That’s just from the gay character…

Josh: Okay so Harry Potter has some lessons on how to treat other people and make better choices.

Damon: Isn’t that what we hope to find in the Bible? Lessons about how to treat other people and make better choices?

Josh: But does Harry Potter have lessons about life and death?

Damon: Of course! It’s actually a major theme throughout the books. Here are some more quotes:

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

and

“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself plainly when you have need of him.”

Josh: I suppose there are truths everywhere.

Damon: So I can feel the Spirit by reading other texts?

Josh:  Yes.

Damon: And I can learn universal truths from them by relying on the Spirit?

Josh: I suppose.

Damon: If I am relying on the Spirit…  Do I really need the Scriptures?

Avoiding fights


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This is my third major rewrite of this post. I hope it makes some sense.

In the past few months quite a few active Mormons have either lost their temple recommends or been called into disciplinary councils for supporting Ordain Women, expressing doubts about the historicity of the Joseph Smith story and the Book of Mormon, or otherwise speaking out against the church. This has resulted in some rather heated arguments in various online forums and Facebook groups.

Heated arguments don’t accomplish much and can potentially damage or destroy relationships. Here are some of my ideas to avoid getting into verbal fights with True Believing Mormons (TBMs).

1. Don’t talk to them.

You don’t have to engage in every conversation that shows up on your Facebook profile. If the topic raises your blood pressure, arguing about it might not be the healthiest choice. Go for a walk. Play with your kids. Most of all step away from the computer. After all, do other people’s opinions really matter? Thomas Jefferson said:

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

However, some conversations are unavoidable. You might have family members who insist on discussing it. You may want to help educate people on your point of view. So if you must have a conversation…

2. Avoid Triggers

Triggers are topics of phrases that activate, or trigger, an emotional response where a rational one might be better. I discovered one of mine when someone said “Mental illness isn’t real, it’s just a made up condition so doctors can sell you more drugs.” I went off on this person. He did not know what hit him…

Discussions escalate into arguments when we hit the other person’s “triggers.”

We all have triggers. Tell a TBM that the apostles know the church isn’t true and are lying to us and you may activate an emotional response. Is this rational? Emotional responses rarely are.

But it’s a fair response.

You’re attacking his or her view of the world. You might even be implying a lack of intelligence or some other fault. It’s normal to be defensive.

If we want to avoid arguments we should avoid triggers. Remember that a TBM might interpret an attack on the church as an attack on them. If you want to have a healthy discussion respect their point of view and be aware of potential triggers.

It’s what Jesus would do.

3. Know your own triggers

Likewise, if a TBM says “The prophet is never wrong.” That could trigger an emotional response from LGBT Mormons because that would mean we are an abomination for being who we ARE not for what we DO.

(Right now you’re thinking, “That’s not what the church says. They only condemn homosexual behavior, not orientation.” That wasn’t always the case. The church’s official attitudes have changed… which would seem to support the idea that the prophets are sometimes wrong.)

But we react emotionally. You might react emotionally too if you were called an abomination.

Know your own triggers. That way you’re prepared and can respond calmly and rationally. If you become angry you’ve lost the argument.

My other trigger is when people say being gay is a choice. I’m now prepared for that comment and can reply without losing my cool. I’m not saying to avoid impassioned responses. I am saying to make them a rational (and strategic) choice and not an emotional reaction.

4. Use “I” Messages

These are messages where you focus on how you feel. You say something like, “I feel like you’re being judgmental when you equate my sexual orientation with alcoholism.” Nobody can argue with how you feel. It’s also less confrontational than something like, “You’re just showing your ignorance when you compare homosexuality with alcoholism.” You can imagine where that conversation will go!

5. Know your purpose

Why are you having this conversation? Do you want someone to change their mind? Or do you just want to express your point of view? Do you want to vent your frustration? And does that have to happen in this particular conversation?

You won’t be able to convince everybody of your point of view. But you may “plant a seed” that might someday help them see the truth. (lol)

That is more likely to happen if you showed respect for the other person.

Updates


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Image from Deseret News

It has been a crazy two weeks.

I came out to the rest of my family. Most of them said the equivalent of, “Yeah I knew.” One went on to ask why I wasn’t dating anyone. Two unfriended me on Facebook.

I came out in a very public way at school. I hand-delivered my letter to my two closest friends. One of whom asked what took me so long. I emailed my letter to about a dozen teachers. And I posted my letter on my class blog. The support I got from students and teachers was phenomenal. I will be posting some of their comments. One student showed her mom who cried. (Happy tears I hope…) My principal got one phone call from an upset parent who said it wasn’t appropriate in a school. My principal simply said, “I disagree.”

I walked in the LA Pride parade and the experience was good but not as amazing as I expected. I was going to write a whole blog post about it. But everyone was so giddy about seeing the Boy Scouts and Mormons Building Bridges walk in the SLC parade that I didn’t want to burst anyone’s bubble. I basically had mixed feelings about walking WITH affirmation. I am totally behind making the Mormon church a safer place for LGBT people. I’m not so sure about telling the world it’s a safe place for LGBT people. Because it isn’t and I’m actually having a hard time understanding why a gay person would want to join the church.

I felt like I was advertising a kinder gentler church. Events from this week have confirmed that it isn’t.

John Dehlin, the man who started Mormon Stories, and Kelly Kate, the founder of Ordain Women, both received letters informing them of disciplinary councils where they could be excommunicated from the Mormon church. There is a lot of discussion going on throughout the “bloggernacle” (a surprisingly large group of bloggers ranging from the ultraconservative orthodox bloggers to the frequently heretical progressive ones.)

Some of this discussion is a bit hostile… More on that later.

Anyway, it has been a crazy two weeks and I’m still processing the events. I’ll probably share more details in future blog posts.

Update:  I forgot to mention I met Steve and Barb Young at LA Pride.  What classy people!  Steve showed genuine interest in what I had to say even though they were dealing with a minor family crisis at the time.


My missionaries have consistently expressed their knowledge that Heavenly Father (aka God) loves us all.  He loves us if we’re gay or straight.  He loves us if we’ve sinned.  He loves us if we haven’t sinned.  He loves us if we’ve used drugs.  He loves us if we’re Lakers fans….  He loves us regardless of what we do or have done….

The church’s policies sometimes make that love hard to see.

Elder Smith admitted on a prior visit that he struggled to understand the Church’s position on LGBT issues.  Like most people his age, he has gay friends who are out of the closet.  I don’t know the exact nature of his struggle but he said he found love and hope in a speech by Elder Holland.

Last week he sent me a link.  Today we discussed my thoughts on the issues.

Elder Holland talks about an interview he had with a young man who was struggling with same-sex-attraction.  He expressed his love and gave the boy hope that if he was obedient he could still enjoy the fruits of the atonement.

If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement.”

Our conversation, more or less, was:

Damon:  So you can receive all of the blessings of the atonement as long as you are satisfied with being a second class citizen.

From my point of view a gay man has the following “lifestyle” choices (or combinations of these…)

  1. The first is the stereotype.  He can lead a risky life of promiscuity and drug use.
  2. He can pursue a monogamous gay relationship and get married if that is legal in his state.
  3. He can commit to living a life of celibacy.
  4. He can enter a mixed-orientation marriage, MOM, by marrying a heterosexual women.

The church seems to confuse the first 2.  You can be excommunicated as quickly for living in a monogamous relationship as living with wild promiscuity.  The Church only accepts choices number 3 or 4.  (Neither of which are particularly appealing.)

Elder Smith:  God loves us and wants us to be happy.  He gave us commandments which will lead to happiness if we obey them.

Damon:  In previous meetings I’ve mentioned John Delhin’s study.  He gave a survey to 1600 people who both identify as LGBT and Mormon at some point in their life.  Part of the survey asked about their lifestyle choices.  Roughly 35% of the respondents were living lives of celibacy.  Another part asked about their “quality of life.”  It is a very rough measure of their happiness.  The people who were living a life of celibacy had the lowest quality of life ratings.  In fact their quality of life was lower than people suffering from lupus.  The people with the highest quality of life were legally married same sex couples!  (Their quality of life was even better than married heterosexual couples.)

I have a very serious question:

In 20 years you might be a Bishop.  If a young man came to you and said he was struggling with same sex attractions.  Which one of the above choices would you recommend?

Elder Smith:  There is joy in knowing you are doing the right thing.  We might not be fully happy until the next life.  But if we keep the commandments we will be happy.

Damon:  Would it be wrong to have some happiness in this life while we wait?

(I think he was starting to get annoyed with me so I changed the subject.)

Damon:  You’ve been wanting me to pray to God to ask if he does indeed love me.  In the same survey I mentioned above many people went to the Lord and asked the same question.  (Probably not all 1600.)  Something like 47% of them received an affirmative answer, that God loves them, wants them to be happy, and APPROVES of their decision to pursue gay relationships.

So I might interpret the commandments differently than the church…

Elder Smith:  So we would still like you to take your questions to Heavenly Father.  It sounds like you could actually break down your question into parts:

  1. Does God live?
  2. Does he love you even though you’re gay?
  3. Does he approve of your possible pursuit of gay relationships?

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

We ran out of time but will be continuing this conversation in 2 weeks.  Stay tuned….


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Image found at Strange Notions.

I first need to tell you about Pascal’s wager.

Blaise Pascal was a philosopher/mathematician/circus acrobat…. (I’m kidding about that last one.). Anyway, after studying philosophy, physics and math he had a near death, spiritual experience and decided to believe in God. (I’m assuming the jealous God of the Old Testament and the 17th century.) His logic went something like this:

If God exists,
But I don’t follow his commandments
Because I don’t believe,
I will go to a fiery hell.
If I want to go to heaven,
I must believe
Which really costs me nothing
Even if God doesn’t exist.

(Note the chiastic structure. It must be a translation of ancient scripture…. Unless it was an overly clever math teacher with too much free time.)

In other words, if you don’t believe in God, it’s really bad if you’re wrong. If you do believe and you’re wrong, it’s no big deal. So Pascal chose to believe in God. (While inventing the probability concept of expected value) This is called Pascal’s wager.

Damon’s wager is the opposite and assumes a benevolent (Mormon) God.

Whether it’s my upbringing or my DNA, I believe I am generally a good person. I try to treat others with respect and compassion which is how I want other people to treat me.

If I believe in God,
and he doesn’t exist.
I will have spent an enormous amount of time and money learning non-historical mythology, parroting false teachings, doing unnecessary work for dead relatives, etc.
For nothing
I would prefer to spend my money and time helping the poor, developing my talents, and trying to be happy.
And if God does exist, he will judge me based on my works, whether or not I believe in him.

(Okay the Chiasmus didn’t work out quite as well. Must be the work of man…. or at least Damon.)

So I choose to not believe in God, abandon the guilt and shame I learned at church, and just try to be happy.